We left the aire under the three bridges, which had become packed with vans overnight, as the workers arrived and the chipping machine got going at 9am.
It was Saturday morning and the weekend beckoned along the ‘Deutsche Weinstraße’, or wine route. Crossing the bridge in Bertha we admired cyclists doing the same. Been there, done that!
It was a mercifully short drive along the busy autobahn before we got off it and into the rich agricultural land of the Pfalz in West Germany. The way to the bottom of the Weinstraße was mainly farmland and piles of harvested pumpkins, squashes, cabbages and potatoes lined the fields.
Small villages advertised Erbst or Oktoberfests and many homes and farms had barrows piled high with fresh vegetables for sale alongside the road. Iron- framed archways into and out of villages wound thickly with vines, lately picked. At the spa town of Bad Bergzabern we wound up a steep hillside through the grounds of a klinik and into the vineyards of Weingut Hitziger.
We were warmly greeted by its owner Nicole and arranged for an early evening tasting, heading meantime down the steep slopes to explore the town.
Bad Bergzabern’s old centre is pretty and lined with flea markets and second-hand and vintage clothes shops, whilst the new centre is upmarket spas and designer shops. Having collected some food supplies we puffed back up the slopes and met Nicole for a terrific hour of conversation and tasting of wine. We learnt a lot about the family’s way of life at the vineyard and the different needs and complexities of the many varietals they grow for their range of wines.
The sun was shining hotly on the weingut’s patio and Nicole invited us to enjoy a seat and a glass of rose amongst the vines. After 64 days on the road, it felt such a treat to be doing this, and at a surprising 23 degrees, the late afternoon was so different to that of 24 hours before on the bikes.
The weather cooled overnight and it was cloudy and drizzly as we set off the next morning to walk to the weinfest in the next village, at Nicole’s urging, to taste ‘the new wines’. We greeted many locals going for a Sunday stroll and were followed by a gaggle of Dutch campers, who thought following the Brits was a good idea.
We meandered amongst ad hoc stalls and up and around the village for views of its setting in the hills. At a decent hour we headed back into one of the wine-makers courtyards, the noisiest, to try the new wine.
A brass band pumped out oompah and traditional tunes that the tables full of eating and drinking people sang and clapped cheerily along to.
The new wine was served in quarter and half litre glasses and was a cloudy yellow colour, very grapey in taste and yeasty.
It felt a fitting way to end a super weekend of autumnal festivity in another very pretty corner of Germany.