Red Wine Hiking Trail


Rotweinwanderweg MayschossRotweinwanderweg

Day trip from Düsseldorf – about 2 hours by regional train

Just a few hours from Düsseldorf, the landscape morphs into rocky, green hills. And draped across those hills like strings of emerald and ruby jewels? Gorgeous vineyards supported by steep rock cliffs. Old Roman forts crown the rises, while post-card-perfect wine villages and the Ahr river pay tribute from bellow. The Rotweinwanderweg, or 35 km red wine hiking trail, takes adventures straight through the middle of these sights, right into the heart of the vineyards.

Red Wine Hiking Trail

When to Go

We’ve been at the start of summer, and it was beautiful; but the Autumn is incredibly stunning! I suggest planning to go on a weekend when one of the towns has a festival going on (see below for more on festivals).

Rech, Germany

Getting There

Because there are different options and it can be confusing, I prefer to just go to the ticket office in the train station and buy the tickets there. If you have the ticket 1000 or 2000, you can get there for less than 20 Euro. If you go with 4-5 people and some don’t have the ticket 1000/2000, you can get the Schönes Tag ticket from Deutschebahn or the Schönes Wochenende ticket depending on what day you are going to (Under 55 Euro total). Just ask at the people at the counter.

Change trains in Remagen to go to the Ahr Valley. The ride from Remagen is beautiful, so don’t get buried in your phone. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet some locals on the train. We ended up meeting the sweetest 80-year-old woman with beautiful English who was so happy to be our tour guide on the train.

Red Wine Hiking Trail Stops

The Villages

The villages themselves contribute greatly to the charm of the whole experience. You can stop at any of the stops along the route. Which means you can start and end in any of the villages along the trail. Pick a village, start your hike, drink in the views and the wine along the way, stop in villages as you please, and when you get tired, jump on the train in the nearest town and head back. The train ride itself is incredible!

Dernau and Mayschoss Germany

I haven’t been to all of the towns, but I can tell you that Dernau is incredible and there is a great winery to stop for a bite to eat at the bottom of the trail in Mayschoss. Rech is also really cute. The other towns look so charming from the trail up above, and I can’t wait to go back and visit more of them!

The Hike

The vineyards are steep, so you have to tackle a hill to get started, but it winds around and isn’t very difficult. In a few areas you’ll come across about ten rock steps, but the hike is relatively easy. Plus, the views and the wine are well worth it!

Red Wine Hiking Trail

The first time we went to the Rotweinwanderweg, we hiked from Altenahr to Dernau. The second time, we did a shorter route from Mayschoss to Rech. I love this hike at the south end of the trail, but I have a feeling you can’t go wrong wherever you start and end your hike. All along the route, you can enjoy views of the river, the hills, the vineyards, the forests, and you can enjoy the wine! Often you can actually buy wine up in the vineyards from the stands. If the stands aren’t there, just pop into one of the towns along the trail and take a break at a restaurant or winery.

The Festivals

Make sure to check which towns are having  festivals. The festivals start in may and run through October. I think Fall is the most beautiful, and this is also when the harvest festivals are going on, where the wine queens are crowned.

Red wine hiking trail festival

The Wine

The northernmost wine area in Germany, the Ahr Valley is known for red wines. The region is composed of extremely steep slopes and rocky, rugged terrain along the river. The Romans were the first to settle this area with grape vines. It’s a small area though, so quality is much more important here than quantity.

rose at weinhaus michaelishof

Among other varieties, the Ahr region is known for pinot noir and portugieser. You can find more about the wines of this region by looking at the offerings of the wineries.

I really enjoyed the Blanc De Noir, French for “white from black”. They use red grape varieties to make a white wine. It’s interesting, and really good. I like the trocken (dry) version best.

A rare treat would be eiswein, or ice wine, which is a sweet wine caused by naturally freezing concentrate.

There are a lot of options, but you can’t go wrong. Get out there, pick a town, jump on the trail, grab some wine and go till your ready to zoom back home on the train!

Want to see more photos from our adventures to the Rotweinwanderweg?

Have a suggestion about the Red Wine Hiking Trail or other hikes in within a day of Düsseldorf? I’d love for you to leave a comment!

 

 

Tips for Oktoberfest in Munich


Oktoberfest

View all of our Oktoberfest photos and videos. 

