Germany’s Bonanza Ranch

Katzweiler/Pfalz

Bonanza Ranch from Author Ian Kent
Bonanza Ranch

What?  Bonanza Ranch?  Are you talking about a popular TV series that ran through the sixties?  No, this is a real place in the middle of Germany, sort of a guest Ranch, petting zoo, guest house/B&B and horse boarding operation in the Pfalz area of Germany, near the small town of Katzweiler.

We ran across this place by accident as we were cruising around one weekend with another couple, looking for flea markets, or in Germany “Flohmarkt”.  We did this quite often, if we found ourselves in an area on a weekend, when most of the Flea markets were held.  We were lucky that day, as we found a flea market, a celebration and parade, and a great B&B, called Bonanza Ranch.  We already had a place to stay that night, so we stopped and checked, and reserved a room for the next day, for a couple of nights for both couples.

Bonanza brochure from Author Ian Kent
Bonanza brochure

It was an interesting place, both a horse boarding stable and a place to rent a horse to ride around the countryside.  In Canada, and possibly the U.S., they call this not just a B&B, but a ‘Bale and Breakfast, where you come to stay overnight with a bed for yourself, and one for your horse.. They also had buggy rides in a big covered wagon for the family and pony rides for the children.

Covered Wagon Rides from Author Ian Kent
Covered Wagon Rides
Pony rides
Pony rides

And lucky for us, they had a couple of lovely double rooms with showers and W.C., balconies overlooking the large courtyard/barnyard, and comfortable beds with those amazing German duvets.  The room came with a full German breakfast, or Frühstück, served in a lovely Frühstück Zimmer, breakfast room.

After making our reservations, we carried on our tour and eventually found the flea market in the village of Otterbach.  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but when the Germans name a place, they tend to use the name again and again, possibly with slight variations of an addition to define which one, or where is it located.  This time, we found it slightly confusing as a couple of kilometres from Otterbach, was the village of Otterberg.  When we returned the next day, we had to make sure we remembered which one, in order to find the turn-off to Katzweiler.

It was in one of these villages we found the flea market, and the other we found a large village celebration.  I’m not sure which one, as I did not specify which one in my travel journal.  In any case, after driving around after the flea market, we decided to have lunch somewhere.  For those who do not know, unless you are in a large city where you see large signs, chain restaurants, or the big ‘Golden Arches’ of MacDonalds, you don’t recognize which buildings are restaurants.  They tend not to over-advertise their establishments on the outside.  As we drove around the village, it appeared to be abandoned, nobody was in the street, all was quiet.  We couldn’t see any signs of a restaurant, and we were a little worried because we had not received the ‘evacuation notice’.  Finally, we spotted a native, and asked if there was a restaurant nearby.  I knew enough German to ask that.  Sure enough, there was one right on the main street, near where we were standing.  I did not take a photo, but please picture this large three story building, quite plain, no fancy signs or advertising, just a small plaque beside the standard, non-descript front door.  We thanked the man and headed into the building,  No sooner had we entered, and we realized no wonder the streets were empty, the entire town must have been in there for lunch.  We saw the place was packed, loud talking, laughing, eating and drinking.  Servers were running around with large trays of drinks and huge meals.  There were no tables available, and we were sent upstairs.  It was even worse up there.  We couldn’t believe the place was so full.  We finally got a table and sat down for some cold beers and a lovely meal.

About a half hour later, we settled our bill and headed down and out the entrance.  Wow!  What a change!  The street was packed with people, all talking and laughing and looking up the street where a brass band was leading a parade!  As they approached, we stood off to one side and decided to watch the parade instead of trying for our car, which was parked a couple of blocks away.

The parade included floats that were handing out snacks and a barbecue doing tasty bratwurst on a bun.  We still don’t know what the celebration was, but it was most likely a HerbstFest, or Fall Festival, which many villages in Germany hold every year,

After the parade had passed, we got the car and decided to follow the parade just in case there was something better down the road.  As I drove, our friend Harvey was sitting in the passenger seat with the window rolled down.  I don’t know if the people thought we were part of the parade, but they were gathering around the car, handing us goodies through the windows.  One happy fellow had a tray of schnapps, and he passed one to Harvey, who thanked the man and obliged him by downing the drink, burning his throat all the way down.  I was glad he wasn’t handing out on my side as I was driving.

We followed the parade until it petered out on the edge of town, and decided to return to Katzweiler and our Bonanza Ranch.

In addition to the horses and other animals on the ranch, they had several dozen large geese which were let out to graze every morning.  They were kept in one of the barns overnight, and early in the morning, between six and seven, the shepherd or goose herder let them out of the barn and they all tore off into the pastures.  What a noise!  We could watch them from our balcony, and the first time it happened, we were surprised at the noise, jumped out of bed and went rushing to see what the noise was.  As the barn door opened, they came pushing and flying out, every goose vying for the front of the flock, honking and braying at the top of their voice.

Paving stones in the stable from Author Ian Kent
Paving stones in the stable
Feeding the horses from Author Ian Kent
Feeding the horses

Just a note about German ranches, at least this ‘ranch’.  Everything was immaculate, kept in order, and finished with the best of materials and strict German craftmanship.  The courtyard/barnyard, was all paved with nice paving stones, so when the horses came out, or were rode across the yard, the clip-clop of hooves were a very distinct and loud CLIP CLOP!  If you look closely at Photos 5 and 6, you will notice the paving stones also run into the stables.

Some B&B’s/guest houses serve breakfast from about 6AM to 10AM.  We always check and try to get down by about 8AM for our breakfast.  At the Bonanza, 8AM was agreed upon, so the next morning, we all arrived at the breakfast room at 8AM, looking for coffee and something to eat.  It was quiet, nobody was up, the coffee wasn’t on, and we checked with each other to make sure we had confirmed an 8AM breakfast.  8:15, nobody, 8:30, nobody.  Finally, at close to 8:45, we went over and knocked on our landlady’s door.

As we couldn’t speak much German at that time, and they couldn’t speak English, the next half hour was a hilarious exchange of bits and pieces of German, English and sign language, only to discover that at that time, that weekend, all the clocks had been set back to standard time, so we were an hour early.  We knew the change was coming up, but Europe was a week earlier than Canada that year.  No harm done, we tried to apologize to our hosts, and I think they thought it was funny as well.  Just another incident of not understanding the local situation.  We still laugh about it every time we have to change our clocks.

Rainbow over the ranch from Author Ian Kent
Rainbow over the ranch

Acknowledgments:  As my own camera did not work well that day, most of these photos are courtesy of Bonanza Ranch.  Thank you for that, and thank you for triggering some old memories.


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