The Albsteig – our four day hike in the Black Forest: From the Feldberg to St. Blasien

Beginning of October 2018, we are on the Albsteig hike that follows the creek “Alb” from its mouth up to its source. This is day #4.

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Day #4: Herzogenhorn – Bernau and along the Bernauer Alb back to St. Blasien

It is now Saturday and our fourth day hiking. After an excellent breakfast at the hotel Lawine we want to take the 8:48 bus back to the Feldberg. We wait at the bus stop next to the “Lawine”. Our watches show 8:48. No bus? Why? We check the timetable. A small “d” next to the Saturday 8:48 bus? Ah, we see, the Saturday 8:48 bus only runs between Christmas and March. It is a skiers’ bus. And now, with this warm weather the skiing season is far – it even seems unreal that there will be a skiing season this year. We wait for another half hour, more or less patiently (me a little less so, Richard a little more so), until the 9:18 bus arrives.

After having reached the Feldberg pass we head off to the Herzogenhorn (1415m). From the summit we see down to Bernau and to the hills that we know from winter, when doing cross country skiing here. Now I understand, the Herzogenhorn is the “Hausberg of Bernau” or “THE local mountain of Bernau”. Next winter,  I will have to look around more carefully to spot the Herzogenhorn and say hello to the “Hausberg” of Bernau.

The sky is less blue today, but the weather is still dry. The Albsteig squiggle leads us straight down to Bernau. We come closer and closer. As it is Saturday today, we meet many hikers.

In Bernau the path takes us to the Bernauer Alb that originates at the western slope of the Herzogenhorn (I was a little sad that I had not seen the sources). Near the Alb we play with the green color shades and the clouds.

Then we take some impressions from the Bernauer Alb with us. When approaching St. Blasien, the Bernauer Alb becomes more romantic than it is around Bernau.

Near the sawmill “Glashof” the Bernauer Alb and the Menzenschwander Alb join to become THE Alb. Here we miss the squiggle Albsteig marking that would have taken us along the “merged” Alb. Instead we walk uphill to the “Untere Pulverbrücke” and from here down to St. Blasien. This was an involuntary loop – I think that the markings of the Albsteig could need some improvement near the Glashof.

In St. Blasien, we are welcomed in the Domhotel. “How was it – here is your luggage – sure, have a seat on the terrasse…”. We enjoy another one of those excellent German coffees with cakes (Kaffee und Kuchen) and admire the dome of St. Blasien from the terrasse of the Domhotel.

At 17:30 we take the bus to Waldshut. What a great view from Höchenschwand to the Alps! From Waldshut we return to Basel by train. We are back at Basel at about half past seven p.m.. This was an efficient connection that our SBB timetable had revealed to us.

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Conclusion: The Albsteig would be worth doing with a group, just with some slight modifications

The Albsteig was a great experience. Especially at the start on day #1 we forgot the time while taking photos. Would I return to do Albbruck – Immeneich with a group, I might consider taking a bus from Wilfingen to Immeneich, to allow spending the time along the romantic waterfalls and swirls on the way up to Wilfingen. Walking from Wilfingen to Immeneich was somewhat less interesting.

There were many more lovely spots with great views on the Albsteig trail on day #2 from Immeneich to St. Blasien. I particularly liked the views from Wolpadingen and from the Bildsteinfelsen. However, I would leave out the boring loop around the Albsee and up to Häusern and instead directly head to the waterfall above St. Blasien. This would leave more time in the romantic canyon and at the waterfall and perhaps in addition allow us to visit the dome of St. Blasien (which is a “must see”, when in St. Blasien).

On day #3 from St. Blasien to Menzenschwand, I enjoyed the hike to Menzenschwand and to the waterfall, but then I would climb immediately up to the Feldberg and leave out the boring loop back to Menzenschwand (on a higher level) and forego the goats’ meadow. If someone wants to add more kilometers, it is much more fun to do so at the top of the Feldberg, perhaps even walking up to the tower.

On day #4 going down along the Bernauer Alb I would consider taking the bus from Bernau to St. Blasien for those who do not want to continue all the way to St. Blasien on foot. However, the 20kms of day #4 are easier to overcome, because they are mostly downhill, after having climbed the Herzogenhorn in the morning.

