Whe comes here for the first time in the romantic valley of the Neisse in the border triangle Germany-Poland-Czech Republic, rubs his eyes in amazement. On the German side of the river, close to the border with Poland, there seems to be a fairytale castle. With domes, towers and decor in the Bohemian Baroque style.
And yet St. Marienthal is nothing less than that. Behind the magnificent facades, simplicity, obedience and renunciation prevail. Women who have dedicated their lives to God and their community live here.
Not all vintners in Franconia have, according to the viticulture president Artur Steinmann, adequately prepared for late frosts in spring. Many winemakers simply hoped that things would go well. “We encourage the winegrowers to buy wind machines to protect certain areas from frost,” Steinmann told the German Press Agency in Würzburg. “It has been tried and tested worldwide. Because of the noise in the morning hours between 5:00 am and 7:00 am, when it is usually the coldest, these systems would have to be approved by the authorities. “They don’t run that often, maybe two or three times a year.” The winegrowing association is currently talking to the Kitzingen District Office about a corresponding pilot project in Franconia.
Heavy night frost in spring, when the vines have already sprouted, can damage the vines. In May 2020, Franconia’s winegrowers recorded damage to almost 80 percent of the total of around 6300 hectares of vineyards – in some cases even total loss. The State Institute for Viticulture and Horticulture (LWG) in Veitshöchheim near Würzburg is testing protective methods. Paraffin candles, heating wire, frost protection sprinkling or even a helicopter can provide warmer air between the sticks – depending on the location, one or the other method is best.
In the Palatinate, according to Steinmann, small wind turbines have been used in the vineyard against frost for years. These swirled warmer and colder air and thus protected the sensitive shoots. “They run on gas,” Steinmann explained. Each wind machine costs around 30,000 euros and can cover seven hectares. “A year of frost and the thing is paid for. You have to see it that way. ”The association president appealed urgently to the winegrowers to act accordingly to climate change. “The winemakers have to adjust to that. It is not enough to go to church and pray, it will be fine, ”said Steinmann. “We need, and the winemakers must also understand this, an adaptation strategy to climate change.”
According to LWG information, the vines sprout quite early due to climate change, around mid-April. This has been proven by records since 1968. “And in April we usually have to expect frosts,” said Steinmann. In 2020 there was frost even in May. It is therefore up to the winemakers to join forces and invest together in wind machines and the like. Often there are government grants of up to 25 percent. Steinmann: “I don’t talk about it, do I need it or not. I’m talking about it: Do I want to continue to grow vines in the future or not. And then I have to do things like that. Without that it won’t work in the future. “
DRamatic cliffs. Lonely sandy beaches. Miles of dunes. Pine and deciduous forests. Ice age lakes and moors. The hills of Courland Switzerland. This is the mosaic of the landscapes of Courland (Latvian: Kurzeme) – a piece of Latvia, as one dreams of being a Baltic holidaymaker.
The historical region right on the Baltic Sea in the far west of the country is also culturally exciting and varied: Many influences shaped the Land of the Kurds, a Baltic people whose name derives from the Indo-European krs should derive what means “fast at sea”.
In the 13th century the cures were subjected to the Christian Brotherhood of the Sword and the Order of Teutonic Knights, thus beginning a centuries-long German aristocratic rule. The cures, which spoke their own language, were for a long time the simple rural population, while German was the language of the upper class until the 20th century.
Today Latvian is spoken in Courland. Many cities still have a historical German name, such as Jeglava (Mitau), which was the capital of Courland until 1919, when Latvia became independent. The residence there is the largest baroque palace in the Baltic region and, like numerous other mansions, is a legacy of the Duchy of Courland and Zemgale, which was under the feudal rule of Poland-Lithuania from 1561 to 1795.
In the course of the Third Partition of Poland, the Russian tsarist empire annexed the region, but the Baltic German nobility continued to rule in the Courland Governorate. During the World Wars, Kurland was occupied by Germany and was heavily fought over, with many Latvians joining German troops in World War II and fighting the Red Army. Bloody battles raged in the Kurland basin until May 1945.
Today, travelers will find peace and untouched nature, beautiful country estates and cities – and something unique: In Alsunga, you can get to know the way of life of the Suiti, a Catholic minority that had isolated itself from its Protestant neighborhood since the 17th century. Their old dances and songs have been protected as a World Heritage Site since 2009.
Salmon jump up the waterfall
The Ventas Rumba rapids in the medieval town of Kuldiga (Goldingen) are 249 meters wide – a record in Europe. Although barely two meters high, it is a popular photo backdrop, especially since one of the longest brick bridges in Europe spans the river in the background.
In autumn, the waterfall offers the spectacle of flying fish: salmon jump up to migrate upstream to spawn. In spring, the show repeats itself with a species of carp. Under Duke Jakob, who was born in Goldingen in 1610, they were caught by the thousands with baskets, today they are protected during the spawning season.
Kuldiga, once the largest trade and cultural center of the spa, in the 16th century the residence and temporarily capital of the Duchy of Courland, is also worth a visit because of the picturesque old town.
The colony in the Caribbean
The Great Courland Bay on Tobago and a Latvian postage stamp from 2001 are reminiscent of the times when the Caribbean island off South America was called New Courland. The Duchy of Courland and Zemgale, the smallest European country that had colonies in America and Africa, had conquered Tobago in 1654 with the “coat of arms of the Duchess of Courland”.
On board: cannons, officers, soldiers and 80 families who were supposed to establish plantations for sugar, cotton, coffee and other groceries. Jacobstadt was created, named after the bustling duke on the stamp. He had previously tried in vain to conquer Tobago against the resistance of the Caribs.
In 1649 he managed to build a base in the Gambia River in Africa: Jacob’s Island, now Kunta Kinteh. His capture by the Swedes from 1658 in the Second Northern War heralded the end of colonial dreams. The African Kurland branch was captured by the English in 1661 and Tobago by the Dutch.
Tens of thousands of migratory birds attract birdwatchers
At Cape Kolka, the northernmost point of the Kurland peninsula, where the open Baltic Sea meets the waters of the Gulf of Riga, you can admire both the sunrise and the sunset over the sea – and now in autumn another natural spectacle: tens of thousands of migratory birds fly over daily the sky.
The Slītere National Park, which surrounds the cape and extends as far as the Blue Mountains, is therefore a top destination for birdwatchers who position themselves on the beach with cameras and thick binoculars.
Especially since the multi-faceted landscape of coast, lagoons, swamps and forests is also a breeding area of 125 species, including rarities such as capercaillie and black grouse, black stork, eagle owl, osprey, snake eagle and golden eagle. Elk, wolf and lynx are also at home here, along with rare plants.
The service of the Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Berlin
Noble austerity as a timeless cult: the Kurland service from the Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Berlin has been popular for 230 years. KPM designed it under the name “Service with antique canthe” in 1790 for Peter von Biron, Duke of Courland and Semgallia, who wanted the dishes for his Berlin residence, Schloss Friedrichsfelde. It was later renamed “Courland” in honor of the Duke.
Those who buy the classicist design icon with a mint green background and 24-carat gold decoration (salad bowl: 396 euros) dine like Friedrich Wilhelm II, Thomas Mann and Joseph Beuys, to name just a few of the celebrity fans. Over the years, numerous (also cheaper) variants have been added, in plain white or painted with flowers. The Kurland to-go cup has been a bestseller as a single item for two years.
Latvia has the northernmost vineyard in the world
Wine tourism in Latvia? That is surprising. In fact, the Sabile vineyard is a small miracle: According to the “Guinness Book of Records”, it is the northernmost vineyard in the world. Its origins go back to the time of German rule from the 14th century. New varieties were planted under Duke Jakob (1610–1682), and the strong, sour wine was popular at court.
Today around 30 varieties grow on the 1.5 hectare mountain, most of which were bred by the Latvian luminary Pauls Sukatnieks (1914–1989) especially for the harsh climate, such as the red Zilga grape.
The wine is also curious because it cannot be bought: the vineyard is owned by the city and the state, which by law is not allowed to trade in alcohol. It can only be tasted once a year, at the wine festival at the end of July.
But you can enjoy other wines on wine tours in the region – and become a winemaker yourself: the wine town of Sabile has a tourist offer where you can plant your own grapes and visit them at any time.
“As if the individual wave voices could be distinguished, how they called each other and fell into the word”
In his novel “Wellen” (1911), Eduard Graf von Keyserling, born in 1855 on a manor in Courland, raves about the Baltic Sea – at the same time he draws an ironic portrait of the Baltic German aristocracy, which had nothing to report after the First World War.
The author, himself a member of that aristocratic society, moved to Munich in 1894. Sick of syphilis and atrophy of the spinal cord, he dictated the novel to his sisters there, already blind, in 1918 he died alone. Marcel Reich-Ranicki was one of the later fans of the writer, who was known as the “Baltic Fontane”, and he particularly liked “the fabulous dialogues” about the “waves”.
The book became one of the most important novels of Impressionism, which also offers a lot of insight into the old Courland: “Small and dark, the fishermen’s houses squatted on the pale dunes, here and there a yellow point of light awoke in them that blinked short-sightedly into the rising night. “
Quirky, record-breaking, typical: You can find more parts of our regional geography series here.
This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG. We are happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.
Dhe first trip in the motorhome ends on a meadow. After a few kilometers. Why was the Büchlberg exit also closed? And the GPS didn’t know anything about it. And then leads us on narrow dirt roads in the Bavarian Forest? So a clear decision: turning maneuvers before nothing works. With a length of 7.41 meters. On a three meter wide path. Thanks to the meadow, which makes the large turning circle possible and was not so muddy that the trip would have ended here.
Editor in the economy of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.
After all, we wanted to take a corona-ideal autumn vacation – low-contact, flexible, for the first time in a mobile home. The acid test to get started succeeds. Before dark, the Weinsberg Carasuite 700 ME from the manufacturer Knaus Tabbert is on the campsite of the Schiermeier holiday farm on the southern edge of the Bavarian Forest.
Three other RVs are still there, where dozens of campers cavort in the summer. The children are thrilled. There are goats, ponies, cats, a small dog.
The farmer helps with the watering can
In order for the joy to continue, it is necessary to heat the motorhome. After all, the outside temperature levels off here at eight degrees at the beginning of October and the assumption is that the inside temperature will not be much higher soon. Two gas bottles are ready and can be set in motion as described for the handover. A sense of achievement for a technical layman. The connection of the power cables does not work quite as explained, but it works. A water hose is missing, however. Experienced campers will always have something like this with them. We are not. But the fresh water tank can be filled with a borrowed watering can from the farmer, so that there is enough water for the time being.
The beginning of the journey is an adjustment process. Two adults and three children aged eight, six and just under two years of age have to arrange themselves in around twelve square meters of living space. At first one wonders that this can be really fun for some people and that they choose it as a form of vacation. Only our muddy shoes take up the first square meter.
A floating bed above the kitchen table
Later the situation eased somewhat. An astonishing number of shelves are gradually being discovered. And of course the professionals have ample awnings to expand their living space. We don’t have to face the cooking situation. A pizza service provides dinner. The sleeping situation is wonderful for the children. In the back of the Weinsberg there is a sleeping meadow over the full width of the car from the inside 2.18 meters, on which the children can fight and sleep at some point. After the day’s work, the adults pull down from the ceiling in the front middle section of the car what is known as a lifting bed. Using a ladder or other climbing techniques, you can get onto this 1.42 meter wide bed, which is about 1.50 meters high above the dining table. The distance between the bed and the ceiling is 60 centimeters. This should be borne in mind when suddenly startled at night.
When you fall asleep at the latest, you also notice why the motorhome industry borrows many terms from shipping. In any case, our ship also sways in the harbor. Even when the smallest 16 kilogram passenger is moving. You can probably not get seasick from it. But you are not used to it from your ground floor bed at home. Just as little as the volume of the rain that pounds on the motorhome roof at night, a few centimeters from the ear.
AOn the slopes to the right and left of the Sulm river, neatly combed rows of vines stretch out, with woods enthroned on top. In between, as if decoratively distributed, a handful of villages. The region in the north of Baden-Württemberg, which stretches from Weinsberg to the Löwenstein Mountains, is definitely not one of those places that many visitors can spontaneously locate on a map. But every winemaker knows Weinsberg.
There is no avoiding wine in the Weinsberger Valley. The region is indirectly represented in every better-stocked wine shelf, almost incognito. Because who knows that grape varieties such as Acolon, Cabernet Cubin, Dornfelder and Kerner were all bred here? When the people of the Palatinate state “their” Dornfelder, the Weinsberger smiles knowingly – and refills it.
