The Bertha Benz Memorial Route follows the tracks of the world's first long-distance journey by an automobile powered by an internal combustion engine. In 1888, Bertha Benz drove from Mannheim to Pforzheim in the Black Forest and back three days later. This was a round-trip journey of 194 km (120 miles) within Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany.
Two years earlier, in 1886, Bertha's husband, Dr Karl Benz, had invented the internal-combustion powered automobile in Mannheim (Reich Patent No. 37435) - but nobody wanted to buy his invention.
However, after his wife went with her 13- and 15-year-old sons on a long-distance trip from Mannheim to Pforzheim and back in 1888 - without her husband's knowledge - this proved that the horseless carriage was absolutely suitable for daily use and it became a huge success. There are almost a billion drivers worldwide today, but the first was a woman!
Although Bertha's journey was arguably the most important marketing activity of all time, the original achievement and route was on the verge of sinking into oblivion before So Frauke and Edgar Meyer started a private non-profit-initiative in 2007. They were instrumental in commemorating Bertha's pioneer deed by signposting the original route she had taken in 1888. The Bertha Benz Memorial Route became an official German tourist route in 2008 and a European Route of Industrial Heritage (ERIH) in 2009.
Mannheim is one of the most important train stops in Germany with numerous ICE-train-connections. Cars can be rented at the major train stations.
By car or bike
Mannheim and Heidelberg, both situated in the Rhine Valley, can be reached via several "Autobahns". Although there is no general speed-limit, please drive carefully! And remember: at 240 km/h, the little spot in your rear-view mirror can become a two-tonne limousine within only a few seconds!
The authentic route taken by Bertha Benz not only links almost forgotten original sites she passed on her way, it also leads to one of the most attractive scenic regions in Germany, the wine region of Baden.
The route follows several Roman roads in the area of the Upper Rhine Plain. For example, the Bergstraße (Mountain Road) leads along the base of the Odenwald mountains and the Kraichgau, and shortly before reaching Karlsruhe it branches off into the Pfinztal valley leading to Pforzheim, the entrance to the Black Forest.
As Bertha was afraid of some steep mountains, the return trip follows an alternative route and finally leads along the river Rhine to reach Mannheim again.
Mannheim to Pforzheim, approx. 104 km (64 mi), southbound (S):
- 1 Mannheim. Mannheim Palace, Luisenpark, Water-Tower, several museums
- Ilvesheim- Ilvesheim Castle
- 2 Ladenburg - Automuseum Dr. Carl Benz (note - the museum is named using Benz's first name "Carl" as it was originally spelt before the German spelling reform of 1901 which replaced C with K), house and grave of the Benz family in the Old Town, parts of which date back to Roman times
- Schriesheim - Castle Strahlenburg, Silver Mine
- Dossenheim - Quarry
- 3 Heidelberg - Heidelberg Castle, Old Town, Old Bridge, Hotel "Zum Ritter", University of Heidelberg
- 4 Wiesloch. The World's First Filling-Station (City Pharmacy)
- 5 Bruchsal - produces more asparagus than anywhere else in Germany and has a very mediaeval-looking high security prison that used to house "Red Army Faction" terrorists and now houses other high-risk prisoners. It was built in 1848 (the year of revolutions) and its local nickname is the "8-cornered café" because of its masonry watchtowers.
- 6 Weingarten - Walk'sches Haus
- 7 Pforzheim - Jewellery Museum, House of Industry.
Pforzheim to Mannheim, approx. 90 km (56 miles), northbound (N):
- 8 Bretten - A sweet little village with good value Konditorei where you can sit quietly and enjoy a Windbeutel or a slice of Schwarzwaldkirschtorte in the old market place. Afterwards, pay a visit to the 1899 Melanchthonhaus museum and research institute, built on the site of Melanchthon's birthplace. Close by is Maulbronn Abbey (a UNESCO nominated World Heritage Site) where Johannes Kepler, Friedrich Hölderlin and Hermann Hesse studied.
- Gondelsheim - Castle Gondelsheim, Gasthaus "LoewenThor". Josefine Benz, mother of Carl Benz, was buried in this town's graveyard in 1870
- Bruchsal - see outbound trip
- Wiesental - Eremitage Waghäusel
- Kirrlach, Reilingen - Germany's best asparagus
- 9 Hockenheim - Museum of Motorsports at the Hockenheimring, Hockenheimring (Formula 1)
- Ketsch - Backfischfest (baked fish festival) in August
- 10 Schwetzingen - The palace has one of the finest gardens in Europe
- Seckenheim - SAP-Arena software
- Mannheim - see outbound trip
You should achieve a strong GSM mobile phone signal throughout this itinerary.