Now I've begun to think that there is no such thing as stress free driving in Germany. The autobahn is a pretty wild place to drive, as are the crowded, narrow streets of most European cities. Add to that list idyllic country roads.
|Patron saint of grapes?|
|Wine tasting center|
Finally, we crossed the Hansel and Gretel woods and emerged into wine country. The wine areas of Europe tend to be unusually dry parts of an otherwise damp continent. On this day, it looked like it could rain any moment with dark clouds scudding across a pale, blue sky. After days of unseasonably hot weather, there was finally a brisk, cool breeze. I thought that maybe the driving would become more relaxing. It is, between the picturesque towns, but the villages themselves are crazy networks of narrow cobble stoned streets with terrible visibility and plenty of walking and biking tourists to watch out for. The best thing to do is find a vacant spot to park along a medieval alley, get out of the car and do some wine tasting. That's what we did.
At our first stop (and I'm sorry that I don't remember the names of the towns--we sort of lost track and just followed the Weinstrasse) we ate a salad garnished with German sausages and, of course, drank some local Riesling. After a leisurely meal, we hopped back in the car and traveled to the next lovely town, found a wine tasting station populated by many other pilgrims of the grape, sitting at tables outside and speaking a number of different languages, drank some more Riesling (a good summer wine) and purchased a few bottles to go. By this time, the grape was going to my head. Driving the narrow village streets was still treacherous, yet somehow I felt more relaxed. Still, after bumping along cobblestones on steep, medieval streets, I decided that we needed to find a good cafe to get some coffee to offset my bacchian reverie. We found a lovely town with an eis cafe open, which specializes in ice cream treats. I mainly wanted coffee, which they did have, but Lawna and I also shared a banana split, probably the first one I've had since college. Yes, friends, I have gained some of my weight back. It's a never ending battle.
Restaurant service is slow in Europe; you are supposed to relax and enjoy a meal or snack. After an hour and a half, only part of which was spent eating and the rest spent talking and watching two toddlers paint their faces with chocolate and play outside, pretending to feed a statue an ice cream cone, I finally asked for the check, paid, and we set out to walk it all off in the picturesque village. It was late enough in the afternoon so that most businesses were closing, and we found a pharmacy named Luckenbach, like in Texas. We also found an old country church open and walked around inside and took pictures. Eventually, we wandered back to the car and headed back home, yes, along the same narrow forest roads. More white knuckle stuff!
We didn't see much of the wine road. It extends from Germany's southern border with France all the way to the Netherlands. When you are sampling wine along the way at restaurants that serve you at a leisurely pace, it's hard to rush through the area. Nor is it advisable. There are also castles along the way, none of which we saw. We would probably need at least a week to get a decent sense of the region and its offerings. People have been making wine here since Roman times, and there is plenty of interesting history to be learned. We scratched just the shallowest skin of the surface. As I keep saying, we have three years.