For roughly 360 days out of the year, the town of Hockenheim is pretty ordinary. Dull, even. It's got the usual sights common to the towns in Baden-Württemburg and Rheinland-Pfalz, there's a nicely decorated town hall, a quaint Catholic church, a competing Protestant Church, a tiny used-once-weekly marketplace, and a stream/canal/river to add a dose of character. Very little going on, just a few ordinarily folk wandering around the ordinary streets buying ordinary food.
But not during the other five days of the year! That's when Hockenheim's quiet little atmosphere turns on its rubbery head as thousands of die-hard Formula 1 fans cram in to enjoy a weekend afternoon of world-class racing!
The Hockenheimring, shown in the first photo, is clearly visible along the edge of Autobahn 61, just a short kilometer or two west of the Walldorferkreuz joining A5 and A6. This short is behind the grandstands of the southern tribune, and the fencelines on both sides of the road are filled with concessionaires eager to satisfy the hungry crowd. And a hungry crowd it is, just imagine the walking path you see crammed elbow-to-elbow across the entire front of the track each one carrying a brat and a beer.
Formula 1 is the premier attraction. But while the ring hosts three or four Formula 1 races each year, it also hosts motorcycle racing and other events during the rest of the summer. So, it's always a busy place. I'll tell you, though -- when the Formula 1 races are on, I can just barely hear them from all the way in Nussloch, about twenty kilometers away.
The Ring also has a cart track and auto sport museum, open year round, and I did have a chance to try the carts back in 2000. ... I stunk, if you really must know.
The town itself truly is ordinary and pleasant, with surprisingly little to indicate its special role in the sporting world. I noted very few stores or restaurants with an autoracing theme (as opposed to Monaco, which has Formula 1 memorabilia all over the place). That is not to say the town ignores or even disowns the racetrack -- several postcards I saw depicted the tiny downtown overrun with people on race day, but it was nice to see that the town didn't milk the theme for all it was worth.
Hockenheim was one of the towns I looked at when I moved to the Heidelberg area, and I did find it to be a growing area -- with lots of new housing developments around. However, I wasn't so sure I wanted to be so close to a Formula 1 race track.
Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2002 Tom Galvin