Oktoberfest in Munich is renowned around the world.  Is Oktoberfest on your bucket list? In this post I include information on:

  • My favorite and least favorite parts of Oktoberfest
  • What to wear: women and men
  • Information about tents and tables
  • Food and drinks
  • Cautionary warnings

Oktoberfest favorite things

Least favorite things about Oktoberfest

  1. The crowds
  2. The drunken, sometimes aggressive people
  3. The hangovers

What to Wear

Women – a dirndl

OktoberfestDirndl

  1. Decide your price range (stick to it, because you’ll want to up the budget)
  2. Do you want a cotton, informal dirndl or do you want a more formal dirndl?
  3. Do you want a traditional dirndl (a little longer – 60cm, 70c, or 90 cm) or a short dirndl (50cm or less). I was told by my German friends that the shorter dirndl sends a certain negative message, but I have to say I saw a lot of them in Munich. Keep in mind, your boobs are already going to be pushed up front and center, so if you are a modest person, you may not want a really short dress too.
  4. Choose colors, materials, price range, etc…
  5. Which style of dirndlblusen do you want? Off the shoulder? Puffy sleeves? Button up to the neck (very classy looking!), or lace sleeves (I loved these!)?
  6. Shoes. I saw all types of shoes: heels, converse, booties, flats. I went with a pair of black suede wedges.

OktoberfestTips

Men – Lederhosen

Less complicated than the dirndl, but just as awesome. You can find a pair starting at around 100 Euro.

  1. Decide your price range
  2. Shorts, or the traditional mid-calf length?
  3. Light leather or dark leather?
  4. Size? They are meant to be tight at first, as they stretch over time.
  5. Consider buying the full set (shirt, shoes, socks, etc.) or you can wear your own stuff. You can put on a checkered button up shirt, calf high knit socks and brown hiking boots.

Tents and Tables

To reserve a table in a tent, you have to book tables starting ten months ahead of time. You have to reserve through the individual tents. Take a look at this website for more information on the different tents. Tents are fairly expensive to reserve (up to 1,150Euro for a Saturday night in a big tent), but the money also goes toward food & drinks. Due to the price and the amount of drinks you would have to drink to pay off, you usually need 8-10 people to reserve a tent.

OktoberfestTent

You can get into tents without a reserved table, but you need to get there earlier, and you may or may not find a seat. For big groups it is almost required to get a tent, especially on the weekends. You can use an app to see the capacity of each tent as well as other information.

Food and Drinks

A “mass” is one litre of beer (HUGE!). Different tents sell different brands of beer. I suggest ordering a Radler (half lemonade and half beer) because it is a little more forgiving. At some tents, they may just bring you a half litre of sprite and a full beer. Expect each beer to cost about 11Euro plus a 1Euro tip for the ladies bringing them to you (this is quite impressive).

Anywhere – Pretzel (bretzel or breze), recommended with spicy mustard or cheese spread

From a sit-down restaurant or tent – Roast Chicken (hendl), pork knuckle (schweinshaxe) or any type of sausage (Wurst). Order with a side of Hot potato salad (kartofelsalat)

OktoberfestFood

OktoberfestStandFood

Desert – Dampfnudle – a soft role covered in vanilla sauce and butter (you can also get a savory version…but why?), waffle or crepe, carnalized nuts

Lebkuchen – gingerbread hearts with messages like ich liebe dich ( I love you). They are really pretty, but I’ve never seen anyone eat one. You should take a picture with them though.

OktoberfestLebkuchen

Cautionary Warnings

Go easy on the beer. They are huge, and they are stronger than you think.

Don’t walk alone. A lot of people are drunk, and some of those people can get aggressive (especially at night).

There are so many, soooo many people. Carry your own money and a cell phone in case you get separated (like I did). Have a plan in case that happens. In my case, I just went straight to my hotel and Lance met me there (I couldn’t get him on the phone).

If you chug a beer on a bench in one of the tents, during the day you will be applauded if you finish it. At night or after too many, you’ll be applauded and then escorted out.

You’ll end up spending more money than you expect. Be prepared.

When you catch a cab or Uber, make sure that you give them the exact address.  And then watch their progress on your own map if you can. If they take you to one of your hotel’s other locations in the city, you’ll have to pay for the mistake.

OktoberfestTent2

The Wrong End of a Splitting Train


Splitting Train

Don’t make our mistake! Traveling can be fun, relaxing, exhilarating, interesting…it can also be stressful. Last night, we found ourselves laid out on my blanket scarf, sleeping on the floor of the Frankfurt airport at 3AM. How? Because trains are confusing.

Long distance trains in Europe sometimes split into two different trains while in route. Even though you get on the right train, you may be in the wrong train-car unknowingly.

The trick is to look on the end destination on the outside of the individual train car. Remember, a seat reservation with a ticket is optional (and more expensive). This means that if you get in one car, and keep walking on the inside of the car to find a seat, you may enter a car that will split off in a new direction. Get out of the car and check the outside display, double check the interior displays, and confirm with the ticket collector that you are in the correct train-car for your destination.