All three hotels we stayed in (Zur Schmiede in Immeneich, Domhotel in St. Blasien and Lawine in Fahl) are only to be recommended and so is the company “Original Landreisen” that organized our tour at very short notice.

The Albsteig – our four day hike in the Black Forest: From St. Blasien to the Feldberg

Beginning of October 2018, we are on the Albsteig hike that follows the creek “Alb” from its mouth up to its source. This is day #3.

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Day #3: From St. Blasien to the Feldberg

After an excellent breakfast at the Domhotel we start our third day walking.Today we will follow the creek Alb up to the sawmill “Glashof” and then continue along the Menzenschwander Alb up to the Feldberg.  It is another day with deep blue sky. The red berries of this sorbus tree above Menzenschwand contrast with the sky.

In Menzenschwand we find another wooden chapel. It is a few minutes after 12 o’clock.

An elderly lady opens the door, takes a red rope from a hook on the wall and devotedly rings the bell – for the midday (or shortly thereafter). I watch the scene standing in the doorway. The situation is to solemn to take a photo. “Yes, I do that every day at about midday”, she tells me in a friendly voice.

Menzenschwand is a romantic village with houses that are typical of the Black Forest.

I could imagine spending a few days here.

I have a long chat with a lady – also retired – that has decided to settle in Menzenschwand with her husband. They own a large house built in the local style of the Black Forest. She is working in her perfectly kept garden, while her three months old dog with still huge paws does not really trust me.

Radon has been found around Menzenschwand and the Radon Revitalbad promises to revitalise your body.

We walk to the end of the trough valley of Menzenschwand and see the Caritas House in  front of us in the saddle – it looks small from here – and we look forward to the waterfall of Menzenschwand and to then climbing uphill in the shady forest to the Feldberg.

At the foot of the Feldberg there is the Menzenschwander Wasserfall. It can be accessed by car and is well visited. “Oh, look, a rainbow”, the tourists say, climbing up the steps along the canyon.

This rainbow reminds me of another waterfall that I have seen with Ernst almost 18 years ago. It was at the Iguazúfalls in Argentina, where we had this long discussion whether it is a small bucket of gold or just a treasure that you find where the rainbow hits the ground… I neither verified that this time.

From the bridge along the waterfall, I look back to the canyon, where the Menzenschwander Alb jumps from one pond to the next. The roof behind the canyon is a restaurant – but now it was too early for us for the great German tradition of coffee and cake or Kaffee und Kuchen.

Yes, the sun is shining and it is very, very warm. We see the slopes of the Feldberg and now really look forward to climbing uphill in the shade of the trees ahead of us. But, no, the Albsteig has a surprise for us. From the waterfall we have to turn right to the “gate of happiness” with a beautiful view back to Menzenschwand. The path then continues along the slopes and takes us almost back to Menzenschwand (on a higher level). Here the path turns sharply to take us uphill on a meadow with many goats and a billy goat in love (you could smell that). In front of us, we again see the Caritashouse in the saddle of the Feldberg. We get impatient, we want to go uphill now – but no, now the blue squiggle marking points down and back to the waterfall. At the end we have done a loop of almost 360 degrees at the foot of the Feldberg in the burning sun, just adding kilometers that were no fun. We have to overcome a second smaller loop back in the direction of the waterfall, until the Albstein squiggle finally leads us uphill towards the source of the Menzenschwander Alb. In the shady forest our mood brightens up again.

From this small waterfall, a zigzag path leads up to the source aera of the Alb. There are many small puddles in the ground… may be, one day, the architects of the Albsteig path will add an explanatory table about the source of the Alb which actually was the target of the Albsteig hike.

We reach the Feldberg area near the Menzenschwander Hütte (hut) and take the bus to the Hotel Lawine, where we find our luggage waiting for us. The hotel garden is still in the sun. We have German cake with a refreshing beer and a refreshing “Neuer Süsser” (new wine that has just started to ferment). Our evening meal is fresh trout from the Black Forest stuffed with mint herbs for the two of us – excellent. The restaurant is occupied up to the last table, with locals and tourists. Grand-ma (Oma) of the hotel Lawine goes from table to table using her walking frame to have a chat here an there, with her kind eyes. The boss is serving as well, together with a very agile servant from Croatia. Yes, the atmosphere is welcoming and very familial.

