JOIN US IN AN INTERVIEW WITH PAULINE FORKEL FROM THE PALATINATE REGION, GERMANY!
Pauline is a 21 years old travel blogger from the South of Germany. Currently, she is studying Education to become a teacher but always had the love for acting. When she was 17 and travelling to Sri Lanka, her passion to travel the world began. Not long ago, she decided to start The Globewanderin, a blog about travel, in order to inspire more and more people to discover the beauty that our planet offers.
The Palatinate is the southernmost region in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. In German the state is called Rheinpfalz. The Palatinate is divided into two parts geographically – the lower and upper Palatinate. It is full of forests, hills and wine. It´s located in the southwest of Germany, at the border to France. Due to its ancient history, there are a lot of castles and sights from the middle age.
The German Wine Route is a 85km long scenic road through the palatinate region. It´s the oldest wine route in the world. Protected from cold wind and rain by the palatinate forest and the Rhine valley, it´s also known as Germany´s Tuscany.
Tell us something about the village you stay in and how close it is to the German wine route?
I live in a small village, called Steinweiler. There are about 2000 people living here. The southern part of the German wine route is about 15 minutes from where I live. Our village is surrounded by forest and fields, there are lakes and vineyards close by and lots of other villages. Most villages are very old, Steinweiler for example is 1050 years old and full of people whose families had been living here for generations. Its very quiet and close to nature, which makes it a great place for families and people who love nature. Very close to my village there is a really fun thing to do. The Kletterpark Kandel is a high rope course and it´s lots of fun.
What according to you is the best time to visit the German Wine Route and why?
It really depends on what you would like to see. I would recommend the summer months from June to September. This is the time when there are most wine festivals in almost every village and city. It´s also warm and there is only little rain. During these months, it offers the best views and activities.
During peak time, villages and tourism points offer tours and daytrip. There is a bus, which drives the German wine route and it´s beautiful to sit in the garden or yard of a vineyard, drinking local wine and eating local food. But a visit in spring is great to see the pink almond blossom. In wintertime it´s more quiet but there are lots of Christmas markets.
From where does the German wine route starts and where does it end?
The Route starts in Schweigen-Rechtenbach at the German wine gate and ends in Bockenheim in Frankfurt. It´s approximately 157km long via A65 but you can start and end at wherever you want.
For tourists wanting to visit the Palatinate region, which city should they fly to?
For international flights, the best city to fly to is Frankfurt. From there you can catch the train, bus or rent a car to drive to an accommodation close to the German wine route. Bockenheim is approximately fifteen minutes drive from the Frankfurt airport.
If it’s an intercontinental flight, I would recommend Karlsruhe / Baden Airport which lies in Baden-Baden city in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. It is closer to the German wine route but public transport is not as good as it is from Frankfurt.
Should you rent a car or use public transports?
It´s doable with public transport, however, it’s better to rent a car.
In general, I would recommend renting a car if you plan to drive the whole wine route and do some day trips. There are no big cities on the way, so public transport is not always available. Most villages have a train station and some buses but they don´t run the whole day. Public transport is expensive in Germany and if you want to be flexible and want to drive long distances, a car is the better choice. You can stop at wineries, viewpoints, in picturesque villages and castles along the road.
Not to worry, if you aren’t able to rent a car. Even to the castles in the forests, there are buses. In the summer months there are tourist buses driving the Wine route, so if you can´t rent a car, there are other options to enjoy the German wine route.
If you are the active kind of traveler, there are many different cycling and hiking trails too.
Which place should one stay in or make base at to explore the entire region thoroughly?
There are a lot of places to stay. Local pensions and holiday homes in wineries are everywhere and a great place to stay. You can find them in every village. There are not many hotels in this area, if you prefer to sleep in hotels, you need to stay in small cities, like Annweiler, Neustadt or Landau. This also goes for those who don´t have a car, as it´s easier to get to most places with better public transport connections.
If you have a car, it´s really beautiful to stay in any of the villages. In my opinon, the most beautiful places including Annweiler are Maikammer and St.Martin. They are on the Wine route so you don’t need to get off the route too. Everything is close to each other. For this reason distances are not too long and it doesn´t really matter where you stay.
If you prefer to see the forest and castles, it´s good to stay in Bad Bergzabern and Annweiler.
What are the most well known wine villages in this region?
I´d say Bad Dürkheim is well known, as there is the biggest wine feast in the world: The Wurstmarkt. There also is the biggest wine barrel of the world.
Another beautiful village is St.Martin, it’s known for its old centre and church. It is very picturesque and has a beautiful flair.
The same goes for Maikammer. There are beautiful restaurants with great food and wine. In the yards you can enjoy awesome evenings in summer.
Additionally, Ilbesheim is famous for the Kleine Kalmit, a beautiful place and walk through vineyards and meadows. It is a hill 270.5 m above sea level. It lies outside the eastern edge of Palatine forest. On top there is a little chapel.
