While in the area (even if the weather was so-and-so) we decided that just the racetrack was not enough. We knew we were in a very well known place for wine (this german region is what Alsace is for France – once upon a time just the Rhine river divided these two countries). So why not have a drive through it? We had two days of pure pleasure……..
The German Wine Route, running through the Palatinate countryside from Schweigen-Rechtenbach to Bockenheim, is a delight. We simply followed the signs showing a bunch of grapes and enjoyed all the 85 kilometres of pure fresh air, fine wines, good cuisine and beautiful villages. The Palatinate region is Germany’s second largest wine-growing region, the vines are so tightly clustered that the rolling landscape resembles a vast emerald lake and the surrounding countryside, peppered with castles, palaces and the remains of Roman settlements, is enchanting, and the route is lined by small towns – often more than 1,000 years old, wine-growing villages, romantic corners, museums and sites of historical interest.
We started our visit from the village of Altenhar in the district of Ahrweiler, situated on the river Ahr, in the Eifel mountains, with the ruins of the Are castle towering the valley. It was built around 1100. Troups from Cologne destroyed it in 1714 because freebooters used it as their base for trouble making. Once upon a time the castle was the administration headquarters and a prison of the Cologne Archbishops.
Here I had the best gulash soup of my life!
Between villages the road was so little crowded that we could really enjoy the view………….
We had another stop at Ahrweiler and I’m really glad we did because this is really a charming little place.
The region was conquered by the Romans under Julius Caesar about 50 BC. Some hundred years later the Roman fort of Rigomagus was founded, later to become the city of Remagen. The Vinxtbach, a narrow brook and an affluent of the Rhine, was defined as the borderline between the Roman provinces of Germania superior and Germania inferior. There was originally a Roman villa located here, and the German suffix, “weiler”, is a linguistic corruption of the Latin term “villa”. Portions of an Roman aqueduct have also been found nearby. Many towns were first mentioned in the 9th century, among them Ahrweiler. The name of Ahrweiler was first noted in the Land Register of the Abbey of Prüm, which during the ninth century, owned almost all of the property in the town. From 1100 to 1246 the district was ruled by the Grafen (Counts) von Are (Ahr), and then by their relatives, the Grafen von Hochstaden. These families were mainly responsible for the development of Ahrweiler, which then was, together with Bonn, Andernach and Nürburg, one of the capitals of the Archbishopric of Cologne. Defensive walls, ramparts and towers were built around the town, and these constructions remain mostly unimpaired. In the early years of the Holy Roman Empire there was an earldom of Ahr, but it was annexed by the Bishop of Cologne in 1246. The parish church, St. Laurentius (St. Laurence), was originally built in 1269, and is one of the most beautiful Gothic churches in the Rhineland.
Since the Middle Ages, the town has been roughly divided by the four City Gates. In each division there was a commons, which originally belonged to the town’s citizens. These were later put in the care of the protective Social Communities, who protected the interests of the ihabitants. These Social Communities (Hutengemeinschaften) continue to exist. During a disaterous period in the Thirty Years War in the 17th century, the town was besieged, plundered and set on fire by the French. But the blackest day in Ahrweiler’s history was on May 1, 1689, when the town was razed to the ground, and only ten houses were left standing among the ruins.
Although much of the town resisted early National Socialism, and the town leaders had refused Adolf Hitler a chance to address the community in 1932, they were not able to escape the reach of the Nazis entirely. Ahrweiler had a small Jewish community before the Nazis came to power, but they were all taken away and relocated, some to concentration camps, after 1933. No member of this community ever returned to Ahrweiler, and today, the town’s old synagogue is used for art displays.The Ahrweiler City Gate and many other historical buildings were partially destroyed at the end of World War II during the contested advances of the Allies.
The next day we hit that road again but in the other direction……….towards the Rhine river and Remagen (and no, the sky turned up really bad, but luckily no rain)
The Ludendorff Bridge (known frequently by English speaking people during World War II as the Bridge at Remagen) was a railroad bridge across the Rhine River in Nazi Germany, connecting the villages of Remagen and Erpel between two ridges of hills flanking the river. At the end of Operation Lumberjack (1 through 7 March 1945), the troops of the American 1st Army approached Remagen and they were much surprised to find that the bridge was still standing. The Ludendorff Bridge was notable for its capture on 7–8 March 1945 by the U.S. Army during the Battle of Remagen. This enabled the U.S. Army to establish a bridgehead on the eastern side of the Rhine. The capture of this bridge was an important event of World War II in Western Europe because this was the only significant bridge still standing over the Rhine from the West into the heartland of Nazi Germany. Since it was a railroad bridge, this bridge was also strong enough that the U.S. Army could cross it immediately with heavy tanks and artillery pieces and trucks full of military supplies. Once the bridge was captured, the troops of the Wehrmacht began strenuous efforts to destroy or damage it, or to slow the U.S. Army’s use of it. Among other things the Wehrmacht used heavy artillery and V-2 rockets against the bridge and it also sent frogmen at night to sabotage it. However, these were discovered and shot by American sentries using strong floodlights. For those who like this kind of movies (hubby in the first place) this is considered a masterpiece.
But this village is not just that…..
We had lunch along the river at this italian restaurant and the waiter (half italian, half american with a hint of german blood) dwelled on the history of the battle and the bridge and enlightend us on his father involvement in the battle…………..
And then we were ready for the track…………