After our third long day, we again slept well in our cosy rooms.

The Albsteig – our four day hike in the Black Forest: From Immeneich to St. Blasien

Beginning of October 2018, we are on the Albsteig hike that follows the creek “Alb” from its mouth in Albbruck up to its source on the Feldberg. In my previous blog I have described day #1. Now I continue with …

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Day #2: From Immeneich to St. Blasien

In the morning we get up early to take photos of the pretty wooden chapel of Immeneich (Bernhardskapelle built in 1895).

After a delicious breakfast in the hotel zur Schmiede, we start our second day hiking. Now the sun plays with the wooden chapel. The sky is blue, nothing but blue. Beautiful. We walk by the wooden church…

… and climb steeply uphill in the forest, on a narrow path. First the squiggle markings guide as well, but then they disapper – and so does the path. For some time, we stray looking for our Albsteig markings. Finally we reach a wider path that we follow southwards and slightly uphill. Oh, great, the houses of Wolpadingen appear behind the trees, and an Albsteig marking says that we are back on track. This cat welcomes us in Wolpadingen.

We continue to the summit of the Dachsberg. We are now at 950m. The view is hidden behind the trees of the forest that, as we learn, once formed the border between the dominion of St. Blasien and the area around Wolpadingen. In the dominion of St. Blasien, the farmers were in bondage, around Wolpadingen they were free. The whole region belonged to Habsburg until 1806.

Now the path goes steeply down and creeps along the so-called Kalberfelsen.

We look into the blue sky and dream.

We climb steeply up again to the Bildsteinfelsen, where we have a gorgeous view into the Alb valley and the hills of the Black Forest. The temperatures allow us to sit down and enjoy the view. We sit here together with a mother and her daughter that are also doing the Albsteig, mum perhaps with more enthusiasm than her daughter.

A steep path brings us down to a broader route that takes us to the Albsee. It is a barrier lake that has been constructed during the second World War. The sun plays with the blue water surface.

Following the Albsteig markings, we have to walk around the lake (almost 360 degrees) and then steeply up to Häusern (above the Albsee). Watch out, here is a skilift – there are signs warning us – very odd on this warm and sunny autumn day.

When about to enter Häusern, it takes us some time to understand that the Albsteig squiggles ask us to turn back to where we more or less came from and then continue on a tiny path around a rock. Finally we enter Häusern “from behind”. This loop seems superfluous to us – we do not enjoy adding “useless” kilometers.

After having crossed Häusern, we walk above the Alb valley straight in the direction of our target, St. Blasien. Suddenly Richard exclaims: “Look – here – look.” Look at what? Aha, there is a small interruption in the line of trees “blocking” the view to the valley, and from here, we can see the dome of St. Blasien. Difficult to capture, there are always some leaves in the way… Also the tripod cannot change that.

A dome in the middle of the mountains? The monasterial tradition in St.Blasien goes back to the 9th century, when monks belonging to the community of Benedict settled here. Already then, some relics of Saint Blasius were transferred to St. Blasien (he died in 312 AD). In 1218 the monastery was acquired by Habsburg. In the course of the centuries the monastery had been destroyed and rebuilt several times. In the 18th century, it thrived. After another fire, the dome was rebuilt in early neo-classic style with the huge cupola. The new and prestigious dome was inaugurated in 1783. At that time, the cupola was the third largest in Europe. In the middle of the Black Forest! After another fire, the dome was restored again in 1888 (Source: Dom zu St. Blasien im Südschwarzwald, Kunstverlag Josef Fink, 2012).

Just above St. Blasien we climb up a canyon full of chilly fresh air to find the finale for today, the Wildberg waterfall. However, this trunk is “disturbing” the view. While Richard installs himself underneath the trunk to take a photo of the waterfall without the obstacle,…

… I look back into the canyon where the water jumps from one pool to the next. I think we should come back to spend more time here, but now we are tired.

It is almost six pm and we take the fastest route down to St. Blasien. We stay in the Domhotel, just across the dome, where again our suitcases are waiting for us. We change and have an excellent dinner (deer with red cabbage and Spätzli for me and zander for Richard). After dinner, we take a photo of the dome of St. Blasien – this is the view from one of our rooms.

