Hiking report

Weekend hiking trip to Neustadt an der Weinstraße!

It was when we were sitting on the train back to Düsseldorf after the hike in Sauerland some months ago that Miriam asked me whether I’d regularly organise weekend hikes. In that moment, there were a couple of weekend trips waiting for us, but none of them had empty slots. So instead of joining an existing one, she decided to suggest one. Together with Zaman and Sarah, who happened to be there, we created our plan there, and that was pretty much how this trip was born.

This is the second weekend trip where we took a group ticket for ICE after Heidelberg. Neustadt is just as far away as Heidelberg, but the connection was quite bad compared to Heidelberg. This is maybe even a good sign, as the complicated areas are often the most interesting ones.

Source: openstreetmap

I have to say, I was surprised to see the topography of this area first: There’s a mountain range going from the German French border to the north, at a certain distance from the Rhine. But then there’s a strip of land along the Rhine that is entirely flat. This flat area is called Weinstraße (wine street) and is famous for its white wines. This small piece of fact quite obviously attracted a few people. It is true that we organise a wine tasting session once, but I was rather sure that we wouldn’t be able to do the same, because such a session requires at least 10 people and it’s unlikely that they’d allow us to mix with other groups due to corona measures. So, no wine tasting. I just had to hope that I still wouldn’t disappoint them.

Friday evening, the train was leaving at 4:22 from Düsseldorf. For me of course there’s no problem to travel early, but I was surprised that others could turn up so early. Is no one working in this country on Fridays?

With everyone arriving in time, everything seemed perfect, until we reached Frankfurt, where we were to change trains. Miriam and I were in the DB lounge, when she gave a sudden cry – she left her suitcase on the train.

Then there was a short moment of panic. She contacted local DB personnel, who tried to contact the inspectors on the train via WhatsApp, who then informed Miriam again via WhatsApp that the suitcase was found. Nevertheless, for some reason still the suitcase went to the final destination. Now, apparently either Miriam has to go to Munich or make them send it by post (for something like 20€?). Well, anyway there was nothing valuable in the suitcase. It kind of became a running gag over the weekend.

With no delay today, we could arrive in Neustadt at 7pm. Miriam went to the city center to get some stuff for the weekend. The rest of us went to the hostel directly.

Despite corona, the hostel was apparently quite full. That could be because most of the people still travelled, but then inside Germany, since countries like Spain or France are high risk areas now. But anyway youth hostels somehow tend to be quite full, so maybe more or less crowded didn’t really play an important role.

As I had expected, we got three 4p-rooms. One of them happened to have two child beds, although the unfortunate ones, Zaman and Kai, didn’t realise that they took the wrong ones.

We then headed to the city center. The hostel and the city center were on the opposite sides of the city, but luckily the city of Neustadt itself is very small, so we could easily walk to the city center.

Before we came to Neustadt, Miriam was quite excited about the trip and decided to make a reservation for the first night two months ahead. Later I found out that that was not ridiculously early.

According to Miriam, we should order Riesling in Neustadt. Well, I don’t like Riesling. So I ordered a glass of pinot noir. Well, I shouldn’t have. It was almost like I was punished for ordering something other than Riesling.

And if you come to a small city, be prepared for a traditional food :). In the case of Germany, it’s full of meat. It’s not quite as extreme as in Bavaria, but still there was still only a small section in the menu for vegetarian dishes.

After dinner, we were roaming in the city. This place is full of people everywhere, but it wasn’t nearly as chaotic as in Düsseldorf Altstadt. There’s clearly something we can learn from them.

At one point I left the group to draw money from a nearby ATM. Coming back to the group turned out to be quite a task: maybe because there aren’t a lot of strangers in this area, it was like I was called at each outside table that I passed by. By the time I came back I was well filled up with all the drinks.

This being said, I hardly felt anything from the night when I woke up. That’s a great thing about drinking light-coloured drinks. Others looked also perfectly fine, except for Zaman, who can actually never really sleep well. Besides, we found out only there that he and Kai got child beds.

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Before the breakfast was over, Miriam headed to the city first. We then followed, with quite a significant delay. But still we could leave the hostel around 9:20. It’s getting more and more solid over the couple of weekend hikes that the starting time should be somewhere between 9 and 9:30, which is something that I should keep in mind.

For both Saturday and Sunday, I created the trail. You certainly already know that I have some experience in making trails by now, but for Neustadt I had a bit of difficulties. In strong contrast to Heidelberg or Koblenz, Neustadt doesn’t lie in a valley. We were going to a mountainous area, with one side completely open. That could allow us to see an endless horizon, but that’s usually not quite spectacular. I had to think about the trails several times and ended up with some sort of compromise.

But at least it was a good idea to include all castles and other landmarks. We first reached the first destination, Wolfsburg, within the first hour. It’s a fortress, although today we see only its ruins.

After this, we were walking through an endless forest. Actually on the map above you can probably also see that the entire area is a huge forest. This was very much the part which I wanted to avoid, and it looked very much like my expectation. Well, I personally enjoyed being there, although I have to admit why not walking in Königswinter if we are anyway in a forest.

There was a restaurant at the mid point. From there we could see more variations in the landscape, and there were also more cafés, restaurants etc. along the way.

My observation of the day: there were a lot of stones/rocks here. It looks somewhat similar in Kassel and Koblenz, where there were Romans. I wonder if there was also some sort of history related to the Roman Empire. Well, the Roman site at Kassel was discovered only recently. Maybe there’s still something hidden in this area as well?

