German is fraught with long, complex compound words. This Saturday I learned one that brings together two of my favorite weekend activities: wine + hike = Weinwanderung. It’s exactly what it sounds like: A leisurely 5K hike through vineyards along the Rhein marked with wine stands along the way.
Summer arrived here overnight and the weather for the hike was hotter than anything James and I experienced in Germany so far. We brought a couple of water bottles and took the train with a small American crew along the Rhein to Rüdesheim. For twelve euros, we got a 0.1 liter tasting glass and a yellow passport-esque pass to be stamped at each of the ten wine stands en route in exchange for a tasting we chose from printed lists. The glass looked tiny, but after several tastings combined with the beautiful scenery and endless summer sunlight it was easy to lose track of time (including lunch time and dinner time). I woke up the next morning with sunburned shoulders, blistered feet, and a light headache – sure signs of a good weekend.
Today, on the last day of the weekend (Pentecost is a day off here), I’ve thought of a few more of my favorite German compound words:
Burgfest = castle + festival, like the one I went to yesterday that featured a great Queen cover band
Meersweinchen = sea + piggy = Guinea pig
Rathaus = advice + house = town hall
Aberglaube = however + belief = superstition
Granatapfel = garnet + apple = pomegranate
Krankenschwester = sick + sister = nurse (or for the male nurse, Krankenpfleger = sick + keeper/caregiver)
So far we’ve seen picturesque views of the Rhein by car, by boat, from various castles, and can now add by train and even more up-close-and-personal along a hike. Last weekend James, Steve, and I bought a group day pass for about €9 to take the train to the small town of Lorch. From here we trekked about 15 kilometers (9 or so miles) to the equally quaint Rhein-side town of Kaub. The journey in between was filled with gorgeous scenery, sunny but not sweltering weather, and a smattering of surprises.
This was my first taste of the Rheinsteig trail, an epic 320 kilometer hiking route between Wiesbaden and Bonn. Our comparatively small segment was a perfect day-hike: challenging at points but not overly strenuous and not as absurdly steep as some of our previous ventures. It began with a climb that was made pleasanter by the sight of butterflies alighting among Queen Anne’s lace, buttercups, and lilacs. We saw many other hikers along the way – using ski-like poles to show they were really hiking, picnicking, taking pictures – many with dogs or babies in tow.
The amount of castles lining the Rhein is unreal. There are castles as far as the eye can see to the next castle. Every time we passed one, another would come into view. We also passed along the rim of many hills filled with various unique scenes. On one particularly sheer drop beside a church, we witnessed an elderly man riding a piece of farming equipment downhill to maintain the property. Another rockier slope found us face to face with a herd of goats relaxing in the sun. As we approached Kaub, we discovered many tidily arranged vineyards dropping off from along the path.
As I mentioned, the hike was not grueling but it did, of course, have more of an upward stretch again in the middle that required more effort. About halfway up this part we saw, as if a mirage had appeared in the woods in front of us, a rustic wine and beer stand complete with actual glasses, long wooden picnic tables with benches, and stools surrounding barrels serving as smaller tables. The mom and pop who realized this business opportunity are my heroes. A beer, a Riesling, and an apple wine later (one drink for each of the three of us) we were fortified to complete the rest of the upward climb and continue on our now merrier way.
By the time we reached Kaub, our Wanderlust had been satisfied and we were ready to find a seat on the next train home.
What better way to spend a birthday than a hike through the Moselle Valley, a visit to a famous castle, and drinking local wines. For James’s birthday this month, we drove about an hour and fifteen minutes northwest and along many narrow twists and turns to the sleepy Moselle town of Karden. From here we hiked for about two hours, starting with a continuously steep climb up a rocky hill before finally catching a break with a long stretch of flat grassy farmland at the top. Eventually we entered a sun-dappled forest and came out with a view of Burg Eltz, seated on top of a small hill in a surrounding bowl of greenery. After a lunch of beer and bockwurst on the terrace, we toured the medieval castle along with a swarm of other visitors. Burg Eltz has belonged to the same family since the middle ages.
First view of Burg Eltz
Once we had hiked back to the car, we drove about fifteen minutes along the Moselle River to the town of Cochem. We rode the Sesselbahn (chairlift) to the top of a high rocky ledge where we had a fantastic view of Reichsburg Cochem, the first castle we visited when we moved to Germany. From here we hiked the steep trail down to the main area of town, where we stopped in to Weingut Rademacher for a wine tasting. The hilly vineyard is just behind this winery, which serves as a restaurant and hotel. Next we went on to Alte Guttschänke where we had goulash soup, Riesling cheese, and more wine at a long wooden table with other guests in the cellar.