I´d say it´s more like the region than specific villages, as they are very small and when one ends, the next begins.
Apart from vineyards what are the other highlights of this region?
The Palatinate forest is the biggest coherent forest in Germany. There are lots of trails for hiking, rock formations for climbing and cycling routes around.
Along the route, castles and ruins are located. We have medieval villages, with some stunning architecture. There are wine feasts, christmas markets during winter, it´s close to France, so a day trip can be easily made. Compared to the rest of Germany, it´s warmer and we have different vegetation. It´s also named the tuscany of Germany, which makes it a great place to grow grapes, and other kind of fruit and vegetables. For this reason, there are markets and stalls on the streets with local products.
What day trips one must take from this region?
There are lots of options for day trips. Towards the southwest you can do a trip to Heidelberg, a famous city on the Neckar river. Situated in the state of Baden-Württemberg, this place is one of the most sought after travel destination in Germany.
As France is close, Straßbourg is a very cute city in the Alsace region, roughly at a distance of 1.5 hours from the German wine route. Check out the 15th century Gothic cathedral in Straßbourg and the captivating beauty of La Petite France located in the centre of the town, which is also a UNESCO world heritage site.
Mannheim and Karlsruhe are cities and great for shopping.
We have a lot of castles in this region, there are some in very good conditions, in which you can do guided tours and sometimes they even do knight feasts to bring people back in the middle age. Burg Berwartstein, Trifels, the Hambacher Schloss, the Drachenfels are famous ones.
On the Hambacher Schloss, democracy in Germany was born. The Villa Ludwigshöhe is an old castle from King Ludwig and is located in Edenkoben. With the Rietburgbahn, which is a cable car, you can also go up to the Rietburg, which is another old castle ruin.
For nature lovers, there is the Hängeseilbrücke Gaierlay, which is a stunning bridge in the forest about 1,5 hours from here. There also are a lot of hiking trails in the Dahner Felsenland with beautiful rock formations or in the palatinate forest.
The Wild und Wanderpark in Silz is a park with wild animals, like wolves or deers. The deers walk freely in the park, so you can get very close to them.
For kids the Sea life and the cathedral in Speyer and Holiday park in Hassloch are great day trips. The Holiday park is a theme park very close to the German wine route. It´s mainly for kids. If adults love to go to a theme park, there is the Europapark in Rust, which is 1,5 hours from here and it´s the biggest theme park in Germany.
What varieties of red and white wine are produced there? Which one do you prefer being a local?
Riesling is a famous wine that is produced here a lot. It´s a very tasty white wine. The Palatinate region is the biggest Riesling producer in the world. Another white wine that we commonly get here is the Grauburgunder.
Moreover, a red wine called Dornfelder is well known too, as well as the Portugieser. This one is one we drink in Weinschorle.
Another famous thing is Neuer Wein, it´s wine still in the fermentation process and also called Federweißer. It´s very sweet and still tastes a bit like grape juice. My favourite wine is Portugieser. I like to drink it with lemonade.
What is the most celebrated holiday/wine festivals of the year in this region?
This definitely is the Wurstmarkt in Bad Dürkheim, the biggest wine festival in the world. It´s huge, like a fair with countless food and drink stalls.
What is the Palatinate region’s most loved cuisine ?
People here love meat. There are very little vegetarian options and vegans are lost. It has some tasty cuisine though.
Very common is Saumagen. Translated that means pork stomach. It´s similar to a sausage but tastes different and has a different shape.
We also love weißer Käß, which basically is sour cream with herbs and onions, served with bread.
Not to forget the famous German sausage. This is something they sell everywhere on markets and stalls.
One of my favourites is the Dampfnudel, which is a sweet or savoury dumpling. It has a salty crust at one side and you eat it with wine sauce, vanilla sauce or potato soup.
My second favourite is Flammkuchen. It´s not particularly German, as it comes from our french neighbours in the Alsace and is like a very thin Pizza with sour cream and all different kinds of topping, commonly bacon and onions. It´s another thing you find on every feast and in most restaurants.
Famous for the region is Schorle. That´s wine mixed with sparkling water or lemonade and is the drink on every wine festival.
The best places to try the food are feasts and wineries. There you get local specialties.
Where to head for wine shopping in this region? Are there any popular weekend/night/flea markets which tourists must visit?
For wine shopping I recommend to drop by at a winery, they also offer wine tasting, so you can try the wines before you buy them. Commonly, you buy a pack of 6 but you can mix the varieties just as you like.
There are farmers markets on the weekends and in summer flea markets as well. Moreover, there is a garden market in Maikammer and a herb and oil market in Kandel.
Would you recommend any local apps for food, transport or hidden gems in the region?
The Outdoor active app helps you to find spots to visit, such as sights, viewpoints and landmarks and navigation to these spots.
Furthermore, there is an app of the Deutsche Bahn, where you can find public transport.
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