The Nahe – a very fine and steep wine region

On our ninth day through Germany we drive to Bad Münster-Ebernbach in the Nahe valley. It is now the last day of August.
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First stop at Rockenhausen, a friendly country town
Shortly after breakfast we feel like a coffee and stop in Rockenhausen. It is a friendly, small town with a clock museum,…
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… a central market square with a church…
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… and a cute monument in front of the church including these rabbits.
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We have our espresso and buy some self knitted baby socks in the shop nearby that celebrates “ten years of the busy thread”. It is the kind of shops that sorely has disappeared in our towns: Just wool and filz and some hand knitted stuff.

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The Nahe valley – Dr. Crusius at Traisen and the highest cliff north of the Alps
We drive through the Alsenz valley and reach the river Nahe. Behind a huge-huge rock we stop in the wine village Traisen. We find Dr. Crusius, a winegrower that I had selected from my Little Johnson for being an excellent family estate.

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The daughter of Dr. Crusius opens the door. I buy two bottles of Riesling and a late harvest Riesling from the Bastei, a small band of vineyards below the Rosental rock. It is the highest rock in Europe north of the Alps (202m). The sun almost “roasts” the grapes here. We take pictures from the Rosental view point. Impressive. This is the upriver view.

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This is the view down river towards Ebernbach.

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The Nahe valley – Döhnhoff at Oberhausen
We drive along the Nahe to Oberhausen. We oscillate a bit, until we find the traditional winegrower Hermann Dönhoff in the Bahnhofstrasse. This winegrower, Johnson says, is perhaps Germany’s best. I expect a huge and representative tasting and selling area with a lot of staff working there. We find the wife of Dönhoff – she is under stress, as she is cooking a meal for guests that are expected to arrive soon. We find her husband in a rather modest selling and tasting area, also under stress, because he has promised to join his wife now. But, okay, he can sell me some Riesling. I buy two bottles of Grand Cru and a late harvest from Hermannsberg, the steepest and best rated vineyard in the Nahe region, just above a bent of the river. Mr. Dönhoff is proud of his wine, and when he hears me laugh about “Dellchen” (another name for a vineyard here, “little dent”), he mumbles something and disappears to fetch a description of his vineyards: “Look, this is for you, as your are interested”…  But now, he absolutely has to join his wife and receive the guests – the phone is ringing angrily.
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Next place in the Nahe valley – Schlossböckelsheim
Ursula cannot remember “Schlossböckelsheim” (literally “Castle-Ram-Home”). She always says “Schafböckelksheim” (“Sheep-Ram-Home”) and we laugh. We drive through steep-steep vineyards,…

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… reach Schlossböckelsheim that is a steep-steep village squeezed into a narrow valley, decide, we have had enough, take a drink in a friendly restaurant and then move to Bad Münster-Ebernbach.

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Bad Münster-Ebernbach – the hotel is “solala”, but the Amtshof is a great surprise
We settle in the hotel Burgblick in a small apartment. The hotel is run down a bit, wifi does not work, the lady is overstrained, her kids are shouting at her… but the room is quiet. However, there is a surprise waiting for us: Near the hotel we find the Amtshof, a small restaurant in a historical building.
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It is managed by an archaeologist who has specialized in medieval history. His menu looks indeed very medieval. Look at the Prae Scriptum about what the kitchen has to offer.
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We settle in the courtyard. Ursula has a mixture of potatoes and apple baked with cheese – excellent. I enjoy roasted pork – also delicious. “Lasst es Euch wohl munden” (enjoy it well).
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Tomorrow we will continue to the heart of Germany – the Mittelrhein and the Loreley.

 

The Donnersberg – walking on the 2000 year old Celtic oppidum

Tuesday – this is our eighth day on the road in Germany. Today we visit the Donnerberg, the highest mountain massif of the Pfalz, 686.5m high. Some 2000 years ago, the Celts had built an oppidum here overlooking the Rhine plane and the Palatine mountain land. They protected the city with a wall including fields and meadows for cattle.  Cesar conquered the area in 50 B.C. Now the remains of the wall of the Celtic oppidum form a 5km long footpath winding through the forest.

