Thursday, 19 October 2006

Markgräfler Wiiwegli

Bit of a break from this blog for a good while. Sorry about the delay, I know you’re all on tenterhooks…

I was on two-week holiday, among other things. Had a lovely time. Went home to see family, then went on a four-day hike (from 8 to 11 October) along the “Markgräfler Wiiwegli (Weinweg)” from Weil to Freiburg, thus completing a trek I’d been wanting to do for a good few years.

The Markgräfler Wiiwegli is a 78-km sign-posted path leading from Weil to Freiburg. It goes through some of the loveliest wine country you’ll ever want to see and also delves occasionally into the Black Forest.

Anyway, I walked the length of it over four days. Here's a brief chronicle of the journey:

Day 1
Start the day (a glorious sunny Sunday morning) in Weil-Ost, where I begin my walk. Beautiful views and smells await: harvest is in full swing and the vineyards reak (pleasantly) of wild yeasts in the air. After a scorching July, tempered by a rainy and cool August, September was unsually warm and wet. By that time, the grapes were well ripened. The warmth and the rain in September, however, caused them to split and, consequently, rot. This is when winemakers need to act quick to save their year's work. Various harvesting teams were out that Sunday hand-picking (main red Spätburgunder grapes).

Five hours later, I eventually got to the end of the first day's walk in Blansingen, where friends Pete and Nicole kindly put me up for the night.

Day 2
An evening of Neuer Wein (Sauser), proper wine, beer and schnaps took it's toll that Monday morning - another lovely cloudless and warm day. After a slight rigmarole with a blister on my left foot, I eventually departed at midday and set off for Müllheim, the next evening's stop.

Everything was going swimmingly with pretty views of the Rhine and the Vosges and me starting to shake off the hangover when disaster struck. Just north of Bad Bellingen I decided to have a short sit-down on a bench in the middle of a field and enjoy the view. The problem was that I left my non-digital camera on said bench and didn't realise I'd done so until around 40 minutes later as I was approaching Schliengen. Bugger. Virtually ran back to the bench but the camera was gone. Bugger. Some passers-by however said I should go back down to Bad Bellingen town hall in case someone had handed it in. I followed their advice, and, hey presto, some honest soul had indeed handed it in!

Subsequently decided to quit while I was winning (I was knackered already) and went back to Weil to sleep.

Day 3
To make up for not reaching Müllheim the day before, I planned to take the early train back to Bad Bellingen and then continue where I'd left off, though not just to Müllheim but to the third stop: Staufen. What a day! I reached my destination over 7 and a half hours later, knackered but extremely satisfied. Another glorious day, if somewhat hazy. The main stretch between Müllheim and Staufen, in particular, took in all the best that Markgräflerland has to offer: vines, Black Forest, cosy villages, the feeling that time had stood still.

So, I got to Staufen, where I stayed at the Gasthaus und Hotel zum Hirschen. After an evening meal at the Kornhaus, I retired for the night and hit the sack at 9.30pm.

Day 4
The last gasp. Well, not quite. Wasn't going to Mordor, or anything, but it felt like it somehow. Another sunny start, but it was one of those inversion weather days when there's pea-soup down in the Rhine valley. Firstly flirted with the Black Forest again, then eventually reached the village of Ehrenstetten where it was suddenly foggy, though still mild. Visibility was barely 50 metres, and I subsequently almost got lost on a vineyard between Kirchhofen and Ebringen (see link to map below). Eventually found my way though and after about five hours and a wrong turnng into the woods south of Freiburg, I finally made it to the finishing post. Was expecting some sort of sign saying that "this is the beginning/end of the Markgräfler Wiiwegli", but all I saw was a sign with the distance in kilometres to Staufen where I'd come from, plus an Eiscafe across the street. Had a "Rothaus Tannenzäpfle" beer there and a Stracciatella, then got the train home.

Some photos in my next entry..

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