Also the second night I sleep well – all the walking and the savory dinner are doing us good.

The Albsteig – our four day hike in the Black Forest: From Albbruck to Immeneich

“Would you feel like joining me to do the Albsteig”, Richard asks me and he adds: “The Albsteig hike follows the creek “Alb” from its mouth up to its source”. The Alb? Yes, I know an Albtal or Alb valley that is close to Karlsruhe in the Northern Black Forest. My grand-ma used to collect mushrooms there – and as a child, I often joined her. “No, no”, Richard says, “there might be two “Alb” valleys in the Black Forest, the one of your grand’ma in the north, but THIS “Alb” valley originates on the Feldberg and ends in Albbruck (near Waldshut) where the Alb joins the Rhine river. The Albsteig has been opened last year and there was an article about it in the newspaper of Basel”. Oh, yes, good idea, I do feel like joining Richard.

On very short notice, Richard contacts “Original Reisen” in the beginning of October 2018. They book three hotels for three nights for us and send the Albsteig material to the Hotel Bahnhöfli in Albbruck. I buy 1:25’000 maps from Kompass that show all the relevant hiking markings of the area (I love to have the overview over a larger area, when hiking).

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Day #1: From Albbruck to Immeneich

On a slightly grey Wednesday, we take the slow train from Basel to Albbruck. Mr. Berisha of the Hotel Bahnhöfli hands out the Albsteig material to us. Faleminderit. We stick the labels indicating our hotels to our small suitcases and leave them in the gangway. Over a cup of coffee we study our material. Detailed maps were included in the package. This overview map shows what we were up to: Albbruck – Immeneich – St. Blasien, then along the Menzenschwander Alb to the Feldberg and back along the Bernauer Alb to St. Blasien. All in all about 90km and 2700m uphill in four days.

Source: Material of Original Landreisen handed out to us for the Albsteig

“Look, we have to get used to the blue squiggle”, Richard says. This is the marking for the Albsteig.

We say good-bye and mirupafshim to Mr Berisha and the Bahnhöfli and start to walk following the blue squiggle. We are now at 324m above sea level.

The path leads us gently uphill, on green meadows, well marked with the blue Albsteig squiggles. The first small village we encounter is Schachen. There is an alemannic style church in the background, as you find them everywhere around Basel.


In the background we can see the Alps under grey clouds.

From Schachen, we walk steeply down to the Alb. There are pieces of gold on the narrow bridge – or it looks like it, as the leaves shine in the sun.

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Underneath the bridge, the water is very clear and decorated with more pieces of gold.

We walk uphill again and find rocks that the glaciers have left here about 10’000 to 20’000 years ago.

We come across the granite quarry of Tiefenstein which is a less romantic sight, but belongs to the Black Forest as well. Geologically spoken the Black Forest is a basement rock (covered with sandstone). The information table explains to us that retrieving granite here is a hundred year old tradition and the granite is used for building water barriers, stonewalls or streets.

Going up again, we reach the area around Görwihl. We come across another Albsteig hiker, who plans to sleep in a hotel at Göhrwil. It is the first hiker that we meet today. He has parked his car in St. Blasien, a good idea. For us it would be far too early to stay overnight here – it is only one o’clock.

We enjoy this small waterfall belonging to a system of creeks called Wühre.

The path takes us down to the Alb again. Here I shoot this mysterious photo that a few days later I will use as a condolence card.

The trail climbs up again into the romantic Höllbach valley.

While Richard takes out his tripod to capture the Höllbach waterfall in his professional way, I study my 25’000 Kompass map. I discover that now it is almost 3 p.m. Since 9:30 a.m. we have done about half of our hike from Albbruck to Immeneich, where the hotel “zur Schmiede” is waiting for us. There has just been too much to see and too much worth taking photos of. As we want to reach our hotel before night, we decide to walk faster, just quickly stopping at the Teufelsküche with its swirls. A narrow trail climbs up again from the Teufelsküche and then follows the eastern slope of the Alb valley, always more or less on the same level.

Shortly before six, we see Immeneich in front of us. A lady with her dog asks: “Are you doing the Albsteig?”. At the entrance of Immeneich, an old man asks as well: “Are you doing the Albsteig?” The local people are proud of their Albsteig. They are very hospitable and we have a long chat with them.

