Overlooking the city of Darmstadt in southern Hesse, the Frankenstein Castle is a hilltop landmark that is believed to have inspired Mary Shelley’s 1818 Gothic novel “Frankenstein”. It’s one of many historic castles that dot the Hessische Bergstrasse (“Hessian Mountain Road”), which winds through the Odenwald Mountains and is renowned for its vineyards.
The name “Frankenstein” translates from German as “Stone of the Franks” and the castle was built in the early 13th century by Lord Conrad II Reiz of Breuberg, the founder of the free imperial Barony of Frankenstein. In 1363 it was divided into two parts and occupied by different families of Frankenstein’s lords and knights before being expanded and modernized in the 15th century. It fell into ruin during the 18th century and was restored (although with historical inaccura-cies) during the mid-19th century.
The Odenwald Mountains have long been associated with folktales and legends, with the landscape featuring dark forests and valleys that are shrouded in mys-tery. Prior to writing her famous novel, Mary Shelley traveled along the Rhine River and is believed to have been influenced by the stories of Johann Conrad Dippel, a professional alchemist who was born in the castle. Rumors state that he performed experiments on dead bodies exhumed within the castle and a local cleric warned his parish that Dippel was responsible for creating a monster that was brought to life by a lightning bolt.
Frankenstein Castle is open to visitors wanting to explore its remains, with a special festival taking place to mark Halloween. The surrounding forests are also a popular destination for hiking and mountain biking and there are wonderful views on offer from the restaurant terrace next door.