Pfalzer Weinsteig Day 7: Sankt Martin to Burrweiler (but actually, Albersweiler)

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.

The Wander Weg is a relaxed walk covering the same area as the Weinsteig, but on gentler, more direct trails totaling about 90 km.
This is a big part of the scenery on the wander weg. A pleasant change from the pine and chestnut forests higher up.

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.

The Marian Grotte
The beginning of a trail section full of carvings and other artwork

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!

It looked like this might be our only lunch.

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.

Our lovely stop in 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.

Plentiful food and wine after a half day of privation, and I was ready to dance.
This wander weg does not suck.

Then homeward again through now dark and, for some, romantic vineyards. It was a very memorable day. Famine and then feast. Times two.

Pfalzer Weinsteig Day 6: Neustadt an der Weinstrasse to Sankt Martin

Walked 20.1 km

climbed 792 m

This is the longest stage of the Weinsteig and involves a lot of climbing.

First stop was the Hambach castle. We enjoyed the views but didn’t visit the museum.

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.

A hikers weather shelter. We saw a few of these but never had to use one
I appreciate this effort to protect my life from cars, but what about my head, huh?
A mercifully flat section of a hilly day.

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.

Heading for celebratory bevies. Knowing it could end any day, we ate, drank and relaxed outdoors at every opportunity

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!

Pfalzer Weinsteig Day 5: Deidesheim to Neustadt an der Weinstrasse

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.

This is some of the rougher trail seen on the Weinsteig. One had to keep eyes down!
The high points were high.
And the views were rewarding!

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.

Pfalzer Weinsteig Day 4: Bad Durkheim to Deidesheim

Km walked – Weinsteig: 15 km

Fitbit : 23 km

Climbed 871 m

The sole benefit to our Airbnb’s location was that we could begin this stage with a visit to the very cool Limburger Monastery, right above our town.

Not only was the ruin interesting but low and behold, there was a woman setting up a beer garden. So we had ‘one’ to reward the climb and then we began to walk again in earnest

Limburger Monastery ruin near Bad Durkheim
Early to have a drink, but you learn not to walk past food, beverages and especially biffies!

This stage would end in Deidesheim, a town that had persistently failed to offer up a room for us. Our plan was to jump on a train there for the end of the next day’s stage at Neustadt, and train back in the am to continue the walk to Neustadt. To this end we had booked a two night Airbnb in Neustadt.

It was a very hot hike! About 28C and an arid landscape.

See how shiny and red our faces are!

Around midday we came across a castle and viewpoint which had a restaurant alongside. As it was Saturday, it was packed with people.

We got jostled along in the food line until at the order desk. The menu there had nothing that looked familiar. In a panic, I ordered two Winzer Steaks. Tip: if you dont know what you are ordering, increase your chances of a win by ordering different things!

Winzer steak turns out to be a thick slab of tough ham served with an immense amount of stomach curdling sauerkraut and brown bread.

So lunch, from my perspective, was a bust. A little thinly sliced tender ham and a dob of pickled cabbage, yes.  This, no. The beer was cold!  On we went.

The Weinsteig was increasingly intermingling with more and more hiking trails, offering opportunities, it occurred to us, to tailor our walk somewhat, should any day be too hot or wet or long!

On arrival in Deidesheim, it became clearer why we had been unable to find reasonably priced accomodation. It seemed like the “Whistler” of the wine route. Very upmarket.

As we stepped off the trail at the edge of town onto an apparently empty road, a black BMW rounded a curve and – we both swear it – accelerated towards us,  requiring us to literally jump out of the road. It passed within an inch or two of Rand, who doesn’t leap as far as I do.  No effort to slow or swerve around us. Unbelievable. So much for a big tourist welcome in Deidesheim!

We jumped on a crowded waiting train without tickets and hoped we wouldn’t get busted. We needed showers and cool drinks and a place more friendly. Could not risk the train leaving without us.

Neustadt fit the bill, although the Airbnb was another palaver.

The guy had sent us a code for a key box via email, and I replied to reminded him that he had promised us a non attic room (reviews said the attic apartment was not suitable for persons over 160 cm)

We still have no data for our phones at this point – which I told him! – so that was the end of our conversation from my end. Long story short, he was waiting for us, which we couldn’t know. Then he was mad because he was waiting for us. We were drinking Aperol spritzes near the train station, because why rush at this point? We have been given a code to retrieve a key.

When we arrive, he looks at me and says “you’re not so tall” and takes us to the attic, of course.

Then he gives us wifi information that is handwritten and completely wrong, so we still can’t connect to tell him we have no wifi except by lurking outside a donair shop. The apartment was nicely renoed and perfect for shorter people!