We had our last break at Weinbiet. This place had something like a Bismarck tower (which I thought was a Bismarck tower but it’s not listed on Wikipedia so I presume it’s something different). From there we could see the flat land that stretches westward from Neustadt.

Even though an important local export of this area is wine, we could hardly see vineyards along the trail. Only a little bit at the beginning and the end (which is actually the same place).

Miriam left us at the end of the hike because she was having dinner with her parents, who actually live actually in Landau, which is right next to Neustadt. In fact, over the course of the day we tried to find a good restaurant and make a reservation, but wherever we thought would be good was always already full. Frankly, we should have done like Miriam and made a reservation a few weeks in advance.

Anyway, we ended up in a horrible Greek restaurant for dinner, after which some people went back to the hostel, others stayed in the city center to try out local wines.

There were a couple of wine bars, where there was a good collection of wines for 3€ a glass. With this, we could try out a couple of different types of wine. This was certainly different from what we called wine tasting in Ahrweiler, but this one was much cheaper and still fulfilled the purpose. And I have to say, I still don’t like Riesling.

I thought we’d go back to the hostel right after the bar, but Miriam and Eirini suggested to go to a Shisha bar, which the staff at the wine bar strongly discouraged us from doing, because it was apparently quite a shady place.

At the same time, we realised that none of us had a key to the hostel, because there was at least one person from each room that went back to the hostel we handed over all the keys. Really, there’s something we can think of better next time. But frankly, we were on a weekend trip – I don’t understand why those people wanted to go back to the hostel directly after dinner. Anyway, with no way to go back to the hostel, we went to the Shisha bar.

I hate smoking, but I love Shisha, because of the social nature of smoking bong and the relaxing atmosphere it creates. On the photo above, it might not be quite clear, but it was indeed a rather shady place there.

We were also on the dance floor downstairs, which the staff at the wine bar explicitly told us not to visit. There was no one there. According to what we heard from some people there, they used to have illegal stuff until some time ago, but apparently they don’t do that anymore. It would have been interesting to know what was actually going on…

After a full day of hiking and so much alcohol at the end of the day, I could hardly stand when we were going back to the hostel. We tried a few times to contact people who were already inside the hostel – in vain. With no clear plan in mind, we went back there at 2:30am.

Instead of going to the front door, which we knew would be closed, I directly headed to the other side of the building, in the hope that some windows could be open. And as we found out, there was one door kept open, as if they were making any sort of security totally ridiculous. Thanks to this, we could all enter the building and since all the doors inside were kept open, we could all peacefully reach our beds. Frankly, I thought we’d have to sleep in the parking. So great to be in a real bed.

It felt like I closed my eyes and when I opened them again, it was morning. I could hardly hear my alarm ringing. Fortunately, again, I had no hangover. So I almost got the feeling that I had an 8h sleep.

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In contrast to other hostels, things were slightly easier in this hostel. Firstly, the breakfast was a buffet again (which was forbidden for some time in Germany, so we had to order what we wanted at the counter in Heidelberg for example). And also we could leave our stuff at the hostel over the last day. Well, for this part I don’t really understand why it was not possible in Heidelberg.

Our main destination of the day was the other castle, Heimbacher Schloss, which lies in the south of the city and essentially a main tourist point of Neustadt. For this, we walked up a mountain little by little today. So there was no steep area, but still we did quite an altitude. I guess it was a good trail for the second day.

The castle was very much a tourist attraction. We were surrounded by grandpas and grandmas who must have arrived there by car. It had indeed an interesting construction and a great view. Rather than seeing my description here, you should probably go there yourself and see what I mean by that :).

So, in contrast to other weekend trips, where we usually don’t have a fixed return ticket (except for Heidelberg), we had to take a train at 3pm today. With this in mind, I had to calculate meticulously where we’d be in which moment. The first mark was 11:30, where I wanted to reach the castle. It worked perfectly. And then I thought we shouldn’t leave the castle after 12:30. This worked perfectly as well. It was only a question of how much time we wanted to have in the city center to have lunch afterwards.

On the way back to the hostel, we could see more vineyards. It’s a beautiful landscape, but please don’t stead grapes even if they look super attractive. Whether it’s well protected or not, stealing is stealing.

We reached the hostel around 2pm. We got one hour, so we went to the city center again to have lunch in small groups. We then got a train back to Mannheim, then to Frankfurt and finally back to Düsseldorf. No need to explain how well I slept in the night 🙂

As I already stated above, this was the second weekend trip with a long ride. Apparently most of the people are flexible enough to take any train on Friday afternoon. That’s something rather important for me to know, because I don’t really have an idea about this kind of stuff for normal people (and not scientists, who work whenever they want).

Even though everything went really smoothly this time, I still have to point out a few problems here. Firstly, This area is not so much fun for hiking. Sure, a weekend trip is fun, and sure, we were hiking in the nature. But if that’s all about it, we could have very well taken a nearby hostel, like let’s say around Bonn and organized a weekend trip there as well.

And then I was sort of wondering whether it really made so much sense for the ones to join who went straight back to the hostel after dinner. It’s true that until last year it didn’t really matter whether some people stay and others go, because the group was larger and it would have rather been a problem if everyone had done the same. But this time it actually engendered the problem that we countered the second day, namely the one that we didn’t have a key anymore for the hostel. I guess we should have a better strategy for the next time.

But I have to say it was great to find out this new way of enjoying wines: taking small glasses of different types of wine. As we will have a few more weekend trips to wine making areas, there’s for sure something we can look forward to :).

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