We park our car. Parts of the wall have been restored.

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The wall was made from dry masonry using the local Rhyolit stones, about 2.5 to 3m high. Behind the wall the Celts had accumulated earth for better protection.

This sign will now guide us along the wall.

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The sign represents the spokenail of the chieftain’s charriot. The head stuck out to make it clear to the members of the tribe: “Now the CHIEFTAIN is coming, get out of HIS way. “

We walk on the wall for about three quarters of an hour,…

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… until we reach a gate. This is what the gate once looked like.

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The pathway to the gate narrows down to ease attacking the enemy squeezed in here.

Behind the gate, we find the Ludwigsturm. Named after Ludwig II from Bayern, as this region once belonged to Bayern. A retired lawyer welcomes us with Mira, his friendly dog in front of this kiosk.

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“You are lucky today that I am here, I have coffee and cake to offer and I have the key for the tower. Do you want to climb it?” Oh yes, great!

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We climb up the winding stairs, open a heavy metal door, and enjoy the view of the Rhine plane with Worms, Mannheim, Ludwigshafen etc.

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We then enjoy coffee and cake, learn about the spokenail of the chieftain and about Adolf von Nassau – he was defeated and killed by Albrecht of Habsburg not far from here in the late 1290-ies, while fighting for the crown of Germany.

Along the remains of the oppidum wall we continue our walk to the Königstuhl or Chair of the King. Here we learn that this mountain has been formed by volcanic activity, but the volcano did not erupt – it just lifted the Rhyolit stones from the magna to the surface of the earth where they solidified.

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We continue to walk on the wall, until we reach another reconstructed piece of the wall. We continue along the next signpost… walk uphill… strange… uphill?… uphill?… and back we are at the Königsstuhl. One full circle… what has happened? We walk back down again, reach the reconstructed piece of the wall, identify one sign that led us back up again – oh no – and continued now on the right path to our car.

We return to the Klostermühle where we enjoy another delicious dinner and plan our next day with the destination Nahe valley.

Northern Pfalz… Kusel, Lichtenberg, Lauterecken, Otterberg, and Klostermühle

The seventh day of our German tour. We say good-bye to the friendly “Kleine Blume” in Erfweiler and drive north. Our next target are the Pfälzerberge (Palatine Mountains) that reach the altitude of almost 700m (more hills than mountains by Swiss standards). Our route: Kusel, Lichtenberg (castle and Geoskop), Lauterecken, Otterberg and the Hotel Klostermühle near the Donnersberg.

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Kusel is famous for its musicians, the city reminds me of the fifties/sixties

Kusel is located in an economically weak region. The houses remind me of the fifties/sixties: The plasterwork is peeling off.

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Many houses are abandoned, on sale and many shops are empty waiting for new business. A couple from Palatine told us this anecdote: “Godfather met a man that sat on the border of a road weeping. He asks: “Why are you crying. I would like to help you”. The poor man says: “I am from Kusel and this is why I am weeping.” Godfather sits down next to him, puts his arm around him, starts to weep  as well and says: “You are from Kusel? Poor you. Then I cannot help you.””

Because the area is poor, citizens from Kusel emigrated. Many of them became musicians,  the most famous being Fritz Wunderlich. He was a tenor singer that sorely died already at the age of 35 in 1966. Kusel is proud of him and the bells at the townhall play one of his tunes every hour at twenty past…

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The town welcomes guests: There are a pedestrian zone and painted benches all over in the city center. At the central square this cosy bar invites to sit down under the trees.

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We select a small coffee bar at the Bahnhofstrasse. The owners are Italian speaking. They serve an excellent espresso and a delicious ice cream – we both eat two portions of it.

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Lichtenberg – castle and Geoskop

Not far from Kusel, we stop at the castle Lichtenberg that Ulrich Zwingli visited when traveling to Marburg in 1529.