Here is the set of keys the Super Host gave us for our apt. That’s just weird.
And his incorrect wifi info. Why not just post it in the flat?
And here is our attic flat. The bathroom was the real challenge tho!

On the plus side there was an amazing pizza place and to-die- for bakery just (down 4 flights) and across the street!

Pfalzer Weinsteig Day 3: Fun times at the Wurst Markt!

Walked 17 km – town, fair and dancing

Up and into town to the Vodafone store! It’s the only telecom provider in town. The guy says: I’m out of sim cards.

Waaaaa? Is that even possible. He says maybe a delivery later today. Come back after 3.

We tour the fair, have a glass of sekt (local champagne), we climb a hill to see a chapel and a view of the fair. We have to go slow to go the distance.

I have amazing deep fried potato pancakes with garlic sauce, Rand has a hot roast ham sandwich.

Food here was such a bargain. Less than 10 euros for both.

We head for the now-crowded wine huts for the most popular drink: half litre wine spritzers called schorle.

Sometimes 50 -50 but in our hut they were pouring 90% wine and 10% mineral water. Yikes.

Now its 3:30, so back to Vodafone. The note on the door says back at 4. So we wait, along with another guy. At 4:30, we walk away in disgust. A while later our waiting friend drives by and says ” He’s back. He’s drunk!”

We head back to the store where he confirms he still has no sim cards for sale. Weird and frankly suspect.

Back to the fair for a wonderful ginger cookie called Mogensbrot translation ‘stomach bread’. Germans make excellent food but suck at naming stuff.

Then, to slow things down, a visit to the rather sad beer tent. This is about wine!

So back to the wine we went.
Roving drummer. His cart includes glass holders for all the band members (just above water bottles, front left.)
Feeling happy.

Back to the wine huts and getting chummy with the locals. Dance bands are advertised to start at 6:30 in the three major tents so we stake out spots early, and bring in some food to pass the time: currywurst and fries and a wonderful pork and onion stir fry we have tried to identify every since.

Lekker!

The band started closer to 7, and they were ok, but the next tent was really bumping, so we moved over there and before you knew it we were jumping around and fist pumping while standing on wobbly benches. I had a few dances with some particularly drunk and especially good looking fellows.

Fist pumping fun

By about 10 we were exhausted from our day, and wise enough to know it was time to go home. But not without some chocolate covered popcorn for me and a chocolate crepe for Rand. Two kms back to our shabby airbnb and we needed all the fresh air that afforded.

The Wurst Markt is a big local festival. It’s great value as the clientele is all from surrounding areas and they know their prices. No gouging tolerated!

Recommended!

Pfalzer Weinsteig Day 2: Neuleiningen to Bad Durkheim

Distance: 17.5 km

Climbed: 437m

Another beautiful day (eventually reached 28°!) started with another big breakfast spread. We nicked a few Kaiser rolls, granola bars and fruit against the possibilty of another day without services. Felt ok about this when we inquired, on our way out the door, about a shop or bakery in the town and were told there was neither. Alrighty then.

Back on the trail.

We went down, down to the valley and walked along the perfect road we had seen from our window. Then up to the town of Battenburg, down again and then up, up, up into the hills, where the landscape changed from deciduous to dry pine forest very reminiscent of the Okanagan.

We found a lovely hiking hut along the way, where beer, wine and tasty Wurst and burgers were procured. This area was equally popular with hikers and motorcyclists, who used the forestry access roads to ride-and-lunch. A very civilized way to break up a long distance hike, in my view.

An oasis of tasty treats for weary hikers and bikers appeared in the forest.

Nearby we found our first Bismark tower, one of a series of monuments dedicated to the first Chancellor of the German Empire and scattered in various states of dis/repair throughout Germany.

Our Airbnb was just outside of Bad Durkheim, and Maps.me showed we could switch trails to get there more directly. So we did.

The Airbnb itself was disappointing. An unfinished Reno project, done with inexpert hands. Furnished with cast off items. A bit dank. Not so much as a bar of handsoap provided. When we asked about a coffee maker and filters on display, the host brought us coffee supplies and on further request, bathroom tissue. Always, some are better than others, and my expectations are reasonably high, but this was not a great room.

Dismal Airbnb.

We showered quickly and headed into Bad Durkheim, arriving just before 5, by design, because we wanted to buy sim cards at Vodafone – the first and only phone store we had come across since our arrival. We knew, from careful research, it was open until 6. But alas, we arrived to find a note on the door, closed early today at 5.

The night before the Wurst Markt, all is in preparedness…
But the wine is already being served up to keeners like us. And lots of others.