The oldest viticulture school in Germany is here, the “State Training and Research Institute for Viticulture and Fruit Growing Weinsberg”, founded in 1868 by Immanuel Dornfeld. Since then, viticulture technicians have been working on new grape varieties, winemakers test the quality of the wines produced, and even wine adventure guides are trained here.
The red and white wines produced by the viticulture school are marketed under the name Staatsweingut Weinsberg. Around 250,000 bottles are filled annually. The first vineyards of the state winery are Wildeck Castle in Abstatt, Himmelreich in Gundelsheim and Schemelsberg in Weinsberg.
The Weibertreu castle ruins towers over Weinsberg
Of course, even more important for travelers: Wine tastings and hiking tours can be wonderfully combined here. The Weinsberger Valley in the Heilbronner Land is idyllic, all year round. In summer it attracts with grandiose views over the mountainous landscape, in autumn the vineyards transform into an orgy of colors of yellow and red, which automatically suspects manipulation of every photo.
The first stop in the valley is the Weibertreu castle ruins, which can be seen from afar and towers over Weinsberg. You can tell from a distance that she is old. The building from the early 11th century is only preserved as a ruin. What you don’t see, however, is that she is not only impressive, but also a reminder of the shrewdness of the Weinsberg women.
After a long siege, the Staufer King Conrad III. in the year 1140 the women of the castle free retreat, including as much of their valuable belongings as they could carry – and what did these “loyal women” do? Without further ado, they dragged their men out on their backs. You can check the funny story in the Weibertreu Museum, which gathers all kinds of sources of the true story.
Hiking, cycling and a picnic with wine by the lake
From up there you can already guess that the most important attraction of the Weinsberger Valley is the combination of nature and wine. Hiking and cycling trails criss-cross the region, which tries to distract recreational athletes at every corner.
For example with the “Besen”, that is, the direct bar at the winery – there are around 35 to choose from in the region, from “Weinstüble” to “Kupferkrügle”. Or the countless wine bar. The huts are waiting for visitors in the most unbelievable places. Up on the lonely Wildenberg, for example, where hikers can catch their breath again with a local wine.
The bar on the Breitenauer See is even a bit more spectacular: the red parasols of the “Wengerthäusle”, where the winegrowers from the Weinsberger Tal offer their wines, beckon from afar. It almost seems as if the umbrellas wanted to remind the walkers that the lake has more to offer than just beaches and water sports.
A small wine picnic, for example. Even if there are of course tables and chairs, the visitors sit here and there on the floor, long-stemmed wine glasses in hand, wine bottle in the cooler, plus the chirping of crickets and the view over the Breitenau lake, which changes its color with the time of day.
How do you immediately recognize a Dornfelder?
If you don’t just want to get to know wine by the glass, opt for a wine tour, for example with Claudia Steinbrenner. The 49-year-old wine experience guide comes from a family of winemakers and, together with her mother and sister, cultivates two hectares of vineyards.
Together with her it goes up the Wildenberg von Grantschen, with many stops and stories. About phylloxera, for example, which almost brought European viticulture to a standstill from the middle of the 19th century. Only the import of pest-resistant vine stocks brought the salvation.
Without further ado, Claudia Steinbrenner wipes the earth away on a vine directly above the ground and shows how vines of American origin are refined with a European noble spice to this day and thus defy phylloxera. Then your identification book for vines comes into play, the most important lesson for Weinsberg visitors: How do you immediately recognize a Dornfelder? On the reddish shoots. A real Weinberger.
Tips and information
Getting there: By car via the Weinsberger Kreuz of the A6 and A81 near Heilbronn. With the ICE to Mannheim, for example, then with the regional train to Heilbronn, the remaining nine kilometers to Weinsberg can be covered by S-Bahn, by bike or on foot.
Accommodation: Koppenhöfer winery in Löwenstein-Rittelhof, double rooms from 70 euros (weingut-koppenhoefer.de). Hotel Rappenhof in Weinsberg, double room with breakfast from 122 euros (rappenhof.de).
Weinwissen: Guided hikes and wine seminars with trained lecturers can be booked at: weinerlebnistour.de
Further information: weinsbergertal.com; sw-weinsberg.de
This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG. We are happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.