The old town, the castles and the market square in Weinheim seem tranquil. But in reality the city is a stronghold of crime. At least since best-selling author Ingrid Noll has been plying her dreadful trade here, leaving many men to die—preferably at the hands of a woman. An audio guide leads visitors along the Ingrid-Noll-Weg trail through the adopted hometown of Weinheim’s best-known citizen passing ancient trees, graves and poisonous plants.

Ingrid Noll orders an espresso. Although for her alter ego, a cup of tea would be more fitting, as it offers less conspicuous opportunities to knock someone off. After all, the recent publication by Germany’s best-known crime novelist is called Tea Time. At one point, its narrator Nina and her best friend Franzi brew a wolf’s-bane drink for their common adversary and then spend days wondering whether they killed him with it. The two friends live directly at Weinheim’s market square, where tourists and locals gather in the summer to dine under Japanese pagoda trees, to have an ice cream or to toast with a glass of wine. It is here that the Ingrid-Noll-Weg begins and ends. The trail has been leading to well-known and lesser-known places in the ‘town of two castles’ since 2021. And here, on this gloomy afternoon in January, the author is sitting in the flesh in a café, wearing a golden brown blazer with royal blue adornments. She has hung her lemon-yellow handbag over the back of the chair. The waiter greets her by name.

The Lady of Crimeheim prefers to drink espresso instead of tea.

The grande dame of the German crime novel has been living in Weinheim for over 50 years, since she moved here with her three children and her husband, who was an internist and had taken up a post as senior physician at the local hospital. Back then, she couldn’t have imagined that she would become the town’s best-known citizen—and the proud patron of a hiking trail named after her. The trail leads along 13 stations in the city centre between the market square, the Mausoleum, the Hermannshof and the medicinal herb garden. A red rooster marks the stations—in reference to the author’s first novel Der Hahn ist tot (literally: the rooster is dead), with which she landed—to her own surprise—a bestseller in 1991. The tour lasts about an hour, is accessible 365 days a year and can be started in either direction.

The Ingrid-Noll-Weg trail leads right through Weinheim’s city centre.

Visitors on the tour can scan the QR codes provided at each station and hear the author’s voice. The short texts are recordings of the Lady of Crimeheim, as she likes to call herself, musing with her typical mixture of wisdom and wit about the city’s history, home, her life and, of course, all kinds of murder methods. She also reveals why she finds her adopted home so beautiful. “You can’t help just feeling good here. The climate is perfect; the region is nicknamed Tuscany of Germany. The old town is picturesque and people are open-minded and friendly here. There is a beautiful park and an enchanting garden. Weinheim has good transport links, with Mannheim, Heidelberg, Darmstadt, Frankfurt and Stuttgart all within easy reach. The nearby Odenwald and the Palatinate offer the most beautiful treasures for hikers.” Yet her first impression of the town was quite different: “I thought it was awful,” as she recalls her first visit. She only settled in after she had discovered the old town with its narrow alleys and medieval houses.

Weinheim and the surrounding area have since grown to become her home and even her hunting ground, as the author calls it. She started writing when her children left home. At that time she was 55 years old. Some 30 years later, Ingrid, who writes under her maiden name, has published more than 20 books. Many are set in the Rhine-Neckar region—in Mannheim, Heidelberg, Ladenburg or the Odenwald. “I know the architecture, the landscape and the wildlife here well,” she explains, “and I know what makes people tick.” Talkative and amiable are two qualities that first come to her mind when she is asked to describe the locals of the Electoral Palatinate. It is still something special for her when she presents her books in her own territory, even though she is no longer as nervous as she was at the beginning of her career: “I knew that my husband’s patients or our neighbours were sitting there. And everyone would have an eye on how I would do it, what I was wearing and so on. In the beginning, I was a bit inhibited indeed. But that’s no longer the case.”

I know the architecture, the landscape and the wildlife here well. I know what makes people tick.

Ingrid Noll

Locals of Weinheim actually have become the centre of criminal activity in Tea Time—at their express wish, as the author assures us. “I do what I can,” she says generously. She also likes to fulfil the wishes of friends and acquaintances and hides a few Easter eggs in her works. “Mörlenbach is mentioned in one of them because someone wished for it. And Europa, the dog in the book Kein Feuer kann brennen so heiß, is actually a friend’s dog.”

Ingrid Noll presents her books as well as anecdotes from her life along the trail.

Those who don’t know Ingrid’s novels yet can get a taste of them during the audio tour. In the castle courtyard her voice reads from Die Apothekerin and at the Mausoleum in the castle park from Röslein Rot and from Der Hahn ist tot. Tea Time is discussed in the recordings available at the market square and in the medicinal herb garden. At other stations, Ingrid tells stories from her own life. About an encounter with a real murderer, for example, or how she and her sister once worshipped ginkgo trees and that her eyes have played tricks on her recently. “When I brought back a can of dog food instead of chanterelles from the grocery store, it became a certainty: I needed reading glasses. I felt offended for weeks about the fact that it had hit, of all things, my eagle eyes.” However, sitting in the castle courtyard under a large cedar tree, which is said to be one of the oldest in Germany, she assures us that old age also has positive things in store, such as “cheerful serenity and the certainty that one is replaceable.”

The Hermannshof is a must on the Ingrid-Noll-Weg trail. The author loves the garden in all seasons.

Despite the joys of getting older, Ingrid is no longer out and about in the city so often. Excursions and long walks have become too tiring. But when she has visitors, she still likes to head for the Hermannshof, which is part of ‘her’ trail, of course. “The trail unites so many places that are quite different from each other,” she enthuses. And consequently the author has not only one, but many, favourite spots, depending on the season. One day she sits under the purple flowering wisteria (beware, poisonous!) and lets herself be lulled by its scent. Another day she watches the dragonflies making their rounds above the small pond with the water lilies. “I especially love the Präriegarten park, which glows in the most brilliant colours in autumn,” she adds. Escaping winter to Mallorca as a pensioner? Not an option for Ingrid Noll, as we learn from the audio tour: “It is actually much prettier in Weinheim—even in old age and even in winter.”


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