The office for weddings is behind this door… I am not sure, whether I would like to get married here.

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Inside the castle we visit the Geoskop, a museum that gives insights into geology and petrifications – in particular of the Pfalz.

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Looking for the stone bridge in Lauterecken – missed it

Our guide book promises an old stone bridge in Lauterecken. Whenever you look for it – it is tucked away and there are no signs. We missed the bridge… and enjoyed this children’s shop instead.

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Otterberg – second largest Romanesque church in Pfalz

Ottenberg is a charming small town with half-timbered houses.

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Here we find the second largest Romanesque church of the Pfalz, from the 12th century. It is a sobre place for praying,…

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The church is being used as a protestant and catholic church (Simultaneum), as this region has changed landlords several times – some being catholic, some being protestant. Cuius regio, cuius religio: Catholic landlords imposed the catholic belief and protestant landlords the protestant belief. Hence the Northern Pfalz ended up with both religions that were celebrating in the same church.

I like the old sun clock from 11/12th century.

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Our next overnight stop: The Hotel Klostermühle

We look for the Hotel Klostermühle. According to our guide book, it is south of Imsbach. We oscillate back and forth, until we find out that our Hotel is in Münchweilen, a village about 5km away.  This Hotel is a gourmet place.

In the warm summer evening, we sit in the garden…

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… and enjoy a delicious Palatine menu.

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This is the terrine of the country hen.

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With it I take a glass of Silvaner from the river Nahe and a Cuvée from Zelltal (German Wine Route).

In the morning we catch the sun in the beautiful garden.

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Tomorrow we plan to explore the Celtic wall and the view of the Donnersberg, the highest mountain of the Pfalz.

 

Around Erfweiler- the Hahnfels walking tour

On our sixth day in Germany we walk around Erfweiler in the Pfälzerwald. It will be another hot and sunny day.

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The Hahnfels tour around Erfweiler

We have selected the Hahnfels tour of some 14km that takes us around Erfweiler on the forested hills. We start at about nine in the morning. It is already getting warm and we are glad to walk in the trees. The sign of this cock will guide us today.

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We walk uphill on sandy ground and reach our first viewpoint, the Hahnfels. It is a sandstone block and we have a good view of Erfweiler with the Dahn fortifications.

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This is Ursula’s panoramic view.

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The village of Erfweiler was very poor, until they managed to earn some money in the mining and related charcoal industry in the 19th century. Only then they could afford a church.

The next viewpoint is another sandstone block amidst the trees.

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Our footpath winds gently through the forest.

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We cross the valley at this spring (Breitenbachquelle – this is Ursula’s romantic photo).

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And more… up and down and up and down and up… 

Uphill we walk again to the Schaffelsen (literally “sheep rock”). Climbers have just started to tackle this rock.

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We stop at the viewpoint called “Wasgau”. I ask myself, whether “Wasgau” is related to “Vogesen” – the name of the mountains across the border in France. Also “Was-” points to swamps, as I have learnt in the Black Forest (Stübenwasen is a swampy area where I do cross country skiing in winter).

Downhill again and then uphill again. We reach the fortification Alt-Dahn hanging on one of these sandstone rocks.

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The path takes us down one last time – we reach Erfweiler. The climate is mild enough to allow edible chestnuts to grow.

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The romantic valley behind Erfweiler

From Erfweiler, a final round tour of about 5km takes us into a small valley with this romantic small lake…

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… and the Eibach spring.

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From far signs have announced the highlight of this valley, the waterfall. This is the waterfall…

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Well… okay… we Swiss are spoilt by waterfalls – but the geology behind this small waterfall is interesting: 120m higher up there is a spring. The nascient creek disappears in the ground, re-emerges just above this waterfall and then rushes down into the valley.

