SouthWest Germany makes some of the world’s finest beers, wines and fruit brandies. And its asparagus is an annual highlight. Enjoy them all on active holidays.
Learn about centuries of tradition; talk to brewers and winemakers about their crafts. In the vineyards, pedal the Baden Wine Cycle Path or the Württemberg Wine Cycle Trail. Try free samples from bottles of locally-distilled fruit brandies cooling in “schnapps fountains” on the Schnapps Distillery Trails in Sasbachwalden. In Ehingen, taste award-winning beers at five breweries on the Beer Hiking Trail. In early summer, on the Baden Asparagus Trail, cycle through asparagus fields; order fresh asparagus at taverns.
The Baden Wine Cycle Path (Badische Weinstraße)
New in 2020, the Baden Wine Cycle Path runs from the Swiss border north to the old town of Laudenbach. Its 460 km / 285 miles pass through seven of Baden’s nine winegrowing areas. Along the way are 300 winegrowers, co-ops and even 40 schnapps distilleries! Highlights include the Tuniberg and Kaiserstuhl vineyards near Freiburg and, further north, Gengenbach, Bruchsal, Heidelberg and Weinheim. Follow the bright red Badischer Weinradweg “bike and grapes” signs. Along the way are comfortable hotels, B&Bs, bike shops and e-bike charging stations – all part of the BETT+BIKE network. The route has some serious climbs, so e-bikes are a great choice!
|Start||Grenzach-Wyhlen / Swiss border|
|Distance||460 km / 285 miles|
|Highest point||392 m / 1,300 ft|
Württemberg Wine Cycle Path (Württemberger Weinradweg)
Niederstetten to Rottenburg am Neckar: 350 km / 215 miles
Cycle through glorious landscapes. Stop along the way to sample the local wines. Following the Württemberg Wine Cycle Path (Württemberger Weinradweg) is the perfect active holiday. Pedal the whole route or just a part; spend a few days or a whole week. Summer and autumn, when the weather is warm and pleasant, are ideal. The well-marked trail leads past south-facing slopes, carpeted with vineyards. To sample the wines, stop at any atmospheric inn or winemaker along the way.
The Württemberg Wine Cycle Path starts in Niederstetten (90 min drive northeast of Stuttgart) and finishes in Rottenburg am Neckar, one hour southwest of Stuttgart, near Tübingen. At the beginning, the route weaves through pretty valleys dotted with small towns. Some are famous, such as Bad Mergentheim, with its ancient castle and tales of knights of old. Others are sleepy, like Niedernhall, with its medieval half-timbering. In Heilbronn, the imposing St Kilian's Church and the astonishing astronomical clock on the City Hall are must-sees. As for what to drink, Württemberg is famous for its red wines, especially Trollinger. They even hold a Trollinger Marathon in Heilbronn in May! But other popular reds are also produced, including Lemberger and Schwarzriesling (pinot meunier or Müllerrebe).
Press on along the beautiful Neckar River. Near Hessigheim, look up at the towering cliffs of the Felsengärten, where climbers look like ants crawling up the rockface. The trail curves around Stuttgart, taking in towns such as Waiblingen and Weinstadt, whose name translates as Wine Town. That is particularly apt, as it is known for its vineyards and wine making. Further on, Esslingen am Neckar looks straight out of a fairy tale, with its old houses and cobbled streets. The river meanders through the green landscape that includes the Schönbuch Nature Reserve, one of the region’s largest forests. By contrast, the ancient university town of Tübingen bustles with students, who relax by punting on the river, just like undergraduates at Oxford and Cambridge.
A great way to meet the locals is to join in one of the region’s many wine festivals, often referred to as “wine villages”. The biggest and best is in Heilbronn, the wine-growing capital of Württemberg (mid-September). Sample some of the 300 different wines from co-ops and wineries. Listen to live music in the evening. It’s a great way to relax after a day of cycling!
TIP: Try Schillerwein, a local rosé with origins in the Middle Ages. Unlike most rosés, this is made by blending red and white grapes prior to fermentation.
Suggested six-day tour
|Day 1||Niederstetten to Ingelfingen (65 km / 40 miles)|
|Day 2||Ingelfingen to Heilbronn (70 km / 45 miles)|
|Day 3||Heilbronn to Waiblingen (80 km / 50 miles)|
|Day 4||Waiblingen to Nürtingen (65 km / 40 miles)|
|Day 5||Nürtingen to Tübingen (30 km / 20 miles)|
|Day 6||Tübingen to Rottenburg am Neckar (15 km / 10 miles)|
One of the most authentic Württemberg experiences is stopping for a drink and a meal at Besenwirtschaften, or “pop-up pubs”. Long before the modern idea of “pop-ups” became trendy, these informal – and temporary – taverns were a fixture of the wine-producing scene. Open for only a few weeks in spring and autumn, they must be operated by the winegrowers themselves. Many are in rustic barns, cellars or even garages. How to find them? Just look for a witch-like broom (a Besen in German) on a house or beside the road. The wine offered is straight from the vineyard; the food features local produce. Think sausage and ravioli-like Maultaschen; perfect for hungry cyclists!