Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Walk through the Vineyards

On October 3rd - Tag der Deutschen Einheit, or the Day of German Unity - M and I drove to Esslingen to take a walk from his mother's place over hills and through vineyards to the Grabkapelle Rotenberg, which you can see from the train shortly before you pull into the Hauptbahnhof in Stuttgart. This is a walk I have wanted to take for a long time because I remember doing this with my host family back in 1986. It was lovely weather - sunny and warm enough with a wonderful breeze that kept us from sweating too much.

This is the perfect type of outing, I think, and a common way for Germans to spend a Sunday or a holiday when all the stores are closed. Families often drive an hour or so from home, park the car, and take a long and leisurely walk. Other than the gas to get there, it doesn't have to cost anything. My host family usually stopped somewhere for a meal, but an alternative is to pack a light lunch in Papa's backpack and fuel up at the halfway point. On our walk on Friday we also paid the €2,50 admission to go inside the chapel and bought two ice cream cones for €3,00. Pretty inexpensive entertainment, and exercise enough for us to feel it in our muscles the next day!

the Rotenberg Kapelle is on the hilltop

It's harvest time.

Grabkapelle Rotenberg
Memory is a funny thing, though. I kept saying to Martin that I remembered walking through a forest on a dirt path for quite a bit of the walk back in 1986. The most direct route was through the vineyards, though, which is the path we took. There were forests all around us, so perhaps my family had taken us on a scenic route. That walk stuck in my mind so long because, I think, that was the first time I'd ever just gone on a long walk as a family activity. Even as a stupid teenager I was able to appreciate the walk, the exercise, the fresh air, the scenery... And I really wanted some forest time on this walk with M. But first we checked out the chapel.

"Love never ends"

I still have a photograph of their sarcophagus from 1986.

König Wilhelm I of Württemberg had this chapel built for his second wife, Katharina Pawlowna, Grand Duchess of Russia and sister of Tsars Alexander I and Nikolaus I, and they are entombed there together along with one of their daughters. The connections between the kingdom of Württemberg and the Romanovs of Russia were important in both countries' histories, and although Katharina was only queen for three years before she died, she made many significant reforms and instituted social programs, a girls' school, and a hospital in Stuttgart which is still in operation today.

In the above picture on the hill farthest to the right in the background is the Katharinenlinde. If you could zoom in and knew what you were looking for, you could see the top of the outlook tour there. My Schwiegermutter's home is over that hill and down the other side. We walked from there, and it only took about 50 minutes. The whole walk was 10,5 km (6.5 miles).

The Neckar Valley is known for its wine, and the landscape around Esslingen is rich with vineyards.

On the way back we came to a point where M said we could head into the woods for a detour and to lengthen our walk. Perfect!

THIS is what I remembered! Yes, it's just a forest, but it was a significant part of my memory for reasons I probably can't sufficiently explain. This probably wasn't the same path we walked back then, but it doesn't matter. I'm glad we added this detour to our walk.

As I said, I love day trips like this. There are places like this to walk for hours in Wisconsin - especially in the woods. There's one big difference, though, that makes the prospect decidely less appealing - the bugs. Mosquitoes, deer flies, horse flies, all kinds of nasty biting demons. If I have to spray up with that horrible-smelling bug spray and know I'm still going to itch for days afterwards, I'm less likely to get excited about a long walk. There were no bugs that bothered us on this walk. We just had beautiful natural smells, a birdsong that was new to me, fresh air, a nice breeze, and good company.

It was a really nice day, and even my sore muscles agree.


  1. What gorgeous photos. Looks like a lovely day out. I love all the vineyards in Germany (although I usually visit the one in the Pfalz).

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. The area in and around Esslingen is really picturesque and always worth a visit! We walked 9 km around our own area on Sunday and are already thinking about where to go for a stroll next weekend.