In the hotel “zur Schmiede” we are welcomed by Mr Meili. Our suitcases are waiting for us. We change – it is great to dress up for the cosy restaurant. We enjoy dinner (deer and Spätzli for me, porcini for Richard, all with a  local wine from Auggen). Mr. Meili’s accent reveals that he is definitely not from the Black Forest. “I am from Zurich, I love to do hunting and I love the Black Forest”, he says. He does everything in his hotel – receptionist, cook and waitor – and we feel good here. We meet two couples from China that have booked this remote and quiet hotel over booking.com. Very clever choice! But sorry, no, we do not speak Chinese.

During the night we sleep well – it is quiet here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting Oberfranken and discovering their great porcelain tradition

Ah – I see – the roots of Rosenthal and Hutschenreuther are in Oberfranken!

Always I have admired German porcelain. Not just Meissen, but also Rosenthal or Hutschenreuther. But I never thought about where the latter brands come from. I found out, when stopping over in Oberfranken. The family Hutschenreuther started producing porcelain in 1814. It was a love story, as Carolus M. Hutschenreuther married the daughter of the forest ranger. The ranger knew where to find the raw material for porcelain, caolin (or “white earth”). In 1857 Carolus’ son Lorenz founded his own porcelain factory in Selb, as this panel shows.

Around 1900, the family Rosenthal settled in Oberfranken and the brand “Rosenthal” emerged. In the 1950s, junior Philip Rosenthal returned and initiated the beautiful “studio-line”  that well-known arists like Walter Gropius contributed to. In 1956 the journal “Der Spiegel” had him on their front page and wrote about him.

Today, Rosenthal and Hutschenreuther belong to the Italian Sambonet-Paderno group.

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Why did I travel to Schönwald in Oberfranken? – I love to meet my friends – and a friend of mine lives here

In June 2018, I am on the road again, with Vreni. Our target is Berlin, and about half way to Berlin lies Schönwald. Our friend Herbert, now retired, has returned to his hometown in Oberfranken. We look forward to seeing him and envisage a hike in the Fichtelgebirge, as we have hiked together so many times in the Swiss Alps. We expected that there is nothing else to do in this peripheral region of Germany, near the border with the Czech Republic.

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Yes, indeed, Schönwald is close to the Czech Republic…

A few kilometers before reaching Schönwald, we stop at a gasoline station. The order to “pay first, then drive” is written in German, English, Czech, Polish and Russian.

This confirms that we are now very, very close to people with a slavic background.

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… but what a surprise! There is more to Schönwald and Oberfranken than just hiking, namely the tradition of porcelain production

When leaving the motorway at Selb to reach Schönwald, we have to drive our car around a huge teapot. A teapot? Do they make teapots here? Yes!

Schönwald, Selb and more cities in Oberfranken built innovative factories using mechanisation in the 19th century and produced more than 90% of German porcelain. Today, they offer a culture tour (Kulturreise) on the tracks of porcelain in Oberfranken.

We plan for a museum day to explore porcelain. Hiking is no fun anyway, because it is raining heaviliy and in the mist we cannot see any of the peaks of the Fichtelgebirge, though Herbert points into their direction and names some of them. Hm, we see nothing but white clouds.

We have our first dinner in a small hotel at Schönwald. Herbert turns round the plate and shows proudly that it carries the label “Schönwald”. Yes, Schönwald has its own factory and label for award winning robust hotel porcelain.

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Learning about mechanised porcelain production of the last two centuries in the Porzellanikon of Selb

The city of Selb has opened one of their old porcelain factories under the label Porzellanikon. Visitors can explore the production of porcelain and enjoy the beauty of the tableware of Hutschenreuther, Rosenthal, Kahla or Villeroy & Boch, all connected up today.

Here is what I took with me – it may not be perfect, as I am not a porcelain specialist at all.

The production of porcelain starts with blocks of stone that have to be crushed in several consecutive steps, a process that starts with huge millstones.

Using rotary drums, the stone blocks are further crushed. Kaolin, quartz and feldspar and other components are then mixed with water. The water has to be pressed out again using filters.

The raw material to produce plates, platters or plain bowls looks like over-sized sausages.