O well, there is always tomorrow, right! We had a good look around the town, an Aperol spritz, a quick visit to the Wurst Markt which would be in full swing the following day, and then sat down to some Chinese food. Surprisingly, considering the biggest local festival of the year was taking place, many local establishments had signs indicating they were closed for a week or two of holidays. We had ice cream and hoofed it back to our slightly dank and poorly finished rooms. Still fighting jet lag.

Pfalzer Weinsteig Day 1: Bockenheim an der Weinstrasse to Neuleiningen

Km: 17.2

Climbed: 572m

We made a fine start today. Lovely weather, a good nights rest at Winzerhof Wendel and a tasty breakfast to give us stamina.

At the start of a new adventure.

We started at the official spot, the Haus der Deutschen Weinstrasse. The guy at the info centre there was not interesting or interested. We have quickly confirmed our belief that tourism in this part of Germany is almost entirely composed of Germans. The only downside to this is one should either have some German ability, or a translator app. More on this later.

Trail markings are absolutely excellent.

We set off through endless, glorious vineyards, with about a dozen varieties of grapes: white Burgundy, Portuguieser, Riesling and so much more. We almost immediately met a local who had a brother in Canada. We admired his dog and he told us to help ourselves to grapes along the way, as no one would be troubled by this. He said he had done it for 30 years or more.

Cut to us in jail. Kidding. We have sampled all the grapes along the way. They are amazingly sweet.

The trail is top quality. Sometimes steep, and you have to watch for roots and stones, but it is marvelously well maintained.

Forest trail in the Pfalzer Wald.

The suggested rest stop for this leg was a town midway along the route, Mertesheim. Once there we discovered no shops, no restos, no services whatsoever.

We eventually found public restrooms to refill our water bottles and pressed on to our destination in Neuleiningen (Noy-line-again).

Ravenous and unable to get into our room until 5(!), we found a warm welcome at Zum Engels, a bar and guesthouse where we had our second schnitzel – because it was schnitzel day here – and also copious life-restoring cold drinks – for a rock bottom price. Would stay here another time, the host said contact directly for best rates and single night stays! Better value that our equally-nice guesthouse, tho we had a charming view.

Our room looked out over a wide valley. Very comfortable and run by a nice family.

A glass of wine on the terrace, and dessert capped our day, and we went to sleep hoping to beat our jetlag.

Where we stayed: Hotel zum Bergraf.

Pfalzer Weinsteig: Getting to the Starting line

Started the day by dropping Farley off at his dog sitters. We are both carrying packs of less than 20 lbs, but Far’s gear was closer to 30. He is in great hands with a young local couple and will be going to work each day, which he will love.

Typically long and uncomfortable but direct flight to Frankfurt. At the airport on arrival we mailed a parcel containing cycling and cold weather jackets to a hotel in Konstanz Germany, where we will switch to our second phase of biking.

We also had some yummy pretzels while waiting for our train

In Canada, mailing a 5.5 kg box to another town in BC could easily cost 50$. In Germany it cost less than 10 Euro.

It was 4 short and well connected train rides to the starting point of our walk, Bockenheim an der Weinstrasse.

Four short¹ train rides got us from Frankfurt airport to the Wein strasse in less than 2 hours

When we arrived at our airbnb – Winzerhof Wendal – we were met with a tumbler full of their self produced wine. As it was about 5 am Vancouver time by now, this went down a treat.

Wine comes in tumblers here. Hoorah!

According to our research, all but the most poorly reviewed restaurant in town was closed because it was Tuesday.

Our hostess very kindly offered us dinner of pigs stomach stuffed with potatoes or flammkuchen – a local pizza style dish made with a white sauce and often potatoes. The latter would have been quite tasty I’m sure, but our last three meals had been substantially bread based and we needed salad – and cold beer so we declined.

After a nap we discovered that the worst reviewed restaurant in town was also closed, although their wine shack was open.

Zoom in to check out those prices!

After a walk about we found one open place to eat – and it was popular, perhaps by default. And so we had our beer and schnitzel, with marvelous salad and fries and a glorious dessert as well.

We had our beer, at last. This is how we know we are in Germany. Not official till then.
We are running a schnitzel meter. This one seemed good value – with a lovely salad – for 14 Euro, but today we had better and under 10 Euro.
Chocolate raspberry cake plus mousse, ice cream and a second mousse like confection. Gonna be a good trip.

The sun set, and the air was chilly, so home to bed!

A very comfy room with bow tie plumped pillows.

Here we go again…

Looks like we are joining the Amazing Race, but hopefully it will be a relaxing walk in fine countryside.

Just can’t get enough walking.