Our hotel “Die Kleine Blume” appears at the end of the street. We finish our walk through the shaded forest with all its places of interest. We have met about ten people on this sunny Sunday; Erfweiler is a quiet place to relax and move. And how good that we could move in the shade here. The temperature has risen to more than 30 degrees today.

We finish the day with a buffet of specialties from Pfalz such as “Saumagen” (kind of sausage wrapped up in pork stomach) and “Leberknödel” (liver dumplings). No light meals. We can “afford” that after our long hike.

The Pfälzerwald – ironworks, shoemaking and bizarre sandstone rocks

Now we are on our fifth day in Germany. The German weather forecast shows “official warnings”: Heat. Yes, we have noticed the heat, when walking in the vineyards. We decide to escape the heat by driving into the Palatine Forest (Pfälzerwald) which is the largest coherent forest in Europe. In Bad Dürkheim we buy a guidebook. Our plan: Get an idea about the former mining industry and the shoe making and then go for a walk in the area of the bizarre sandstone rocks around Dahn – in the shade.

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Trippstadt- old mining town and now a favorite place of motor cyclists

Through shady forests we drive to Trippstadt. This is a relaxed small town in the middle of the Palatine Forest. Motor cyclist love this place – a group of them is just celebrating a wedding – all dressed in black. The photographer parked his motor bike in front of the museum for ironworks.

The Eisenhüttenmuseum (museum for ironworks) documents the history and the ancient production methods of the mining industry that started here in the 15th century.

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First the workers had to dig out the stone containing iron from the mountains. Then they had to smash the stones using stampers.

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In large ovens the smashed stones are being heated to extract the iron. The heating energy required wood charcoal – charcoal burning was the profession for that.

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Additional professions needed were the resin burners (Kiefernpechbrenner) and the fir cone gatherers (climbing firs to collect the cones – pretty dangerous).

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We use the end products such as ovens…

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… or waffle irons…

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… without thinking of the work that went into extracting the iron from the mountains and from the stones.

In the 18th century, industrialization starts. The family Gienanth becomes the main factory owners in the valley. I am scared, when I read the directions. A work day lasts from seven to twelve and from one to six. Breaks are not allowed, only one half hour break for children in the morning and one in the afternoon.  And children older than nine are admitted to work in the factories and mines.

Mining in the Pfälzerwald halted in the beginning of the 20th century. Another industry became important, shoe making.

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Shoe making – the shoe museum in Hauenstein

The Schuhmuseum (shoe museum) in Hauenstein lays out production technologies on one hand and shows shoes across time and countries on the other hand.

For the first time in my life I understand, what “Schuster bleib’ bei Deinen Leisten” (“cobbler stick to your last”) means: The cobblers used the wooden models or last of the feet of their clients to design the shoes for them.  The museum  owns the wooden models of Charles de Gaule and Helmut Kohl – huge they are both. This is a last with the matching boots:

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The museum shows all the machines needed for shoemaking such as to prepare the leather, cut it, sew it onto the shoes and add the heals.

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Shoes from all over the world are on display. These are childrens’ shoes – and they HAVE been used.

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And this is an elegant white ladies’ boot.

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Die Kleine Blume” (“The Small Flower”) in Erfweiler – a welcoming hotel

We continue to Dahn in the Pfälzer Wald, where we will find bizarre sandrock formations, fortifications on top of some of these rocks, and hiking opportunities. We stop in the hotel “Die Kleine Blume” Erfweiler where we find a comfortable bed, a small swimming pool, and a great dinner with fresh trout from the Dahn region accompanied by a Grauburgunder Meerspinne from Gimmeldingen. We book two nights and plan a walk in the hills, forests and rocks around Erfweiler for tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

Germany – to Speyer and the Pfalz: “Umleitungen” and wine

From Eberbach on the Neckar, we continue to Speyer and the German Wine Route in the Pfalz.

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Meeting our  friends from Russia near their “Fewo” in Speyer

This is our third day in Germany. We have arranged to meet my Russian teacher and her husband to take them around the German Wine Route in Pfalz (Palatine).

