Wf there is a territory that is considered the epitome of courtly hunting, it is the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt. Entire forests were designed according to hunting criteria and equipped with 300 supply, protection and residential facilities. The most beautiful, the small castle near Darmstadt-Kranichstein with its hunting museum, is celebrating two anniversaries these days. The collection was reopened 25 years ago after a general overhaul, and on Sundays until March you can look back at the beginnings 450 years ago and their formative consequences at “dining parties” with different themes.
At the beginning there is a farm that the first regent of the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt, newly created in 1567, George I, bought for a befitting halali. Expanded into a modest three-wing complex in the Renaissance style, hardly any of the successors later failed to adapt the castle and its surroundings to the changed representational needs and hunting requirements. Ultimately, it was the last prince of Darmstadt, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig, who brought all the movable utensils together here. Now, of course, for a hunting museum opened in 1918.
Later acquired by the Hessischer Jägerhof Foundation, it was reorganized in 1952. However, conditions proved cramped and the walls soon crumbled. That was changed by the country’s third-largest monument preservation intervention to date Hesse for around 14 million euros (27 million marks). In 1998, after ten years, the gem shone in the most beautiful ocher tone, complemented by an upscale hotel restaurant. Above all, the museum was unrecognizable.
The historical premises, the weapons and antler collections are of course still there, but they are placed in a much broader cultural-historical perspective. Hunting, i.e. the need to survive, as the famous French cave paintings show, has made a significant contribution to the development of human mental abilities. It was only when sedentariness made the costly hunt unnecessary that rituals and status privileges developed with hunting.
Out of responsibility for the natural and cultural heritage, the deciduous stocks with their grazing and hunting areas have been retained to this day – with forestry largely being discontinued in favor of the targeted primeval forests – as well as the fan-shaped aisles towards Kranichstein or Dianaburg, supplemented by reconstructions of hunting areas Facilities to educational trails and information boards.
A “Bioversum” was added to the hunting museum in 2008 for the natural history context. Housed in the 112 meter long armory, everything is designed to be understood, both literally and figuratively. Not a corner of the 450 square meter experimental field in which something cannot be touched, pulled out, rotated or animated virtually.
Whether arriving by bus or car, the start is in front of the part of the hunting lodge used for gastronomy. There are plenty of parking spaces here and at the “Bioversum” opposite. You go through the wooden gate to access the Hunting Museum, before you either go left or right around the Backhausteich, which was originally used for fish farming.
At its end, turn left and with the sign yellow 5 and further right into the first lane. The hunting party reached the wooden grandstands of the Hengstriedwiese. A roundabout-like shooting range in the front left and, slightly hidden, the Alexanderburg on the right are preserved, reminiscent of the future Tsar Alexander II, who shot wild boar here in 1840 during his engagement to the Hessian Princess Marie.
The oak avenue leads into the forest, where the 5 immediately turns left, past a reconstructed piece of that palisade-like fence that fenced in the forest for more than 18 kilometers from the early 19th century until it was misused as firewood in 1945. After 700 meters you come to the indicated Dörrwiesenschneise with its wildlife observation stand in front of the extensive Rodwiese.
You stay on the cutting edge. If the path is not marked, it is a bit bumpier, but thanks to the mighty oaks and beeches it is not inferior to the prevailing vegetation, just as when you reach the Bornschneise a good 1200 meters later. At it, turn left to the railway underpass ten minutes away and soon left again behind it.