They are then formed using presses. Our friend Herbert worked here as a teenager to gain some pocket money.

For more complicated vessels such as this sugar bowl, liquid raw material is casted into a plaster mold. The sugar bowl forms itself near the plaster and when thick enough, the liquid in the middle is poured out and the bowl remains inside. I can hardly believe that this works.

The modeled porcelain pieces are then baked at high temperatures – the factory disposes of old kilns that we can walk into. As the photo above shows, the size of the sugar bowl is reduced considerably after having been baked.

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At the end, we enjoy the exhibition of porcelain products

It is a real pleasure to look at the well designed pieces of porcelain in the exhibition of the Porzellanikon. Here is a plate from the studo-line of Rosenthal.

And yes, it is Rosenthal. Actually the people from this area have this habit of turning round the plates in restaurants.

These two sets would make elegant coffee or tea tables.

The factories were inventive and even made cardboard plates out of porcelain.

I do love this design for children – the humor in it makes me smile.

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A walk through Selb

We end the day with a walk through the small town of Selb. They cherish their porcelain tradition with the unique porcelain street.

And again we find a slavic announcement – the small town of Selb wishes a “hearty welcome” in German and in Czech: Welcome to the town of porcelain in Bavaria.

Yes, thank you, Selb, Schönwald and Oberfranken. We felt welcome both, when meeting Herbert and when learning about porcelain. This experience was worth the stop over on our way to Berlin and we may return one day to see Herbert again and to explore more of the German porcelain culture.

 

Traveling around Berlin in Brandenburg – this is also a wine region, yes!

Brandenburg – wine region – are you serious? Yes I am.

Brandenburg is surrounding Berlin, and is located pretty far north in Germany. Too far north for wine, I always thought. But then I came across the book “Weinland Brandenburg” by Tom Wolf (be.bra Verlag Berlin 2016). Tom Wolf describes 31 vineyards in Brandenburg. Very interesting. I decided to explore some of them, when traveling in Brandenburg, the hinterland of my mother town Berlin.

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Why are there wines in Brandenburg – so far north?

In early medieval times, Europe was christianized. As a consequence, monasteries were founded – also in Brandenburg. The monasteries needed wine for their cult and hence started to grow grapes for that, but perhaps the monks also enjoyed some of their wine from time to time.

It was Frederick the Great who stopped the wine production in Brandenburg in the early 18th century. He was of the opinion that potatoes are more useful – and he made his people cultivate potatoes instead of wine.  In addition there were more frequent frosts at that time that discouraged cultivating wine.

Shortly before the iron curtain fell and even more after the reunification of Germany, the tradition of cultivating wine took off again on some of the sunny hills that the monks had already selected earlier. Hills in Brandenburg are not high, but there are slopes that allow to produce wine, especially now with global warming. It may not be a Bordeaux or a Burgundy wine, but I found well made wine from biological production. Oh yes, some people say that wines from Brandenburg are sour – but I found them to be good companions for tasty local meals.

Let me tell you more about the monasteries and about the vineyards that we visited. Check out the book of Tom Wolf to find out more about 31 vineyards in Brandenburg.

 

Source: LBV Raumbeobachtung 2011

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Potsdam: Frederick the Great had his own vineyard – nevertheless

Frederick the Great or, as we call him, der Alte Fritz, may have told his subjects to cultivate potatoes instead of wine, but… he had his own vineyard in Sanssouci – a patchwork of small greenhouses with stone walls and glass windows climbing up the hill to his intimate palace “Sanssouci”.

I had always thought that this wine garden in Potsdam is somewhat excentric… and now I know, cultivating wine here is not excentric, but it is an old tradition

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Uckermark: Prenzlau – the monastery of the Dominicans  and the vineyard hanging on the town wall

Prenzlau (north of Berlin) is located on the northern shore of the Uckermark lake. The Dominicans founded a monastery here. In the former refectory some frescos have been renovated.

This beautifully carved altar shows the pastor with his sheep just arriving at the stable where Christ was born.

The monks needed wine for their cult and selected the town wall to capture the heat and light of the sun reflecting in the Uckermark lake. This southward looking slope is very warm, indeed. I could feel that even on a chilly day.

