Spend any amount of time in Germany and you’ll learn that the locals don’t do things by half measures – it’s all in or nothing. You can read a lot into that.
After a hugely enjoyable couple of weeks touring homeward from the country’s eastern borders, we pitched up on the Wein Strasse in time for pretty Freinsheim’s Stadtmauerfest.
“Seen one Wein Fest, seen ‘em all!”, we overheard an American say. Not true. In Germany each village, town or wine region holding its own annual celebration has something different to offer.
Neustadt is the self styled capital of the northern wein strasse. We arrived on a quiet Friday afternoon and cycled into the hills above the small old town centre. There wasn’t too much to see and we weren’t surprised on learning later that it was literally, a new town, built on a successful wine trading route. So much for that then!
In Freinsheim they go early as the harvest isn’t due for another three months. The allure of the festival is the meander through its intact medieval stone town walls that circle a half-timbered centre of bijou shops and pretty homes.
Passing through inner courtyards of shaded planting and inviting seating we joined an initially thin-on-the-ground late afternoon gaggle which quickly became a boisterous throng, pushing en-masse through the narrow cobbled walkways.
Germans, it seems, like to wear jeans to these occasions. Despite being a key date for every local in the vicinity the event was markedly casual as groups of friends and families variously chatted, drank, sang and partied their way around the walls.
The going price of a glass of Riesling varied from €2 to €9.50. We tried the bottom end and ventured to €5 for a glass, honestly, we couldn’t tell the difference. We did appreciate that on payment of a small deposit we were given a wine glass to waft emphatically about. Glass! Not plastic! It felt terribly grown up.
The food stalls were astonishing. Ranks of sweating grillmeisters tended racks of pork steaks smoking on skewers, whilst a lone fishmonger cooked slabs of salmon nailed to wooden planks over two fearsome fire pits.
It was a wobbly but hilarious bike ride home through the quiet vineyards at sunset. The festival was set to continue for another two days and we wondered how everyone would cope – the frantic bar staff, the visibly deteriorating grill-meisters, the already salmon-coloured fishmonger and indeed, the locals.
Dallying in the fresh saline air of the town’s remarkable gradierbau the next morning, we pondered that the wine fest’s lively experience had proved once again that the Germans go for broke and sometimes that’s not a bad attitude to have.
With just a handful of days left before the ferry home from Dieppe, it was time now to plot a course through France to slow down, remember, and celebrate some wonderful experiences and encounters.
Time also to prepare ourselves to return to the routine of home and work, and the uncertainty of life in Brexit Britain, seemingly more unsettled than when we had left it in April before the General Election. It has been good to have a break from Blighty.
For just a few days more then, we will be currently away…