If you drive several hours North of Innsbruck but remain on the West side of Germany, you happen upon a beautiful valley that parallels a mountain range along the French border. You also meet up with the confluence of the Neckar and Rhein rivers. Add some sun and decent soil and you have Riesling! (The Southern end of this wine route meets up with the Alsace region of France). We are staying in Edingen, a small community half way between Mannheim (yes, where the modern orchestra was “founded” and where Mannheim Steamroller gets its name) and Heidelberg. Mannheim is on the Rhein and Heidelberg is on the Neckar.
Digression: Joseph Stamitz was a late 18th Century early Classical composer who led the Mannheim school. The modern orchestra as we know it today was taking shape and he pioneered some techniques that both Haydn and Mozart codified in Symphonic writing. These included the Mannheim Crescendo (huge crescendos and decrescendos not heard previously), Mannheim Pause (a sudden complete stop in the music only to start up again with vigor), Mannheim Rocket (soaring up melody lines – last mvt of Mozart 40 is a prime example) and the Mannheim Roller (a soaring melody over repeated bass line) and Mannheim Bird (the orchestra imitating bird chirping sounds).
The area creates a triangle between Heidelberg, Mannheim and Bad Durkeim (the north end of the wine route) and includes a wonderful tram line that connects all of the larger towns with all of the small towns. From Edingen, we can hop on the tram for as little as 2Euro50, and travel around the valley to the various cities and towns.
So, off we go. First stop is Heidelberg, a medieval town (very touristy) with a killer castle. The tram takes 20 minutes and we arrive in the center of Old Town. Here is a pic from the walking bridge over the Neckar river:
And a shot from the castle looking down over the town:
And the river from a foot bridge where there are locks for the boats. The bridge in the distance is the walking bridge from two pics up:
The castle is the main attraction. It sits up on the hill of course, and you can take the funicular or walk (does this sound familiar from Brunate/Como? Did we take the funicular? Of course not). So we hoofed up to the castle. Here’s what it looks like from below:
From this pic, guide your eyes to the top left. There is a radio tower there and at the radio tower is the Konigsbuhl or King’s Seat. Can you take the tram up there? Of course. Did we take the tram up there….? Of course not. Instead, you can take the Stairway to Heaven. For all you Led Zeppelin fans, it is referred to as the Stairway to Heaven and is a 2ooo foot ascent by rock stairs – 1000 stair steps altogether. I took their word for it and didn’t count. And then it started raining and hailing. And there was no music playing, specifically, no Stairway to Heaven. But climb it we did and here is a pic from the top. Sorry, but it was pouring:
We took the tram and funicular back down. It was raining after all. And toured the castle. I am not sure why one corner of it is missing but check out the thickness of the walls of the broken pieces. The rest of the castle is intact and “working”:
Here is the castle from inside the walls:
We walked the town and along the river and of course, we consumed gelato.
Yesterday, we hit the wine route. We visited two wineries and spent over an hour at each one. Wachtenburg Winery is one of the larger in the valley. They have wonderful and affordable rieslings (ranging from 5-12Euro) At these prices, it is tough not to buy cases of wine. So we bought 3….bottles. Riesling is what this region is known for, and I have to say it is very good. They make sweeter rieslings but the lion share is trocken (dry). White burgundy, rose, bubbly, merlot are all made here too, but in very small quantities. The one grape we weren’t familiar with was Dornfelder. I can only describe this as a very light pinot noir type of wine. Problem is, it isn’t pinot. I didn’t care for it much.
We traveled down the route to one of the top wineries in this region: Von Winning. Like so many regions, there is a “grand cru” type of designation that is referred to as VDP. The right region, blend, wine making techniques etc have to be followed to be considered top of the line riesling, and Von Winning takes the honors with this high end wine (prices run 20-40Euro for the “good stuff”). So we spend time with Christine, who speaks English very well, and educates us about all things riesling. As we sip wine, a photographer comes in and says to Christine, I have promo pix of everything except for the tasting room and the wine caves. Would these two lovely wine tasters mind if I photographed you three in the various setting talking about and sipping wines? Modeling on the Rhein? Sure!
So he takes dozens of pics of us in various settings. We give him our email and he agrees to send us the best of the pics in a few weeks. They will use the best of the photos as needed for in house type of promotion. We also get a pic with Liz’s phone of the three of us. A shout out to Christine!
Here are a few pics of the process, which Liz took while on our little photo tour:
Here is a pic in the wine cave. If you look between the barrels, you will see the photographer crouched down inbetween, getting the perfect angle of our lovely faces:
What a great day, and we picked up several bottles of very fine riesling. After all, the van is running low on stock, so it was about time to replenish. We have two more days in this area before heading to Kassel, up the road about 2 hours. Tchuss!