In 2013 the vineyard has been reinstalled for the LAGA which is a German garden exhibition (Landesgartenschau). The grapes planted are Regent (red) and Solaris (white). The wine is pressed in Pleisweiler in the Pfalz and can be bought in the tea- and wine house Gotzmann. (Tom Wolf, p. 207). Gotzmann was closed, when we were in Prenzlau, because it was a Sunday.

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Lausitz/Spree: Welzow with a vineyard in the open cast mine and Dr. Martin Krause’s vineyard in Drebkau

We spent a few days in the Spreewald with its woods along ramifications of the Spree, where cucumbers become “Spreewaldgurken” in vinegar.

All of a sudden the forest opens and we see the open cast mine of Vattenfall near Welzow. A huge, huge desert. Villages had to  be sacrificed, one of them being Wolkenberg with a former tradition of wine growing. Vattenfall started to plant their deserted hole and local specialists are cultivating the wine called “Wolkenberg” that can now be tasted in local restaurants (Tom Wolf, p. 145). Well, Vattenfall undertakes a small effort to repair what they have destroyed. I just stopped to breathe, when I saw this naked landscape.

We selected the lookout point of Welzow, but from here, we could not see the vineyard.

Instead we found Dr. Martin Krause’s vineyard in Drebkau/Klein Ossnig.

Dr. Martin Krause has done research and found that about 50 winegrowers were active around Cottbus in the 16th century  There was a vineyard in Klein Ossnig that delivered wine to the monastery of Cottbus – look for the monks! (Tom Wolf, p. 163).

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Fläming: Baruth and the Glashütte with the very special wine shop

In the southwest part of Brandenburg called “Fläming”, we visit the open air museum “Glashütte”. Beyond learning about how they made glass here, I buy three bottles of wine in the Weinsalon Glashütte:  Brandenburger Landwein from Zesch (Pinot white) and two bottles of Goldstaub with white wine made from the grapes Solaris and Helios that are common in this area. By the way, the wine saloon also offers wines from Moldovo and organizes events. A very inviting place.

Tom Wolf talks about the Weinberg Zesch that benefits from the lake of Zesch, not far from Baruth (p. 83). He also mentions the Mühlenberg in Baruth that produces the wine called “Goldstaub” – yes, there is a mill-wheel (Mühlrad) on the label (p. 89).

I have never tasted Solaris and Helios before and I am curious.

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The monastery Lehnin and the vineyards in Werder one of them being the Wachtelberg

The monastery of Lehnin and the adjacent hospital are now run by deaconesses. By the way, this romanic monastery is called Le-H-nin (with an “h”).

The monastery owned various vineyards in Werder which is a quiet town spreading out widely on the shores of the Havel near Potsdam. The Wachtelberg was one of the vineyards and today it is a vineyard again. We found it amidst the houses of Werder. There is a wine bar (Weintiene) on top of the hill that is open in the afternoon.

Dr. Linicke started to grow wine in the late 80’s in the former GDR, but after the fall of the iron curtain, nobody was willing to buy wine from the “east”. In 1994 the wine production was restored, again involving Dr. Linicke (Tom Wolf, p. 33). Now he has installed the “Erlebniswanderweg Wachtelberg”: Each line of grapes is described in detail, like this line of Ruländer or Pinot Gris.

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Wolanski and his Klosterhof Töplitz

Lara Wolanski does horse dressage and her father, Klaus Wolanski, started in 2007 to grow wine in Töplitz (Tom Wolf, p. 19). When we arrive at the Klosterhof, we find a message at the door: “Call me, I am happy to come”. Very soon a roaring noise announces the arrival of Klaus Wolanski. He comes on his small tractor and welcomes us with his black-white dog. He tells us that his wine production is based on biological principles. Here – so far north – the  grapes are not delicate, they do not need those strong pesticides, he says. There is grass in the vineyards that the sheep “cut”. The sheep also eat the leaves such that the grapes get more sun. They do not like the grapes, as long as they are sour, but – they would love them, once they are sweet. Hence these “helpers” have to stay outside now, in autumn.

We walk around in the area. There is a picnic place on top of the Töplitz hill. People used to flat land might be happy to recover from the steep ascent. And it must be a great place to celebrate.

We buy some wines – Riesling, Pinot Gris (both white) and Regent (red) – one bottle of Regent has matured in the barrel.