Your ticket does not state that the train will split. The announcement for the split should be made over the loud speaker, but whether that happens in English depends on if the conductor is able to (or bothers to) speak English. From our understanding (told by a another conductor), the staff should tell you when they scan your ticket. However, twice now our train has split without our realization. The first time, Lance luckily noticed the display screen was not listing our end stop, and thus started asking questions.

We were absolutely unlucky this time, coming on the last train from Munich. The display screens were broken, and the announcements were only in German and were cutting in and out. The staff who checked our ticket didn’t say a word about us being in the wrong car.

We had to take a roundabout route back to Frankfurt and wait a few hours for the next train in the early morning hours. We didn’t get home until 7AM…. and then…Monday morning real life on no sleep.

Check your train-car and check again, or you might be sleeping somewhere less than preferable!

This site has some great tips for train travel in Europe. 

Gent, Belgium


City Center

View all of my photos from Gent, Belgium

Lance, Molly and I recently took the train to Gent, Belgium to celebrate our 4 year anniversary.

1 night stay

Schedule and  Highlights:

DAY 1

TRAVEL:

Leave Düsseldorf Saturday morning by train and arrive in Gent just before lunch. Drop the bags off at the hotel before check in.

Old Buildings

STAY:

Hotel Carlton – This little hotel is great! We were greeted with a complimentary coffee or tea (and a water bowel for Molly), they gave us the run down of the city like we were staying with a friend in their hometown, and they even brought a fancy dog bed up to the room for Molly. It’s clean, very well run, and only a short walk from the city center.

Hotel Carlton

SEE:

Walk to the historical center and explore for a while. You can see all of this and more in just a few hours by foot:

Graslei and Korenlei

Ghent City Center

St. Bavo’s Cathedral (Sint-Baafskathedraal)

St Michael’s Bridge

Gravensteen Castle

Belfry and Cloth Hall (Belfort en Lakenhalle)

Saint Nicholas ChurchGhent Market Hall

Gent Castle

EAT/ DRINK:

Lunch – We picked up wraps at the local grocery for a few euro.

Beer – Gruut Brewrey – worth stopping by before dinner. Beer concocted by one of the only 4 women in Belgium with a license to brew.

DinnerRestaurant De Rave YES! This was a nice place, for our anniversary dinner. There are no English menus, but it doesn’t matter. Put your finger randomly on the page and you’ll find something delicious. We chose the several course option for two with a preset menu, which happened to be duck. YUM.

De Rave Gent

EXPERIENCE:

OdeGrand – one reason we chose Gent on this weekend (mid September) was because of the OdeGrand music festival. There was classical music all around the city during the day and an open air symphony at night in the city center, accompanied by a spectacular fire work display.

DAY 2

SEE:

Walk to the city center. Stop along the way to look at random things going on, like the book fair, and musicians posted up on bridges.

EAT/ DRINK:

Brunch – De Nieuwe Onvrije Schipper  – great food. We had an extraordinarily long wait, but it was because there was a mistake in the kitchen. I think the service is probably normally better, but still pretty slow. Don’t come here if you are in a rush. It’s a great place to sit and people watch, enjoy the old buildings and the water, and relax. There was also an art project next to us, where normal people could sit down and play the piano. It was incredible to see how talented normal people are. TRY THE MASTEL with the apple and cinnamon – YUM.

Candy – Gent has its own special candy, sold from warring candy stands (they hate each other evidently). The name translates to “nose” in English and that is what they look like. They are interesting to try, but for 5 Euro a bag, I wasn’t very taken with them.

Beer – see “City Beach” below.

Belgium Fries – I can’t remember where we went, but find a little stand and try these out. Belgium claims the invented fries, and I have to say they do them well.

Waffles – It’s Brussels that is known for the waffles, but you can find them here too. Don’t get any toppings. If it needs toppings, it probably isn’t the best waffle. If you find someone with a stand – opt for that over a restaurant.

EXPERIENCE:

Gent Street Art

Street Art – there is a graffiti street on Werregarrenstraat (I wasn’t very impressed. More graffiti, less street art). To see more authentic stuff, you have to get outside the city center. We found more toward O19 which has some experimental installations. We poked around outside and found some ok stuff.

I wish I had have found this map of the street art locations before we went.

City Beach – Even though Gent isn’t on an oven or lake, they still have a beach –DOK city beach–  and its a pretty chill and quirky place. When we went, they were having a killer beer festival too – the strangest beers I have ever seen.

TRAVEL:

And then we caught the 5:30 train home.