Last week I took advantage of the lovely late fall weather to cycle from our cottage in Gibsons to our city condo. Brisk and sunny 36 km.
So we knew all along that we had no accommodation at the end of this stage, which is at Klingenmunster. So, figure that out later….
Today was later. The ice cream factory had an associated cafe a few blocks away, and we had a really nice breakfast there.
So now, how to cover two stages in one day, to get to our reserved room in Bad Bergzabern?
As previously noted, there is such a plethora of signposted trails running along the Wein Strasse and throughout the Palatinate, that we felt confident we could do this.
We decided to do the first half of stage 10 along the steep track. This took us to Trifils castle, one of the marquee sights in the area, with views of and paths connecting to three other castle ruins.
After exploring Trifels in depth, and seeing the other ruins from there, we descended to the town of Leinsweiler. There we jumped off the Weinsteig and onto the Wander Weg, an easier walking path along essentially the same route, but skirting the woods and vineyards, and much more direct.
In this manner, we were able to complete the stage by 2 pm, have a biggish lunch at Weinhof Pfeffer in Klingenmunster, and then do the next stage to Bad Bergzabern in about 2 hours, along the valley.
Along the Weinsteig, these two stages totalled 29 km and a lot of climbing. We walked a total of about 24 km, the last 15 over less challenging terrain – although we still climbed over 1000 m.
We had a fantastic apartment – Feriamwonung am Berg – in the old town for the rock bottom price of 65 euro, but not much energy to celebrate the end of our walk. Although there was one stage remaining, we had a tight schedule to meet our biking group in Konstanz on Sunday, so decided to cut the last stage to be sure we made it. We had a good train connection from Bad Bergzabern that we would not have at the official end of the walk in Schweigen Rectenbach, and therefore, the opportunity to arrive in Strasbourg in the afternoon, instead of late in the evening. So off to Konstanz, via Strasbourg, we go!
walked 22.17 km
climbed 825 m
This was our 27th anniversary, and a very nice way to spend it.
We started more or less directly up into the woods, where we passed our second or third – but not the last – “clinic” (residential hospital) of the walk. The fresh air of the Palatinate woods is reckoned excellent for those needing psychic rest or grappling with addictions, we have learned.
There was no food shop or bakery in Dernbach, so we set our hopes on the first town, Eusserthal. Like many other places, it had the air of a tidy ghost town, but I was NOT leaving without some food. So I left Rand and our packs in a central location and roamed the town until eventually finding a very picked-over bakery. I got a few pastries, an orange pop and a sleeve of cookies.
A few more km through the chestnut and oak forests under our belt and we found a perfect place to enjoy this feast. It was a dedicated walker’s rest stop, with picnic tables and view of not one, not two but THREE castles.
There was another climb into the hills and another cool rocky outcrop with outstanding views before the day was over, and we strolled into Annweiler am Trifels. Here we had accommodation above an ice cream factory! And it was in the centre of town, and had a view of the main square, and was everything nice.
There was a bit of time for shopping and exploring this lovely town, which I do recommend a visit to.
Eventually, we washed up at an odd bar whose name , Rotbarbe (?) translated to Red Beard, and we had our afternoon reward, which in my case, means an Aperol Spritz and for Rand it was a schorle.
After consulting Tripadvisor for some dinner ideas, this turned out to be one of the most favoured places in town, so we returned, after showers and some rest. Rand had the ubiquitous local specialty “rumpsteak,” and I had a yummy galette with salad.
The only disappointing thing was that our ice cream place closed at 7 pm, but knowing this in advance, we found another place before heading back to our room over the Eiswerks.
Walked 15.2 km
Climbed 756 m
We ended a good 5 km past Burrweiler last night, at a really nice hotel, Wirsthaus Berghof, with stunning views over the Pfalzer wald. Since we had a short distance to go today – only about 8 or 9 km by the most direct route on the Weinsteig – we did some extending detours around the Orensfel – a magnificent rock out cropping on Orenberg mountain.
This was also the day that we found our favourite castle of the whole walk. Its called Burgruine Neuscharfeneck. We spent quite a bit of time clambering over it and took lots of pictures.
We also enjoyed a more leisurely lunch at a very nice hutte run by the local mountaineering club. We shared a flammenkuchen and two fresh pretzels, we each had a large schorle (wine spritzer), then we shared a cake and coffee (cake for me, and coffee for Rand, though he always trespasses on my cake.) Total for this lunch was 18 euro. I mention this because we are often asked if we don’t find travelling in Europe expensive? We find many great values there, like this mountain hut lunch.
After lunch and more climbing up and down some hills, we made a detour to the town of Ramburg, before walking up the valley to our oddly Christmas-themed B&B in Dernbach.
Cafe culture is really not a thing in this particular area. Hard to find a good place for a cocktail, or an inviting morning coffee or even a small corner store, though we did finally find one in Ramburg today, and bought one large pils to share.