Annerös takes one bottle of Regent home. She drinks it with her husband, and they like it. Well made, they said. Soon after arriving at home, I shared the Grauburgunder or Pinot Gris with my neighbours. The wine was clean and freshly fruity – a  real “Ruländer”.

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Not only wine, but also stronger stuff for the monks: The KlosterBruder

In the monastery of Zinna – also a Cistercian monastery founded in 1170 – they produce the “Zinnaer KlosterBruder” or “Zinna Monastery Brother”.  Right in the building under the clock.

It is a herb liquor that is supposed to be healthy (monks called their herb liquors “aqua vitae” (water of life) and used them as a medicine. The technique of distilling liquor has been known at least since the 12th century, perhaps even earlier.

There is a legend related to the “KlosterBruder”: A cavalier from the area was in love with a lady that was too noble for him. As he could not marry her, he went to the monastery, where he produced holy paintings with the face of his beloved noble lady. The abbot recognized the face and made him destroy his paintings. The monk obeyed and started to collect herbs. He invented the herb liquor “KlosterBruder” named after him and discovered that this drink made him feel cheerful and happy.

Herb liquors are not really my favourite drinks… To my opinion they taste like medicine.

But I like wine – and the wine culture in Brandenburg was a surprise for me. The wines make nice – though a bit unexpected – souvenirs from Brandenburg! And there are more vineyards to explore, when going back – at least 31 of them.

In addition, there is much more to see in Brandenburg – the early Slavic immigrants (Sorbs and Wends) and the ramifications of the rivers (Spreewald, Havelseen or Oderbruch). We found numerous castles (Wiesenburg, Eisenhardt, Lübbenau, the Fürst Pückler park with the duke’s castle or charming Sanssouci in Potsdam) and nice bigger and smaller cities (Bad Freienwalde, Jüterbog, Bad Belzig, Lübbenau or Brandenburg) with timbered houses and gothic churches and townhalls made out of brick (we call that German Backsteingotik – sometimes even Backsteinromanik). I will go there again. Perhaps for a bicycle tour.

South Palatine – spring impressions with almond blossom

Palatine (Pfalz) in Germany has an almost Mediterranean climate, as it is protected from the rainy west winds by the Pfälzerwald or Palatine forest. Wine has grown here since Roman times as well as sweet chestnut and almond trees. The almond trees are in blossom end of March/beginning of April. The Palatine celebrates that with their Mandelwochen (almond weeks).

End of March 2017, we visited Bad Bergzabern in South Palatine. We find the almond trees in full blossom – beautifully pink.

The plum trees are all white.

But now, end of March, the vines only show small light green leaves.

We stroll through the vineyards…

… and the forests above them. The leaves have not come out yet and the crowns of the trees point to the blue sky.

The sun plays with the shadows of the trees.

We climb the hill to the chapel St. Annaberg…

… and enjoy the view from here into the Rhine valley.

We walk back down again… a few shy clouds are above the trees.

With humor this snail leads us down to a winegrowers’ village called Burrweiler.

Spring can be felt in the winegrowers’ villages as well.

Many houses are half-timbered. This historical building stands in Geisweiler.

Even dogs are welcoming guests and visitors in the winegrowers’ villages. This friendly dog can be found at Pleisweiler.

But beware of this fighting cat – it watches a house in Burrweiler.

Winegrowers on the way offer to taste (and buy) their wines. One of them has this motto.

Well, I think happiness is both a way and a destination of life. Or even some ways of life with some destinations. We felt perfectly happy enjoying spring in the Palatine for two days – it is a great destination. We spent one night in Bad Bergzabern, walked in the hills behind Bergzabern, and the next day we hiked around Geisweiler and Burrweiler to enjoy the view from the chapel St. Anna located above these villages.

On the first day we had a coffee stop in Wissembourg in the Alsace. I love the church of Saints-Pierre-et-Paul with the glass pane of Christ from the 11th century (the original being in Strassbourg).

When driving home on our second day in the evening, we had dinner in Bergheim not far from Riquewihr. Spring can be felt here as well, now in the evening light.

Bergheim is a good place to round off two beautiful days looking for spring impressions.

Now we dream of the “way” to our next “destination” that will make us happy again – France with the Loire valley and Northern Spain.