Our Russian friends have booked a Fewo in the city center of Speyer. Ursula laughs: “You do not know, what “Fewo” means? This is easy, it is a “Ferienwohnung” or “holiday apartment”!” – Yes, right your are… “Fewo” stands for “Ferienwohnung”. Germans are great at inventing abbreviations.

On the map, it looks easy to find this “Fewo”, but then we get blocked by road constructions and dead end streets. Uff. Finally our friends hop into our Swiss car.

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The dome of Speyer – I was here fifty years ago – I am again impressed

We visit the dome of Speyer… these Romanesque twin towers can be seen from far.

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I was here fifty years ago with my mum. I remember having suffered from a fierce headache on that day. The dome healed my headache. Again now, I am impressed by the sober and harmonic architecture. I learn that at this place the Celts had already built a sanctuary and the Romans build a Christian church around 360 A.D. The current dome goes back to the 11th century. It served as a model for other Romanesque churches in the Alsace and in Germany. Over the course of the centuries the dome has been amplified, changed, destroyed, rebuilt and renovated. In the middle of the 20th century, its old Romasque structure has been restored (Source: “Der Kaiserdom zu Speyer”, Jaeger Druck, 1978).

This is the central nave – grand and calming atmosphere – cool on a hot day.

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The crypta with its columns and arcs remind me a bit of the mosque in Cordoba…

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We say hell0 to Rudolf von Habsburg (he became king of Germany in 1271, when besieging Basel). I notice the aquiline nose and the strong jaws of the Habsburgians.

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I would like to stop the clock and stay in this church… but time cannot be stopped.

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The German Wine Route – sooo many road blocks… what are you doing to the tourists?

Our Russian friends want to see Neustadt, Maikammer and St. Martin. They are our guests and hence their wish is our command. What an adventure! The German Wine Route is lined with road blocks… we keep on landing in front of stop signs and barriers… interestingly without any indication of alternative routes. We try again and again – one route after the next – always the same result – stop and a barrier, and that’s it. With and without GPS. Our Russian friends learn the word “Umleitung” (deviation or in Russian “объезд”). It takes us quite some time to get to Neustadt and to Maikammer. Finally we arrive, taste some wine, and our Russian friends buy some bottles to take back home. August Ziegler was a nice wine grower in Maikammer.

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We have dinner in Kallstadt and then take our friends back to Speyer. Before going to sleep in the Kallstädter Hof, I relax with a glass of Riesling from the vineyard Saumagen.

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A hot and sunny day in Kallstadt and around – we walk through the vineyards and later visit two selected wine growers

On our fourth day in Germany we explore the area around Kallstadt that is located on the northern part of the German Wine Route. We follow the Riesling path and walk through the vineyards “Saumagen” and “Annaberg”.

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It IS hot, this must be good for the grapes. The Romans had brought the tradition of wine growing to the Pfalz, as the ruins and the reconstruction of this rustic Roman villa shows.

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We come across one of the vineyards of the Brothers Rings living in Freinsheim – I later buy three bottles of Riesling from the vineyards Nussriegel and Steinacker.

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We also visit the highest vineyard in the Pfalz. We are welcomed by a dog, then by the wife of the house.

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In the kitchen we meet a friend of my uncle Gerhard and share a glass of wine with the owners. The friend of my uncle says: “He has taught me so much about wine, and please give my regards to the Kallstädter Hof.” The world is small.  I buy a bottle of Riesling Basalt and a bottle of Riesling Buntsandstein (variegated sandstone).

Yes, I have family relations in Kallstadt. For centuries my family has owned the winery “Eduard Schuster”. Due to lacking succession it has been sold and now became the Weingut am Nil. “Nil” is a tiny vineyard near Kallstadt. The new owners have given the winery a new purple design.

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In the courtyard there is a restaurant where we have an apéritif. The choice of wines has been streamlined and the labels match the purple appearance.