We didn’t much like the look of our B&B restaurant so we walked back to a weinstube at the beginning of town, Weinstube Hahn. Here we received a warm welcome and enjoyed a shared appetizer, very good home-made style schnitzel (pan fried) with deluxe german style salad plates, plus three drinks, plus strudel. All for 38 euro. This is the sort of excellent value that we frequently encounter off the beaten tourist path in Germany, and which keeps us coming back.
After dinner we played two hands of Monopoly Deal in the weinstube, before ambling back to our room. This place did have a lovely, very sheddy dog who played frisbee with me.
Unlike Sankt Martin, Neustadt and Annweiler, we would not suggest Dernbach as a place to visit, stay, explore. Eat and sleep if you must, but tarry not.
walked: 23.17 km
climbed 825 m
We had to walk 1.5 of the official stages today, as we had been unable to book accomodation in either Burrweiler or the two following villages.
To accomplish this feat, we began our day on the lower “Wander Weg” trail, which follows a shorter easier route along the wine road of about 90 km total distance vs 170 on the Weinsteig. The marker for this trail is a bunch of green grapes. It was nice to be back in the vineyards and move quickly over flatter terrain for a bit.
We followed this trail as far as Ludwigs Hohe – an italianate villa. From there we rejoined the Weinsteig to Burrweiler.
Along the way we passed a grotto of flowers dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and walked a section of trail with dozens of carved figures and dioramas.
Since we had such a long walk, and would be passing through a handful of towns, we planned to enjoy a nice sit down lunch somewhere. Most likely Burrweiler, which the map showed to be a reasonably sized town.
What we found, however, is that all but one restaurant in the town was “geschlossen”. And that one could only seat those with a reservation. They suggested a bakery in the next town, Gleisweiler, might offer some food for hungry walkers. So on we went, only to find the bakery, too, geschlossen!
So we kept on to the next town, Frankweiler, where we found wine bar Muller.
Amazing place! Great wine, nice terrace, where we enjoyed a typical local dish: beef and pork meatballs in horseradish cream sauce with boiled potatoes.
From Muller, with nicely rounded bellies, we sauntered a final 2 km to our comfortable accomodation at Hotel Berghof, near Albersweiler.
We napped, drank a bottle of wine from the “honour fridge” out on a sunny terrace, and then, since the Wirsthaus at our hotel was also geschlossen that day, we walked -and I danced a little – two km back to Muller for a second go: curried chicken this time, and salad and pannecotte and drinks, yum.
Then homeward again through now dark and, for some, romantic vineyards. It was a very memorable day. Famine and then feast. Times two.
Walked 20.1 km
climbed 792 m
This is the longest stage of the Weinsteig and involves a lot of climbing.
There were some very cool natural rock formations along the way, but we were mostly concerned with the fact that since the weekend was over, all the hikers huts would be shut tight.
We learned here, once again, that signs displaying knives and forks did not guarantee that food would be available. But it was always nice to have hope!
And we were now carrying sufficient bits of food – including the delicious, but unfortunately named Mogenbrot (stomach bread). Yeah, the Germans have cleverly figured out that if you give a delicious cookie a gross name, you might not have to share it!
The high point of the Palatinate Forest is a peak called Kalmit. We had already climbed several hills nearly as high when it swam into view, a 1 km uphill detour from the trail. Having decided that we would have a similar view and similar deserted hiking hut as we had just seen on the next highest spot, we passed on this detour and began our final descent to Sankt Marten.
We had a very nice hotel in Sankt Martin – Hotel Dalberg. After a few cold drinks at a nearby patio, we showered and returned to the same place for Poutine (Rand) and a schnitzel burger for me.
After dinner we had regained enough energy for a walk around town. This is certainly one of the more charming towns along the route, and would be an excellent base for some day hikes as well. We found a charming beer garden lit with white lights, but alas, bed was calling!
Walked 18.79 km
Climbed 722 m
Well we didn’t do what the title says, so there.
After nearly losing our lives in Deidesheim the previous day we had no big jones to return. Looking at the trail map, it seemed all the top sights were at the Neustadt end, so we resolved to do half of the stage, going out and back from Neustadt, to give us a full days hiking.
But without our 18 and 20 pound packs, hurrah!
First stop was a castle called Wolfsburg with, you guessed it, refreshments! Rand had a schorle, and I had a few sips.
Then we went up the steep trail.
We eventually arrived at a particularly popular hilltop stube called the Wein Biet. And its Sunday, so packed of course, but our experience here more than made up for the Winzer steaks of the previous day.
First we cooled off with beer in the shade, then moved to a view table where I enjoyed a big salad with a few chicken morsels and Rand had bratwurst and fried potatoes. I could have stayed all day.
Back into town, shower, finally had correct wifi info, so off to the No.1 rated restaurant in Neustadt: Maharaja Indian. It was the worst tikka masala ever passed off as tikka masala and the pakoras were not much better. I couldn’t complain because I really didn’t know where to start. You win some, you lose some.