Friday, July 30, 2010

From Riesling to Pike-Perch

New cycling routes tend to spring up in Germany rather like unwanted garden weeds, so after reading in our local paper about a route combining wine and fish eating we decided to hop on bikes and trains and investigate. The von Riesling zum Zander route links Bad Bergzabern (a well known wine centre on the far west of the Rhine Rift Valley) with Neupotz, a tiny village set in the old ox-bow lakes of the Rhine. Our train journey there was enlivened by many Sunday cyclists crowding the bike compartment, plus a young father and daughter (about 9) with bikes and a huge trailer. By squeezing and breathing in everyone managed to get in AND more importantly get out at the correct stops. The worst weeks of the heat wave (36°C) lay behind us and we detrained into a sunny but cool morning in Kapellen-Drusweiler, one of the wine-growing villages a few kilometres east of Bad Bergzaben. We were a bit early for a Schoppen (a small glass) of wine, though the vintners were setting out their stalls by 11 o’clock. Their half-timbered yards bedecked with geraniums and petunias were most inviting, prices too much lower than in downtown Mannheim. The Riesling-Zander route links a series of existing cycle routes and we had no difficulty following the white signs with a green bike symbol from village to village. We had downloaded a map from the internet link before leaving home. On reaching the little town of Winden, thoughts of a coffee and cake lured us into a shady courtyard. At the entrance a man wearing a protective apron was just removing the first freshly smoked trout from a large black oven, the fish dangling on wooden staves, skins glistening and golden. Cake was abandoned, a smoked trout brötchen (open sandwich) ordered instead with our coffee. Quite delicious. Later the fish farmer explained that he came from Hinterweidenthal close to Pirmasens further west. Another of our favourite bike routes runs from there to Wissembourg in Alsace, so we’ll remember to eat smoked trout on our next visit.
More cyclists were appearing so we continued on across a gradually changing landscape, up and down gentle slopes, through stands of mature trees, leaving the line of the Pfalzer hills behind to the west. Each village was delightful, a few cobbled streets, farms and churches dozing in the sun, half-timbered houses more than 300 years old with new modern dwellings dotted in between and on the outskirts. Steinweiler offered more vintners and a maize labyrinth whilst in Erlenbach we enjoyed a cool mineral water at a potter’s shop without too much pressure to buy a giant plant pot. From time to time there was a glimpse over the forests close to the Rhine to the northern Black Forest hills beyond, dark blue shading into black.
We cycled into the long village of Rheinzabern, where the tiny houses have their gable ends to the street and long gardens at the back. Here we were enticed into a wonderland leading from a narrow yard between two restored half-timbered cottages. A series of outdoor rooms, a la Chelsea Flower Show had been created with flowers and bushes whilst behind a planted screen a round table had been set for tea. Most impressive, since it is still unusual for people to open their private gardens to the public here in Germany, though it seems to be catching on in nearby Alsace. Across the road was another delight where a farming family had turned their stables into a collection of implements and carts, together with clothing and articles in daily use from the beginning of the last century. It does come as something of a shock to see things my Grandmother used to have, in a museum! Tempus Fugit, once again.
By this time, the effects of our fish sandwich in Winder had long since worn off so we were pleased to reach Neupotz and signs to the Otterbachhofladen (an enormous timber framework barn, set out with long tables, decorated with bundles of wheat and wild flowers). Normally there is a farm shop here. A Radler (literally a cyclist but meaning a beer/lemonade shandy) and a sizeable plateful of German potato salad, a substantial Bratwürst and a crisp bread bun each, soon restored us. Unfortunately neither of us had room to sample some interesting confections, looking like giant jam and cream scones, being tackled by several local senior citizens... perhaps next time? Observing preparations for speeches and music on a stage in the middle of the barn, plus various individuals dressed in local costume and the promise of the appearance of a Tobacco Queen and South Wine Road Princess we gathered our plates and glasses and left town.
We still had about 20 km to ride northwards along the main Rhine embankment cycleway to reach Germersheim. As we entered the water meadows, lagoons and stands of massive willows bordering the Rhine our tempo increased along smooth tarmac. These are service roads alongside the flood embankments, with occasional pumping stations or access to the river bank. For cyclists they are a great boon and in high summer give superb stretches of every shade of greenery. Shortly before Germersheim we reached the riverside, where people and dogs paddled in the shallows or snoozed on a bench. The town is lovely with vast fortifications, partly intact and built too late to be any use. We cycled past the old moat and towers to the station and our train back to Mannheim. Back home our speedos displayed distances of around 76 km, mostly on trails unknown to us before. Another great day out in Rheinland Pfalz.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive