Saturday afternoon I returned from a business trip in Brazil. As always, completely energized by my experience in the fabulous country and a bit worn from the overseas flight, I unpacked, started some laundry and reacquainted myself with my Tony cat. Then I packed a day pack (yes, I commonly unpack and repack on the same day…) and hit the sack early to rest up for a Sunday adventure with my travel buddy Tilghman and some friends. I’ve discovered there’s no better way to clear the airplane air out of my lungs than a good stroll in nature.
The plan was to meet some naturalist friends at a nature preserve near the Eifel and hunt for Wildflowers. Wildflower hunting and collecting were a passion of mine when I was a kid. Ok, back then I had time enough for many hobbies – rebuilding old cars, reading, drawing, raising chickens, managing our fruit orchard – it was a great life! There was a time when I knew nearly all the common Wildflowers in northern California and I enjoyed calling them by name as I hiked through the Sierra Nevadas and along the northern coast. So, I was very pleased to pack my camera and lace up my new Hanweg hiking boots for a relaxing stroll through the flowers.
My first pleasant surprise was to learn that I’d spend the day riding in a convertible with our host. What fun! I used to have a corvette convertible and it was great to once again enjoy the open air driving experience. Our first stop was a natural meadow that is preserved for endangered species of flowers to flourish.
We discovered that much of the grass had been cut, which is done intentionally to prevent the natural succession of woody plants in the meadow. Fortunately, we found some uncut areas and began our happy hunting.
I noticed again the lovely signage that is common on German wanderweg (hiking paths). This is truly a paradise for wanderers. You can’t get lost and if you do, it will probably just lead to a better destination, and there will be a brauhaus to refresh your thirst.
Our second stop took us closer to the Eifel region. As we walked across the first ridge we heard and then quickly saw a tractor mower cutting the grass. We steered clear of the tractor and were able to spot a few lovely specimens including the rare German gentian. Just beginning to bloom for the season.
Now, about this time it was approaching 2 pm and we decided to begin our drive to the Ahr valley region. The scenery was pastoral meadows sprinkled with cultivated woodland as we chased a tiny sliver of road following the meandering path of the river. This might sound familiar to you, and that’s because I’m pretty sure we followed the same river from Nurburgring to Trier. I was happy to repeat what is so far one of the prettiest drives I’ve experienced in Germany.
My host generously offered to stop if I wanted to snap a picture. As we left Ritsdorf, this beautiful chapel came into view. “Please stop”, I asked, and thankfully there was a place to pull over safely. I looked both ways and then dashed across the street to climb an overgrown hill and snap this photo. Lucky for me there aren’t any venomous snakes in Germany so I could walk with abandon. As I snapped my photo I was filled with joy. It’s hard to find a more beautiful view. I do believe that the couple on the bench were very entertained by the endeavor.
We continued to follow the Ahr valley and took a turn a bit too early which afforded us some beautiful sweeping views of the valley below. As we entered the Ahr valley and came closer to our destination I spied an interesting looking building that I knew would be the perfect place for lunch. To my delight, this was our destination, the Kloster Marienthal.
We shared a table with two couples – one from Belgium and another from Cologne. My German is suddenly starting to come together now and we had a fun conversation in our best versions of Danglish. Lunch was a simple meal of delicious flammkuchen – a thin crust pizza topped with season vegetables or the traditional schinken (ham) and kase (cheese). This was complimented by a refreshing crisp white wine. All enjoyed in the belly of the old Kloster courtyard. After lunch our hosts departed and we couldn’t resist the urge to take one more walk up among the vines and capture the fading light lingering over the valley. We walked a tiny section of the Ahr wine wanderweg – a path that follows the 25 kilometers of the valley. As we left, we promised to return another day via the train from Cologne for a wine walk weekend.