When we finished our last trip in April, it was clear that this story was not to end there. Fortunately, even before that trip I had already booked a hostel in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, a region not far away from Blankenheim. But the funny thing is, since I was not quite motivated for the last one before going there, I was not so sure if we’d do the trip to Ahrweiler this time (by the way, I’m going to call Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler just Ahrweiler for the sake of simplicity). Anyway, luckily I decided not to cancel the event. And not quite surprisingly, most of the people from last time signed up this time as well.
Just as last time, I had initially booked 20 places at the hostel in Ahrweiler. Additionally, I also booked a group ticket for the train this time, because it was outside North Rhine-Westphalia and the local train connection was horribly bad. However, just as last time there were more people in the end and I had to extend the reservation. However, there was one girl who spontaneously decided to join us two days before the hike. I booked a bed at the hostel then (but she didn’t need a train ticket since she was living nearby). And a day before, she cancelled, leaving this one bed in organisational limbo. The funny thing is, this was the very girl who organized a similar trip last year and subsequently cancelled it, complaining the people were not cooperative.
In the morning, we all got up at 8am (train leaving at 9:30am). Whatever the source of energy was, they managed to reproduce the dance floor in the living room, completely ignoring Karina, who was not coming, sleeping in her room.
This time, we were really lucky that there was no fuzz with the train journey. Everyone arrived in time and our train also departed in time. So weird that everything goes well with the German railway. We also caught the connection at Remagen.
It’s true that it’s end of May now. So we were somehow expecting a good weather. But I was certainly not expecting the temperature going towards 30 °C. The endless blue sky was almost torturing us while we were waiting for the train at Remagen. This was particularly the case when we left the train station at Mayschoß and started to go uphill right away. The vineyards surrounding us were extremely beautiful but we were still really happy whenever we could be in the shadow. At least we had a good mixture of forests and fields.
The hiking trail we were following, Ahrsteig, starts at Blankenheim and goes up to Sinzig, which was also our destination of the second day. Strangely, the landscape around Ahrweiler has nothing to do with what we saw in Blankenheim, maybe because of the steep vineyards around Ahrweiler, whereas Blankenheim had more forest and was relatively flat. Right before we had a break, we were going up an extremely steep hill. I don’t know when I sweated so much last time.
On top of the mountain there was one restaurant that was closed, but tables and the benches were outside. And it was in the forest. This time I brought my hammock, which I used to use when I was travelling 5 years ago and when I was writing my Ph.D thesis 2 years ago in Lyon in summer, but I didn’t know how to tighten the ropes anymore. With the help of Krithika, who told me she learned the techniques for cows (maybe this is what they call lasso instead of rope). She managed to do it quickly but I myself could not use it long: when Christina took out a volleyball, I left the place and it was gone to other people. While the hammock was not that important to me, we should have guessed that playing volleyball on top of a mountain is not a very good idea.
There was also a tower which must have been used as a watchtower before. A great view over the region.
I didn’t mind staying there for a long time, but we had to move on, because Jen had already booked a wine tasting for 6pm. Actually, I was always thinking that it was for 7pm and organized everything accordingly. So there was generally little space everywhere. We made a group photo quickly and we went forward.
As you can see on the map (actually you can’t because I didn’t put the map yet), we were going down an extreme hill making a zigzag. After going uphills for quite some time, it was another huge exercise. We had another small break after this downhill where there was fresh water coming out of a rocky hillside.
Around this time, we realized that we had to go really quickly to the hostel, as the time was running out for the wine tasting. Jen in the meantime tried to delay the reservation, but apparently the wine grower but they were inviting an external guide and therefore it could not be postponed. We were so much in a hurry that essentially we all lost each other, although somehow we all managed to get to the youth hostel more or less at the same time.
Whereas it took quite some time to check in last time, they gave the keys right away, and this even to Jen (because she arrived earlier than me) whose name was written nowhere in the reservation. We took the keys. The others rushed into their rooms and took a shower. I got stuck at the entrance, because there was a piano. It was nice to see that while I was playing the piano, there were more people who came to the entrance hall. Anyway, each of them had apparently something like 3 min for the shower and we hurried to the wine tasting. I was almost getting dizzy on the way, probably because of the temperature during the day. Kind of a wonder that we were going to drink wine.
So, this winegrower, Kriechel, was chosen because it was the only one that had space for 15 people (not all of us went there). But this week, I talked accidentally about this trip to Ahrweiler with a colleague of mine, who comes from this region. And even though I hadn’t mentioned the wine tasting at that moment, the very first thing he said about Ahrweiler was his favorite winegrower that he visits every year, which happened to be ours.
The guide must have been a typical local person with a strong accent. Even though all of us spoke German, I’m pretty sure that not many of them understood much, also because the vocabulary was fairly special. Anyway we had a cheerful moment with a well-trained oratorio, where some people couldn’t stay standing at some point while we were going through the production line.
We had 6 different wines in total. I must say, they were really bad or too expensive for the price, but still we had some discoveries during the wine tasting: firstly, when you close the nose while drinking (which was a funny scene with all of us holding the nose at the same time), the wine loses its particularities. So if you drink Beaujolais, it’ll taste like the statistical intersection of all of what you think of Beaujolais. Actually if you take a pinch of cinnamon and eat it while you hold your nose, you don’t taste it, but if you remove your hand, you start tasting the cinnamon even though it’s already in your mouth (which was by the way another experiment that the guide had prepared). Another discovery was that if you have two glasses, one of which a normal and another one an opaque, then the same wine doesn’t taste the same. And lastly, by changing the form of the wine glass, the taste changes as well. Actually if you drink wine from a normal glass for water, it tastes really harsh whereas if you take a wine glass, it becomes really mild. Weird, isn’t it?
