I love deep cuts. My favorite song by the Village People is “Sophistication,” and I’ve never watched a single episode of American Idol. People called me a hipster before mustaches, man-buns, and skinny jeans were even invented.
I’m ahead of the curve, is what I’m trying to say, and I’m about to do something I would normally never do under any circumstances. I’m going to tell you about one of my secret, favorite vacation destinations.
For this article, we’re going to travel all the way across the Atlantic to Germany. A somewhat overlooked country to tour in Europe by its own right, Germany is one of my favorite places to visit. The people are friendly, the landscape is beautiful, the beer is plentiful, and the food is delicious. Most people go to the big hitters when they visit the vaterland--Berlin, Munich, Neuschwanstein Castle, and those places are awesome--but there is way more to this wonderful place than these typical tourist fares.
I’m going to tell you about Idar-Oberstein. If you’re wanting to take a day-long excursion to a really interesting place to get away from the big crowds, this is the layover for you.
About an hour west of Frankfurt, this overlooked town is a really neat place to visit for a few reasons. First of all, it’s pretty small. It’s technically considered a city by German standards, but to Americans, it feels more like a small village. You can walk basically everywhere, and there are some really charming places to drink some coffee, down some gelato, and enjoy traditional German food in the Fußgängerzone (that means place where cars aren’t allowed).
For any WWII buffs, there used to be a pretty sizeable US Army base in town, and my great aunt was actually stationed there back in the day.
But since I’m a hipster, you know that none of those things are truly game changers for me. I need something special to lure me to a place.
That’s right. Rocks. Idar-Oberstein is really unique because it got its fame for mining gemstones and other rare minerals. Everywhere you go, there are places that remind you of this history. You can buy necklaces, figurines, and raw stones from the region’s famous mines. There’s even an awesome gemstone museum with some of the biggest geodes you’ll ever see. I used to love collecting rocks when I was a kid, so this place truly spoke to me.
Even though the gemstones are admittedly rad, the coolest, most picturesque feature of this small German town is a church that was built right into a cliffside (so appropriate, right?). Perched atop this quiet city, it seems to disappear into the earth itself. A short walk (and a bunch of stairs) from the town center, you can walk right up to the church and take a tour. The outside of the church looks normal, but when you go inside, one of the walls is just rock! It’s amazing!
For a small donation of a couple of Euros, you can walk basically everywhere in the church including the bell tower. To top it all off, you have to walk through a really cool stone tunnel that’s about 50’ long to get inside. It’s so cool!
Even though Idar-Oberstein isn’t really a good destination type destination, it’s the perfect way to get some distance from touristy crowds and see some really cool stuff. If you have a rock collector in the family, this place is a must-see. Heck, if you have a jewelry fan, you can pick up some unique collectibles in town that were mined right out of the nearby mountains and won’t break the bank.
Did I mention that Bruce Willis was born here?
Idar-Oberstein just keeps giving and giving! If you ever find yourself in Germany, and you’re looking for a place to spend the afternoon, put Idar-Oberstein on your list! Be sure to bring along your camera so you can relive all the wonderful memories made here. And speaking of pictures, if you’ve got any old vacation photos or videos packed away in boxes, send them in to Legacybox to get them digitized. Those are memories you want preserved!