Externsteine bei Detmold

Photography with the “Happy Factor”

– Thomas explores the most beautiful photo locations in the area around the Arminius Monument and the Externsteine

You can find a German-language version of this blog on Thomas’s website, together with the photos that he captured.

The voice of Bobby McFerrin rings out from my car radio, and I can’t help but suppress a smile. “Don’t worry, be happy,” suits my mood perfectly. Something makes me hum along with the melody and I arrive in Detmold full of anticipation. It’s just a few weeks since I was last here, when I had taken a dreamy hike in this sleepy, idyllic corner of the Lippe region from the Arminius Monument, via the Externsteine rock formation to the heights of the Egge Mountain Range. Once again, I’m here to hike, having been invited (along with other travel bloggers who share my love of photography) to come to eastern Westphalia and discover the region’s most beautiful sights and shoot a few photos. Here, in the homeland of Arminius, stunning shots are ten a penny – so read on to find out where the most beautiful shots are there for the taking, and where my personal “be happy” barometer went off the scale.

Detmold’s beautiful old town

It’s only right that the photographic tour should begin in the open-air museum. In Detmold’s old town – the “Altstadt.” In fact, I walked past it beforehand, simply because I wanted to grab a coffee there. I quickly became frustrated by the fact that I’d left my camera in my hotel room: the beautiful old town with its half-timbered houses is a peerlessly stunning backdrop. Nonetheless, I didn’t let it spoil my good mood. I still have the song stuck in my head and hum the Bobby McFerrin tune silently to myself instead. To make up for it, I grab my mobile phone and use it to take a few shots. Unfortunately, there’s only enough time for a short walk through the very centre of town, and I resolve to spend more time in the town during my next visit to Detmold. As I rush past, I see even more locations that would make perfect shots: the base of the Arminius Monument and the castle, the Prince’s Residence, are just two examples. I think to myself that the Landestheater, the railway station, the Donoper Teich lake and the Friedrichstal Canal would also be wonderfully photogenic: plenty of subjects to save for next time!

However, I do manage to revisit the Detmold Open Air Museum with my camera. An old horse-drawn coach takes us back into a time long past, as we amble past old courtyards that were originally built somewhere else and that have been recreated here. During the coach ride I need to restrain myself from shooting wildly in all directions like a nervous paparazzo: not just the courtyards, but the entire area with its lovingly planted gardens, little village ponds, and living rooms that faithfully recreate the originals, make everything seem so vividly alive. In fact, there is even a photo studio with props from the last century in the middle of all this scenery, and anyone who wants to can have their photo taken with an ancient camera. We, however, turn to the modern version, taking some lovely souvenir shots and then enjoying our first views of the Arminius Monument from the neighbouring viewing tower.

Off the scale at the Arminius Monument

My “be happy” barometer really went off the scale the first time I saw the Arminius Monument. For a photographer, the monument is something to be thankful for, as much as impressed by, and the statue of Arminius – the largest statute in Germany – somehow magically draws me into its orbit. I simply can’t take enough photos of it. However, the photo opportunities extend beyond the structure itself: you can climb the base, which is nearly 27 metres high, where you emerge onto a viewing platform at the feet of the statue, offering phenomenal views into the distance that extend to the furthest reaches of the Teutoburger Wald forest. I was even lucky enough to be able to climb into the head of the Arminius statute and see the outside world through his nostrils. There will be a special blog post about those views, and how I managed to get there, in the very near future. However, I can recommend a visit to the preserved cottage of the sculptor who built the monument. The cottage is only a few metres away from the monument and hosts a mini museum dedicated to the story of the statue’s construction.

A surprisingly rewarding bird park

I came across the Heiligenkirchen Bird Park almost my chance during my hike up to the Arminius Monument and I actually only wanted to pop in and have a quick look around. When I eventually emerged a good while later, I had saved countless photos to my camera’s memory card: I really hadn’t expected there to be so many worthwhile shots in the bird park. Firstly, there are of course plenty of brightly-coloured birds, but there are also lots of other animals such as kangaroos and monkeys that are also worth photographing. Secondly, however, the park is beautifully laid out, with a multitude of flower beds and partially accessible animal enclosures that will delight more than just photographers.

Majestic birds of prey in the eagle sanctuary

To get really big birds in your sights, however, you need to go to the Berlebeck Eagle Sanctuary, which is roughly half way along the hike between the Arminius Monument and the Externsteine rock formation. Unfortunately, when I arrived, I had just missed one of the demonstrations of birds in flight, which take place several times per day, and anyone with an interest in falconry should definitely check the times for the demonstrations online. However, even without seeing these majestic birds in flight, I was still pretty impressed, and the raptors still made wonderful subjects for my photos.

Animals in the Teutoburger Wald forest

One of my greatest “happy moments” was not at the Arminius Monument or at any of the other sights to see in the countryside around Lippe. In fact, I was over the moon to see an adorable vole with cartoonish button eyes nibbling joyfully on a blade of grass, deep in the heart of the Teutoburger Wald, and it’s not unusual to see nature up close in this way in the Teutoburger Wald, and I repeatedly had the chance to see the local wildlife. As well as numerous mice, there were plenty of different bird species, including many woodpeckers. Butterflies, snails, toads, lizards, and deer: all drove me wild with excitement.

The plant life also had plenty of surprises in store. Dark woods that made their mark on the Romans; streams that would form the perfect backdrop for a film of Grimm’s fairy tales, gently rolling hills and ridges where the autumn fog mystically hangs, and even some heathland that also appears to be lifted straight from a fairy tale. I aimed my camera into the undergrowth again and again, enjoying the silence of the forest or the babbling brook in the Silberbach Valley. Meanwhile, the song had finally left my head but, nevertheless (or perhaps precisely because it had gone) the new sounds made me truly happy.

Endless photo opportunities at the Externsteine

The Externsteine attracted me to them instantly; these bizarre rock formations seem to have come from another world altogether. It’s no wonder, therefore, that numerous myths and legends have sprung up around them. I could easily spend an entire day there with my camera, and would still be finding new shots at the end of it. From reflections in the adjoining lake to the stones’ impressive shadows in the midday sunlight, I’m long past the stage where I need any music for a genuine happy moment and, if I’m reading the faces of the other bloggers who are traveling with me, they feel the same way. They all seem happy and are shooting countless photos.

A high point of the trip in every sense

The Velmerstot was a high point of the trip in every sense of the word. The Velmerstot is the highest mountain in the Egge Hills and, while its height of 464 metres may not sound like much, the climb to the top still causes me to break into a sweat. At the summit, a wooden observation tower awaits, offering views in clear weather that extend to the Sauerland from the top. Unfortunately, it’s a little hazy during my visit, but I’m still impressed – as I am by the next stage of the hike through the hills to Altenbeken. During this stage of my hike, I’m almost alone on the trail and have all the time in the world to take photos and relax.

More information

In total, my photographic tour of Arminius’ homeland lasted only two weekends. Nevertheless, I managed to take countless photos. Although I had enjoyed the silence of the forest alone during my first visit, I travelled with a group of travel bloggers for my second visit, hiking again as well as cycling on Raleigh e-bikes. The region is ideally suited to both activities, and I’d have been more than happy to spend a few more days – there’s no chance at all that I’d have run out of things to do or see.

The stages to follow in my footsteps

From my own experience, I can recommend taking a walk along the E1 European Long-Distance Hiking Trail from the Arminius Monument in Detmold to the Externsteine, followed by a walk to Altenbeken via Verlmerstot to anyone who loves hiking. I used GPS to record the route I took, and you can find full details on my website at breitengrad66.de.