Despite my first concern, I survived the wine tasting quite well, although it was clear that the atmosphere changed A LOT before and after the wine tasting: it almost looked like a party when we were about to finish.
After the wine tasting, I directly went back to the hostel. The others must have been to a restaurant for dinner. The ones who did not join us on the wine tasting were watching soccer on TV. Fortunately, the bar was open until midnight. We went out towards the river and continued the drinking session. Mixing different alcoholic drinks is not a good idea, but I really needed beer in that moment.
We might have been lucky that the bar was open only until midnight. The riverside was a perfect place to stay so otherwise we might have partied all night long.
Next day, the sunlight early in the morning coming through the not particularly large window appeared to me like a punishment. When we got up, we had more than enough time for the breakfast.
After the breakfast, I got prepared quickly to get back to the piano … It was locked … I don’t know if they did it personally because of me or just out of routine. Anyway it was fairly noisy for this small and well resonant room.
I could feel the exhaustion from the evening, partially because I mixed beer and wine partially because of the tough trail. The latter might have not been as relevant, since those who did not join on the wine tasting looked completely fine. I guess the most affected were Stefan and Sherri. As for Sherri, I had more or less guessed that it would be hard for her, since it was quite some time ago that she joined us on a hike, and I must say it was not the distance that you can do without preparation. Stefan was hit hard probably because the guide was particularly fond of him and he poured twice as much wine in his glass. Actually I didn’t really notice but apparently he was feeling way worse than I had thought.
Just as the very beginning of the hike, the very first part after the youth hostel was going uphill for a few kilometers. We were having exactly the same strong sunlight pouring over us. I wasn’t expecting to sweat as much right after we depart.
I must say whereas the trail was fairly hard, there was no reward like a great view from the top of the mountain, in contrast to the first day. Besides, the weather was getting clearly worse.
There was a small city on the way, Heimersheim, which had a small Italian/Turkish restaurant, where the owner was obviously not expecting anyone today. Since most of us nothing to eat, we invaded the place together. With all of us together, there was no place remaining anymore. The owner looked thrilled to see so many people arriving.
In my daily life, it’s extremely rare that I eat meat. I myself never buy it, so essentially I eat it only when it’s offered to me. But here in this moment in this restaurant, the hunger and exhaustion changed something in me, and I couldn’t resist the shining 1/2 chicken. Probably I won’t eat as much meat until the end of this year.
A few minutes after we left the restaurant, it started raining. And of course I was the stupid one who wasn’t prepared for this moment. Nikola found an umbrella on the street at some point. I don’t understand who throws an umbrella away on a rainy day…
The vineyard was still more or less continuing, and it would have been a beautiful landscape with some slopes, but in the rain and also because of the exhaustion from yesterday that could be seen on everyone’s face, it was more like we were just going towards the goal. Cláudia even made the trail shorter in the last part and apparently everyone agreed (I wasn’t there in that moment), so it was not just my impression, but they were already too tired to walk more. And this was even though it was still around 3pm. The second day was going to an end way earlier than I had thought.
So, as I had already written above, I had bought a train ticket to Ahrweiler, but I did not buy the return ticket, mainly because it was obviously easy to come back by local train. The thing is, even though the Ahr was outside North Rhine-Westphalia (which means the students cannot travel for free and we cannot buy an NRW ticket), it was apparently within the VRS region, which I previously thought was just part of North Rhine-Westphalia. This means in particular, for each VRR ticket we could buy two extension tickets in order for two people to be able to travel. Since I was not so sure about the system, I called the VRR service center while hiking. And as it turned out this was indeed possible. So 6,60 € per person to come back from Ahrweiler. It’s really not bad.
I was fighting with my sweat when we were crossing the city of Sinzig. The rain had already stopped, but it felt like it made it just more humid. The entire weekend was like a never ending fight with sweat. This must have contributed to the exhaustion as well.
From Sinzig, the train directly went back to Düsseldorf. Hernán was busy taking photos of people sleeping everywhere. I had the feeling that we were all completely dead, but Mami later told me that she could have walked more and she did not need the shortcut we took at the end. The difference might have been the wine tasting. Indeed, those who went there looked more tired, especially Stefan, who at the end told me that if he had been at home he would have left the bed on the second day.
Nevertheless, this trip was quite some success, maybe not as much as the last one, probably because it was more challenging this time and most of the people joined again, which makes it less “new”. So in this sense, I should be probably glad that it wasn’t a disappointment. Yet, one thing became clearer to me: when we stay somewhere overnight, we do expect that we won’t go to bed very early, just as was the case this time and last time. So we should be more realistic on the second day and reduce the amount of walk or introduce a different activity. In my opinion, it is not easy to simply reduce the amount of walk, which ends up with an early end like this time or disproportionate amount of breaks like last time. I can imagine something like kayaking or team building programme on the second day, but it will of course depend on the local offer.
The trail for the first day can be downloaded from this link (kml-format) or this link (gpx-format). And the one for the second day can be downloaded from this link (kml-format) or this link (gpx-format)