Our “camino” this time will be the Pfalzer Weinsteig (translation: Palatinate wine steep track)

The Pfalz is found in the southwest German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, bordered by France, Belgium and Luxembourg. The Pfalz is Germany’s second largest wine region (after Mosel) by acreage and often produces the largest crop.

Aside from an excellent planning website that breaks down this 170 km hike into 11 stages, there isn’t too much information out there – at least not in English – about this walk. We know the daily distances, the size of the climbs we will face each day, and we have had to book all accomodation in advance because of a huge wine festival in the area – which we are definitely going to!

Beyond that, we don’t know too much. So come along, via our blog posts, and we will share with you what we learn.

This is part one of a three part multi-modal journey.

First we walk.

Via Francigena 2019: Epilogue

Why did it take two months to complete our tale.

Short answer is LIFE.

As we got closer to Rome our social life picked up, we went out most evenings with other pilgrims and the blog took a back seat.

In Rome we got our Testimoniums from a very nice priest who pulled us out of the tourist line-up and made a bit of a fuss over us, which we had been told NOT to expect. So that was nice.

We also had dinner not once but twice with Kees, but ultimately had to say goodbye. His walk was not over.

After we left Italy I went to Croatia looking for some sun, which continued to evade me, and Rand went to England to walk the Cotswalds Way.

And after we got home to Vancouver we had six weeks of house, garden and pet issues to catch up on, friends to see, bills to pay!

So why now?

We are visiting family in the countryside and the weather (as everywhere we go, apparently) is “variable.” So there is time. And there is a desire for completion. And a tick off the list. There is guilt for having dropped the ball.

Mostly there is a desire to have a complete and accurate record of this adventure. We tried to include things we most wondered about when planning our trip. But our blog posts are for us first, and if it is interesting or useful to someone else that’s wonderful.

And a final reason is that our next walk is looming. In about 6 weeks we will be commencing the Pfalzer Weinsteig – an 11 day, fairly hilly walk in Germany’s Rhineland- Palatinate region. We planned this to coincide with the Wurst Markt (literally Sausage Festival – do not laugh) – held annually in Bad Durkheim.

Notwithstanding the name, this is actually Europe’s biggest wine festival. It’s like Octoberfest but with 2000 different wines.

We like wine. Not quite as much as beer, but we can be flexible. For me it would go Beer, then Wine then Sausage. For Rand it would go…hmm. well sausage would not be last anyway.

So if you like walking, Germany, wine, sausages or whatever, you may wish to follow along.

After our walk we will rent bicycles and ride around the Bodensee. Then we will do something else. It’s a surprise. For all of us.

Last thoughts on the Francigena

When to go

-We went in May and the weather was not what we hoped. Some other folks in blogland did the identical walk one month later. We were sometimes cold and they were sometimes hot. Read their adventures here and you can decide for yourself which is for you.

-The sooner you start walking the sooner you will have your legs in shape for summer back home.

-If you like wildflowers, then May is for you. I have never seen their equal.

-If the possibility of bedbugs wig you out, spring may be better than fall. A lot of people have slept in those hostel beds by September….

-If this is your big or only trip of the year, you may not want to find yourself wishing the summer away in anticipation.

-The tourist fatigue is likely less in the spring. Compared to other places we have travelled in recent years, the Italians did seem a little weary.

And some tips we haven’t seen rounded up elsewhere:

If you purchase a per day overseas extension for your current phone plan you will pay a lot more than necessary. Leave your sim card at home and buy one from Vodaphone on arrival in Italy. Haggle a little. We have had phone store guys offer us student rates when we made as if to shop around. Best deal was 20 Euro for 20 gigs of data for 30 days. About 100 minutes of phone for calling ahead for rooms. All you need. This time we bought Wind. It was less satisfactory when we changed countries.

Know what stinging nettles look like.

-Bring tweezers or a tick scoop and small amount of polysporin. A little goes a long way but you will likely need it. We always do.

-If you need sunscreen shampoo conditioner etc buy these at a grocery store or dollar store. You will pay triple at a pharmacy displaying a green cross in Europe.

Packing cubes are the bomb! Great way to keep your gear organized and easy to pack back up.

-The Italian postal service is quick and efficient. If your pack is too heavy, do a cull and send some stuff ahead for 10 euros or thereabouts.

-The part of this walk that we did was largely what would be considered a road walk. Farm roads, gravel roads and wider trails. Little need for a heavy hiking shoe.

-Baggage service is available but much more costly than in Spain and Portugal: 15 Euro a day for the first bag, less for the second.

-Look up how to drain a blister with a needle and cotton thread – brilliant!

-The Via Francigena is not the Camino. Similar but different so try not to compare if possible.

-See Rands post on Navigation, above

More as they occur to us.

Over and out! Thanks for reading.