Sunday, July 1, 2012

Weinwanderwege - Stuttgart's Wine Trails

Stuttgart's a fairly small city with less than 700,000 people. The size, terrain, and the weather remind me of Portland, Oregon, and/or Seattle, Washington, in the United States. Back when I lived in Oceanside, I used to laugh at the numerous German tourists that we'd get each winter. You could always tell them by their small bathing suits and the fact that they were having beach picnics and swimming in the ocean without wetsuits when the locals were bundled up for winter. I now know that June in Germany is a lot like January in San Diego!

Anyway, one benefit (side effect???) of the climate and terrain is that there's a thriving, local wine industry in and around the city. In the photo below, the #1 is the center of the city right near where my German classes are and we live in Vaihingen neighborhood near to where the #2 is. To give the map some scale, it takes about eight minutes in the metro to get between the #1 and #2. It's pretty small. The #3 is the Bad Canstatt area of the city, which is right on the Neckar River. As you go southeast from the #3 towards the #4, you'll see that there's more and more green. (If you look carefully about half-way between #3 and #7, you'll see a white doughnut-shaped building. That's the Mercedes Benz Area.) Where the numbers 4, 5, 6 and 7 is one of the large wine-growing areas right in the city.

From the main train station in Stuttgart, it's only three metro stops to arrive at the Obertürkheim station (#4 on the map above). It's located just a short couple of blocks from the first vineyards, which you can see on the hills behind the station building.

There are a few places where you can tour the vineyards near public transportation in Stuttgart. In this case, you get off the metro and walk between some houses until you're at the start of the vineyards. While walking from the train station, I saw the perfect house for Diana and me. It's a little small but it has classic architecture and is quite airy. You can see it between the two more-modern houses below:

Our first stop of the day was at the Collegium Winery. They are a local grower and wine producer that does a lot to support the local wine-growing industry. They have a couple of locations in the area where you can go to try some wine. I was particularly happy because our roommate had gotten a bottle of wine from Collegium as a gift and it was the best German wine I have had so far.

The building interior and attached wine cellar have interesting architecture (not quite as beautiful as Codorniu, but then again...) and the folks working there are exceptionally nice. The woman we talked with had pretty good English, she patiently explained the different wines they produced, and she even gave us a few free samples.

I didn't buy any wine that day because we were just starting our walk and I didn't want to have to carry a bunch of wine in my backpack. Just call me lazy I guess! I did buy two bottles about three days later in one of Stuttgart's central food markets so their niceness and free samples definitely paid off for them.

From Collegium, we walked to the village of Uhlbach (#5 on the map above), which is where the wine-walk tour goes up into the hills. Before beginning our "strenuous" climb, we stopped off at a lemonade-and-cookie stand run by some girls. I really enjoyed having the chance to speak German with them since most of the questions were within my ability (where are you from, what kind of cookies, and so on). The even explained some things about the area. Sehr gut!

Oh yeah, I almost forgot, we passed a table with some bags of fresh-picked cherries (yep, Stuttgart's full of cherry trees!!!) and an honor box. Diana's first experience with an honor box was when we were visiting the Amish area in Lancaster County outside of Philadelphia. She was waiting for someone to come out to help us with our purchase until I told her that you take what you want and you leave the money in the box. She still dies every time she sees them since, in both Spain and her native Colombia, the cherries AND the money would be gone in less than 60 seconds. Did I mention how much I love cherries? I ate pretty much the whole  500-gram (just over a pound) bag in about 20 minutes...

The scenery was beautiful as we started walking up through the hills. This view towards Uhlbach, with the church, houses, and hills, is sooooo Europe to me.

From Uhlbach, the trail winds its way around the vineyards and hills in the area. This particular walk could probably take about two hours, maybe less, if you don't stop anywhere for too long. Our goal was to walk up to the Würtemberg Mausoleum (Grabkapelle auf dem Württemberg)continue down the other side, and end our walk at another metro station nearby. You can just make out the round mausoleum between the trees on the hill in the center of the photo.

The Würtemberg Mausoleum (#6 on the map above) was built by William I of Würtemberg (the area where Stuttgart is located) in the early 1800s. The building , and especially its interior, reminded me a lot of the Pantheon in Rome.

The reward for making the climb up is the view of the Neckar valley below and Stuttgart off in the distance. Oh, and there's also wine for sale to go with your great view! In the photo below, you can make out some of the industrial area that runs along the river along with the Mercedes Arena, which is a white-roofed, doughnut-shaped building just about 1/3 of the way into the photo from the right side (you can also see it 1/2 way between the #6 and the #7 on the map above).

From the mausoleum, we walked down the other side of the hill to the Obertürkheim metro station (#7 on the map above). The Weinwanderweg was a fun few-hour outing on a nice afternoon. This route was fairly well marked (there were one or two spots that we needed to pay close attention), easy to get to via metro, and not too tough of a climb. The views alone make the trip worthwhile. Diana and I had a great day and, surprise, I even remembered to wear sunblock so, look ma', no sunburn (for once)!

I've been pleasantly surprised by the wine from the Stuttgart region and having the chance to walk through some of the vineyards was a bonus. I think I feel a story coming on about my wine-sampling experiences here. Stay tuned!

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