Große Lauter Valley and the Zwiefalter Aach
The Große Lauter river rises from a karst spring in a natural bowl framed by the walls of the picturesque former monastery of Offenhausen. It meanders along a natural river bed for 40 kilometres through juniper heaths, caves and forests, past cliffs, picturesque villages and castles ruins to enter the Danube. The large number of castle ruins is an indication of their former significance: within a route of just 15 km there are ten.
The Schwäbischer Albverein hiking club's trail no. 5 runs along the valley of the Große Lauter river. This section is also known as the Castle Trail and is signposted accordingly. Accommodation for hikers on the Sternberg in Gomadingen and at Derneck Castle near Hayingen are inviting places in which to spend some time. The valley is also ideal for exploration by bicycle, while taking a canoe on the river is a really special experience. Canoes can be hired in Münsingen-Bichishausen and tours of various lengths are offered. Please note, however, that access for boating on the Lauter is restricted at certain times to protect the birdlife on and around its banks.
The Große Lauter offers more sights to see than just those of the natural world, however. Of particular interest, for example, is the Haupt- und Landgestüt Marbach, Germany's oldest state-run stud farm. Marbach is also the home of the Swabian Alb Railway, with a rail bus offering nostalgic rides on Sundays and public holidays in summer.
Just a little way away from the Große Lauter valley are the Wimsen Cave and the late-Baroque cathedral in Zwiefalten. The Wimsen Cave is the only cave in Germany into which it is possible to take a boat. During the 70-metre tour, the boatman relates all manner of interesting information about how the cave was created and about the further 700 metres by which it extends into the rocks. The Wimsen cave is the source of the Zwiefalter Aach, a small stream that flows past the Zwiefalter monastery, some 1 hour away on foot. This former Benedictine monastery was originally built in the Romanesque style. It was rebuilt in the 15th century in late-Gothic style and underwent very extensive changes from 1668. The cathedral was built between 1741 and 1753 by Johann Michael Fischer and is an important example of late-Baroque and south German Rococo.