Tag Archives: Deutsche Weinstraße

Freinsheim & the Deutsche Weinstraße

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.

Back on the Deutsche Weinstrasse

“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…

One final night in Germany at Blieskastel

 

Two days on the Deutsche Weinstraße

It was an easy morning’s drive in bright sunshine across the border and onto, most surprisingly, the German Wein Strasse.

This wasn’t in the plan but it seemed one of those ‘trip moments’ when you just trust in the day and go with what comes to you. In this case it was a fabulous tree-lined and shaded aire at the spa town of Bad Durkheim.

Shade for Bertha at Bad Durkheim
Shade for Bertha at Bad Durkheim

Having got Bertha coolly parked and pitched we cycled to explore the town of more than 100 wineries with a historical tradition of bathing and healing. A considerable acreage of public gardens are variously planted with exotic and European flowers and trees through which narrow paths wind upwards, past ornate fountains, to the old centre of ‘Romer Platz’. The Romans founded the town and its vineyards so we knew we were onto something good.

Simon was keen to find the Wurst Fetz Platz as it was lunchtime and ‘when in Rome…’ However the platz turned out to be a large car park and home to the weekly flea market and annual wine festival, proclaimed ‘the largest in the world’.

People were outside cafes and bars eating enormous bowls of salad and ice cream and we had that bizarre feeling that you only get in a German town where the economy is driven by its health clinics. We were amongst the beautiful people that had come for relaxation, and the sick and broken who were here for recuperation and, in some cases renovation. Here too were local families enjoying the parkland and the latest attraction of a 1.5km paddling stream, complete with riverside planting, which tumbled and splashed alongside the bizarre sight of the Gradierbau.

At 333m long this impressively tall wooden-framed walkway houses the longest ‘salt evaporation works’ of its kind in Germany. Salt water trickles down over blackthorn twigs and is nebulised, making for a style of healthy marine air, deep inhalation of which provides relief from respiratory problems. We saved a gentle saunter around it for the next day as the temperature again reached 39 degrees and the salty misty air provided pricelessly cool comfort for a meagre 1 euro and 50 cents.

A Roman's view at Weilburg Villa
A Roman’s view at Weilburg Villa

It was a hot but rewarding cycle up through the vineyards to a Roman villa from where we enjoyed panoramic views of the Palatine from its columned terrace.

Partly restored, its scale was impressive and boasted private rooms, courtyards, a bathing house, stables, water well and gardens, now home to red stone sarcophagi long empty of their noble possessions. Close your eyes and you could be anywhere in the Mediterranean under hot blue skies and with the scent of fir trees, herbs and grasses billowing around you. It felt indelibly Roman, and interestingly German.

Flying back down through the vines as my speedometer informed at 20 miles an hour we skidded to a halt at Ungestein, a village about to celebrate its yearly Wein Fest. However we were a day and a few hours too early so settled instead for a tasting with a roadside seller.

It was a chance to dust off my rusty schoolgirl and very polite German. A few sips and several apologies later we had a couple of the local whites on board the bikes to enjoy with the next days’ sunsets.