The Bertha Benz Memorial Route is a German tourist and theme route in Baden-Württemberg and member of the European Route of Industrial Heritage. Since its opening in 2008 everybody can follow the tracks of the world’s first long distance journey by automobile of the year 1888.
Bertha Benz’s husband, Dr Carl Benz, patented the first automobile designed to produce its own power in January 1886.(Reich Patent No. 37435). In early August, 1888, without her husband’s knowledge, Bertha Benz, with her sons Richard and Eugen, fourteen and fifteen years old, drove in one of Benz’s newly-constructed Patent Motorwagen No. 3 automobiles from Mannheim to Pforzheim, becoming the first person to drive an automobile over more than a very short distance. The distance was about 104 km (64 miles). Distances traveled before this historic trip were short, and merely trials with mechanical assistants. Although the ostensible purpose of the trip was to visit her mother, Bertha Benz also had another motive: to show her brilliant husband – who had failed to consider marketing his invention adequately – that the automobile would become a financial success once it was shown to be useful to the general public.
On the way, she solved numerous problems. She had to find Ligroin, a solvent available only at dispensing chemists’ shops, to use as fuel. Thus the still existing Stadt-Apotheke (Town Pharmacy) in Wiesloch, some kilometers south of Heidelberg, became the world’s first filling station. A blacksmith had to help mend a chain in Bruchsal. Brake linings were replaced in Bauschlott/Neulingen north of Pforzheim. And Bertha Benz had to use a long, straight hairpin to clean a fuel pipe which had become blocked, and a garter to insulate a wire. Bertha and her sons left Mannheim around dawn and reached Pforzheim somewhat after dusk, notifying Carl of their successful journey by telegram. They drove back to Mannheim three days later. Along the way, several people were frightened by the automobile and the novel trip received a great deal of publicity – as she had sought. The drive was very helpful for Carl Benz, as he was able to introduce several improvements after his wife reported everything that had happened along the way – and she made important suggestions, such as the introduction of an additional gear for climbing hills.
Mannheim to Pforzheim, approx. 104 km (64 miles), southbound (S):
Mannheim, Mannheim-Feudenheim, Ilvesheim, Ladenburg, Schriesheim, Dossenheim, Heidelberg, Leimen, Nußloch, Wiesloch, Mingolsheim, Langenbrücken, Stettfeld, Ubstadt, Bruchsal, Untergrombach, Weingarten, Karlsruhe-Grötzingen, Berghausen, Söllingen, Kleinsteinbach, Wilferdingen, Königsbach, Stein, Eisingen, Pforzheim
Pforzheim to Mannheim, approx. 90 km (56 miles), northbound (N):
Pforzheim, Bauschlott, Bretten, Gondelsheim, Helmsheim, Heidelsheim, Bruchsal, Forst, Hambrücken, Wiesental, Kirrlach, Reilingen, Hockenheim, Talhaus, Ketsch, Schwetzingen, Mannheim-Friedrichsfeld, Mannheim-Seckenheim, Mannheim
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 Baden. This route of industrial heritage of mankind follows several Roman roads in the area of the Upper Rhine Plain, for example the Bergstrasse (Mountain Road), it leads along the foot of the Odenwald mountains and the Kraichgau, and shortly before reaching Karlsruhe it branches off into the Pfinzvalley 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: Mannheim Palace, Luisenpark, Water-Tower
- Ladenburg: Automuseum Dr. Carl Benz, House of the Benz Family, Old Town
- Heidelberg: Heidelberg Castle, Old Town, Old Bridge
- Wiesloch: The World’s first filling station (Town Pharmacy)
- Bruchsal: Bruchsal Castle
- Pforzheim: Museum of Jewelry, House of Industry
- Bretten: Melanchthon’s House, close by Maulbronn Abbey (World Heritage Site of UNESCO), students: Johannes Kepler, Friedrich Hölderlin, Hermann Hesse (Steppenwolf)
- Hockenheim: Museum of Motorsports at the Hockenheimring, Hockenheimring
- Schwetzingen: Schwetzingen Castle