Anyone who has visited Munich knows the excellence of German beer but, as the German National Tourist Office (GNTO) Australia pointed out last week, Germany also produces exceptional wine – which is less known internationally.
In the ornate Marble Bar at Hilton Sydney Hotel on Thursday, GNTO Australia and Rail Europe Australasia, assisted by German wine expertise, outlined some of the wine and beer events coming up in Germany. Director of the GNTO Australia, Stefanie Eberhard, said that as well as wine and beer, Germany is celebrating its great outdoors this year. The country’s woodlands and extensive natural regions are accessible on the services of German rail service provider, Deutsche Bahn (DB).
The German Consul General in Sydney, Lothar Freischlader, said Germany’s wine-producing and beer-producing regions roughly corresponded to the division between Catholicism and Protestantism in the country. German wine is produced primarily in the west of Germany, along the river Rhine and its tributaries, with the oldest plantations going back to the Roman era.
There’s plenty of wine and beer throughout the country, with DB linking the regions. Rail Europe offers point-to-point fares on DB starting at AUD 28. Services include all domestic long distance trains and IC buses. For more information on the German Rail Pass, DB routes and other European rail passes or tickets, agents can speak to one of Rail Europe’s GSAs including Rail Plus, Rail Tickets, CIT Holidays and Infinity Rail in Australia. See www.raileurope.fr/wheretobuy for more information.
Those keen to enjoy German wine should keep in mind the Rheingau Wine Festival, about to enter its 41st year. It will be held 12-21 August 2016 and will feature wine estates and local delicacies from Rheingau and Wiesbaden, the latter being a 46-minute train ride from Frankfurt. Travellers can explore this region and other parts of Germany using a German Rail Pass.
Rail Europe’s manager Australasia, Ingrid Kocijan, said a four-hour train trip on DB, from Frankfurt to Berlin, for instance, costs from AUD 51. It’s one of many options available.
For beer lovers, Germany this year celebrates the 500th anniversary of the renowned beer purity laws enacted by Herzog Willem in 1516. The laws restrict brewers to using hops, malt, yeast and water – and nothing else. For five centuries, the German Beer Purity Law has determined what can and can’t go into German beer. It’s the oldest food regulation in the world still in force today.
The origin of the reinheitsgebot, as it’s known in German, is a matter of dispute. While Bavarian brewers claim it dates back to a document from 1516, their Thuringian colleagues point to a local trading regulation passed in 1434. Not that it makes any difference to the quality of the beer. The reinheitsgebot is rigorously adhered to everywhere in the country.
Clearly, it’s time to go to Germany and investigate.
To celebrate the reinheitsgebot anniversary, Bavarian brewers plan to open a huge beer barrel. A beer festival will be held in the middle of Munich, 22-24 July 2016. Some 100 breweries will present their best beers. Then, later in the year, comes Oktoberfest.
Between the wine and beer regions, visitors can explore German woodlands and nature. In Hainich National Park, what was once a military exclusion zone is now the largest unbroken expanse of mixed deciduous forest in Europe. The goal of Hainich National Park is to restore a large section of central European forest to its primordial state.
This wild and untamed national park in Thuringia is located in the southern part of the Eichsfeld-Hainich-Werra Valley Nature Park, part of the World Heritage region of Wartburg Hainach. It is situated between the spa town of Bad Langensalza and the Wartburg Castle town of Eisenach.
In winter, the best way to appreciate the scenic beauty is to take a sleigh ride. Schnapps, another German tradition, is a good way to warm up after a sleigh ride, but that’s another story. In spring and autumn, the Rennsteig Trail and other well-marked footways are popular with walkers.
Wildlife proliferates too. At the Hütscheroda Wildcat Village, visitors can see wildcats breakfasting in a forest clearing, along with breathtaking views from a 17-metre-high platform of the Rhön hills, Wartburg Castle and the Thuringian Forest. A thousand-year-old tree, the “Betteleiche” oak, flourishes nearby. Just follow the Rennsteig, a trail that has existed at least since the Middle Ages.
Written by Peter Needham