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On one hand I am sad, but on the other hand, I am happy to see the modern marketing style which indicates that the new owners care and add fresh blood to the traditional Schuster winery.

We have a great dinner in the courtyard of the Kallstädter Hof, and the next morning we continue to the Pfälzer Wald.

Germany: Along the Neckar from Rottenburg to Eberbach

We drive north always following the Neckar… this is the second day of our sunny end summer tour through Germany.

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Tübingen? An old university town since 1377? Let us stop  here…

Tübingen? It has one of the oldest universities in Europe – founded in 1377. From the Königsparking we climb to the university hospital area to get this overview of the old town with the castle.

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The old town and the castle are located between the former defense ditch and the Neckar. This is the Neckar side.

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The city is tidy and well kept with half-timbered houses.

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The market square is busy. The painted townhall shows that this is a proud town.

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The organ is played in the gothic church. We stop and listen.

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We are glad to see another of those German towns that have been preserved during the Second World War. Tübingen has a history of resistance: A brave priest and a brave mayor withstood Hitler; both, unfortunately, were killed just shortly before the war ended.

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Heilbronn – it was also one of these gorgeous half-timbered towns, but – sorely suffered during the war

Heilbronn has suffered from bombings in the Second World War. Some gems have been rebuilt. This is beautiful townhall with its astronomical clock.

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Also the gothic Kilian church has been reconstructed. I particularly like this wood carved altar from the beginning of the 15th century, with Maria in the center and Kilian to her right. I admire that they saved it during the war.

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These remains of three sculptures show, how the Kilian church has been decorated inside, before having been attacked in that war that should have never happened. The remains are beautifully arranged, but being deprived of legs and arms they make me shiver as well.

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We continue north following the Neckar that works his way north through steep vineyards. I had not been aware of wine growing here and may return for that.

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Bad Wimpfen, the largest Kaiserpfalz around 1200

Bad Wimpfen is another gorgeous small town with well-kept half-timbered houses that give shade from the hot end summer sun.

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Bad Wimpfen is located on top of a hill. This is the view of the Neckar and the lower town of Wimpfen with the church St. Peter, another gem that we visited later.

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Bad Wimpfen was an imperial palace (Kaiserpfalz) of the dynasty of the Staufen  around 1200 (well known are Barbarossa and Friedrich II). These Romanesque arcades remind of those days

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… and also this small chapel.

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The pretty dog is waiting for his master that is just approaching the house: “Maybe he has one of those delicious German sausages for me?”

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We visit the church in lower Wimpfen, called “Stiftkirche Sankt Peter”.  It has been built in early gothic style in the 14th century. The monastery was dissolved in 1803. Now the Maltese run it as a guest house and as a center for religious exercises (“St. Peter, Bad Wimpfen im Tal”, Schnell+Steiner, 2011).

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It is famous for its cloister that we find closed now. I take with me these thoughts.

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“Wer nach aussen schaut, träumt, wer nach innen blickt, erwacht” meaning “who looks outside, dreams, who looks inside, awakes.” I found this thought also in the internet: “When we look inside our heart, we discover what we are, who we are, and what we truly believe”. I agree, looking inside is important (perhaps sometimes forgotten), but having dreams, I believe, is also an important ingredient of life.

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Along the Neckar to Eberbach

Along the Neckar who winds through the Odenwald, we continue to drive north. We love the soft landscape. We reach Eberbach and settle under the roof of the cosy hotel Karpfen. After a great dinner with fish and a local Pinot Gris we stroll through another gem town with half-timbered houses. This is our hotel in the night (a large rubbish bin served as my tripod).

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In the early morning we stroll through the town again. We enyoy the boar that gives its name to Eberbach (literally “boar creek”)

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“Auf einen Sprung nach Eberbach” means “for a quick visit/”leap” to Eberbach”, Yes, we can recommend a stop over in the well preserved small town of Eberbach bordering the Neckar…

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… that sometimes becomes dangerous, as these flood lines show.

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Our next targets will be Speyer and the Pfalz.