Horn-Bad Meinberg (~18,000 residents) is actually two towns separated by the train station; Horn and Bad Meinberg in the North Rhine-Westphalia region (very near my family’s stomping grounds).

In the information that I had Horn-Bad Meinberg is touted as a state approved mud and mineral spa resort on the edge of the famous Teutoburg Forest nature reserve.  That and the many walkways through the forest is what drew me here.

One of the many Wanderwegs through the forest

As far as I am concerned the advertising was misleading.  I never did find the mud spa.  However, most days it was raining so heavily I suppose you could have just rolled around on a pathway somewhere and called it a mud spa.

Horn had the more historical draws, but I didn’t go there.  Bad Meinberg was the spa town.  Bad in front of the name generally means something like a spa specializing town.  It isn’t pronounced like “bad” in English though, the “a” is more like in baa baa (sheep noises).

Bad Meinberg - foot bath - for use prior to walking

I did go to the thermal/mineral bath twice.  It was just a regular pool though, the only neat thing about it is that a part of it is outside, and it remains open year round. That would be so cool (in more ways than one!) to swim outside while it is snowing.  I also went into the salt grotto once.  It’s a room that has had the lower part of the walls covered in Himalayan rock salt crystals, the upper walls and ceiling is salt encrusted with stalactites hanging from the ceiling and salt is heavily strewn on the floor.

There are several beach chairs with pillows and blankets provided for your comfort while you lounge around in the grotto for about 45 minutes soaking up the vibes of the crystals.  Music could have been more soothing or loaned itself more to meditation though – Oompah type tunes – not so soothing.

Foot bath instructions

I did go to one absolutely fascinating place; the Externsteine rock formations which are located several kilometers outside Horn.  On one of the two nice days out of the seven I was there I hopped a bus to this park.  Based on my lacklustre experiences so far I was prepared for a “yeah, whatever” type of venture.  Instead it became one of the most profoundly moving places I have been to.

Coat of Arms of Baron who had a picnic on site

The Externsteine are about 70 million years old and since before the time of the Celts they have been used as a spiritual/holy place.  There is a cave complex that had an altar which was dedicated in the year 1115 as a Christian place of worship.  Additionally, there is a relief carving on the outside wall of the cave which dates from the 1sthalf of the 12th century.  It is not only the largest relief carving in Europe but also an outstanding example of Romanesque sculpture. The tallest stone tower has a “window” carved in it that lines up perfectly with the rising sun on the summer solstice.   A piper that I spoke to said that the Externsteine are located on one of Earth’s energy lines and that people still come here to worship – especially at the solstices.

Externsteine - tower to the left has a chapel at top

I spent a goodly amount of time here and it was the only time I was annoyed with people, especially those whose only goal seemed to be clambering up and down the stone/metal steps and not appreciating what this place was.

You can go into two of the stone towers.  I really tried but I only made it up about 50 steps (of the tallest one – the one with the bridge) before my knees started clattering together.  Drat!  No access is permitted to the cave.  Double drat.

Relief carving detail - removing Jesus from the cross

Apart from the spa aspects and the Externsteine, the area’s claim to fame is the famous Teutoburg Forest.  It was here in about 9CE that the Roman general, Varus, and his Roman soldiers were devastatingly defeated by the Germanic warriors under the leadership of Arminius, a man of one of the Germanic tribes, but who had been raised in Rome.

Varus had heard of rebellion fomenting and set out to quell it.  Unluckily for him the notoriously fiercely independent Germanic barbarians had banded together under the leadership of Arminius and, once again, weather played a significant role.

To make a long story shorter; it was when Varus and his soldiers marched into the forest that Arminius attacked.  The extremely wet weather had rendered the Romans nearly defenceless as they couldn’t use their bows (sinew strings became slack when wet) or their shields (became waterlogged). The Germanic warriors used light swords, large lances and a spear with a short narrow blade called a “fremae”.  These spears are described as being very sharp and “warrior friendly”.  You know you have to mull that term over a bit.  I’d say that maybe the spears were “warrior friendly” or “warrior unfriendly” depending on what end of the spear you were on.

Externsteine caves - unfinished

It is estimated that of the 20,000- 36,000 Romans 15,000-20,000 lost their lives.  The Germanic warriors fared far better, of 10,000-12,000 only 500-600 bit the dust (well mud).

Like all dutiful and honour bound Roman officers, Varus promptly fell on his sword an example followed by several of his officers.  Several more, which were maybe not so quick or didn’t care for pointy things, were ransomed, but many (according to Tacitus, Roman historian) “were sacrificed by the Germanic forces as part of their religious ceremonies cooked in pots and the bones used in rituals”. (Wikipedia).  Note that Tacitus is not the most accurate of historians and he was born in 55CE, several decades after the battle.

In due course the Romans retaliated and whupped the Germanic tribes, but despite that it was largely due to the Teutoburg Forest battle that the Romans decided that the lands on the other side of the Rhine weren’t worth the aggravation of conquest.

Externsteine - Me on Critter bench

All in all, except for the Externsteine (which is an easy part-of-a-day trip) I would give this area a pass.  I hadn’t wanted to stay here as long as I did, but Oktoberfest was going on and I couldn’t get to Trier (my next stop) before October 3.

Health and Happiness,