CONTRIBUTED BY HEATHER LIDOWSKI
It’s easy to overindulge in Germany. Beer is cheaper than water, bratwursts are plentiful, and bakeries invite customers in with aromas of freshly baked bread and pastries. Before too long, the pants that fit me when we arrived in Germany earlier this summer won’t do me much good. Elastic waistbands are beginning to look appealing. However, I might have stumbled upon a solution to my problem. Germany offers something to balance all the indulgences of everyday life: Kulinarische Wanderung or the culinary hike.
Those colorful and plentiful signs at the entrances to many villages proved useful not too long ago when one popped up advertising a Culinary and Wine Hike in Rodenbach, which is a short fifteen minute drive northeast of Ramstein. Hikers were invited to walk along a four mile path amongst pastures and farmland.
Along the path, stands and seating areas were set up where we could purchase several varieties of wine from multiple vineyards and culinary delicacies prepared by area restaurants and chefs. A wine pass can be purchased at the start of the trail for seven Euros that gave you access to specially priced wines that were carefully paired with the dishes offered at each stop. The pass came in the form of a wine glass etched with the event’s name and a nifty lanyard that held the glass while you strolled through the countryside.
The welcome table provided a guide to all the stops, the wine and food offerings at each stop, and suggested pairings. In total, there were eight stops. I followed the suggestions and tried the recommended wine at each stop, and shared food ranging from flammkucken, to vegetarian raviolis, to fire-seared salmon, and a fried cinnamon sugar-coated dough. The good food and the good wine made for a memorable day that I would love to repeat.
If the promise of excellent eating and drinking wasn’t enough, this particular hike was even more inviting since it meandered along a paved path, which made it easy for families to bring along strollers, kids to ride bikes or scooters, and for any pets brought along to keep their paws out of the mud. The frequent stops along the four mile path, which people could travel at their own pace, made it easy for our kids to keep up and rest when needed. As any parent knows, keeping the kids happy improves the experience for the entire family. The event planners even set up a bouncy house at the end of the trek so that the kids, who could enjoy all the food offered but not all the beverages, had something to look forward to, and parents had something to use as a motivational tool.
The casual atmosphere also invited new friendships. We found it was easy to start conversations with people when sharing a picnic table and meeting over and over again at different wine tents. A lovely couple about to celebrate their forty-ninth wedding anniversary explained what Neuer Wein (new wine) was so that we know to look forward to the not-yet fermented wine each fall. Another couple passed along recommendations for places to visit while living in Europe that we might not have found on our own.
So, I feel that I can embrace a few indulgences while walking four miles. All the wine and food consumed simply fueled my hike. I got to exercise, taste some new foods, sample some wine, and meet new friends all at the same time. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next culinary and wine hike and marking my calendar when the signs start popping up around town. More information about culinary hikes, some of which also include beer samplings, can be found at www.kulinarische-wanderung.de/.