Into the hills

agricultural-land-around-speyer

Agricultural land around Speyer

I had an interesting day on Sunday. I was invited to join some friends for a wee tour to see some of the typical local landscape.

We spent the morning looking at some of the very local landscape…..the flat agricultural area adjacent to the Rhine. It’s nearly all crops that are grown here with just a limited amount of grazing. Apparently the humid environment is perfect for the biting insects which can be a real nuisance for both humans and animals alike during the warm summer months. My friends had said the colours of the crops were quite impressive and reminded them of some of my paintings …and they were right. We walked along one path the bordered fields that were just brightly striped with long lines of different crops – different types of lettuce, barley, wheat …and a massive patch of spring onions. It really was quite impressive and I may well try and work a painting out of this strange man made landscape. There were plenty of trees interspersed with the fields as well as villages and further off still …the wooded hills rising several hundred metres and looking very inviting through my monocular.

After this we went down to the side of the Rhine …only to be surprised to find it flooding and the path along it’s banks under water in places. This section though was protected by a large dyke about fifty metres from the rivers edge and we were able to walk along looking out across the fast moving and rather muddy waters. Apparently there had been very heavy rain in the Alps recently and we were looking at the results.

from-the-top-of-the-castle
A view from the castle

After lunch we drove south and then west, moving from the flat agricultural areas to rising ground, vines and beautiful old villages of timber framed farm houses. As we gained height the hills stretching right across the horizon to the west, grew more impressive and were clearly heavily wooded. Around us now were just vast areas of vines …it was absolutely beautiful. Within a short time we were getting close to the first of the hills. They were not particularly high, rising to perhaps a little over 400m, but rose steeply from the surrounding areas of vine and their sides and tops were thickly wooded. The road we were on climbed and entered these woods, zigzagging its way uphill to reach a large car park …a popular spot evidently. From here a broad path wandered its way uphill through the trees. It was rich deciduous woodland full of birdsong …but in the dense mass of branches and leaves it was difficult to see the singers!

in-the-hills-sw-of-speyer

In the hills, sw of Speyer

After about a kilometre the forest cleared to reveal a magnificent ruined castle. It was well preserved and sat atop the hill, built into the natural sandstone. The ramparts fell steeply away and offered magnificent views all around….west across numerous low wooded hills towards France, and in the other direction out across the plains towards the Rhine and the slightly higher hills of the Black Forest. The weather was bright but with large white clouds that created deep shadows across the fields and small villages below us …a stunning patchwork of the German landscape. Being one used to the Scottish hills, it was a little surprising to find that there was a bar /cafe here at the top of the hill …but never liking to miss out I enjoyed a very pleasant beer and caught myself wondering whether such facilities at the top of Beinn an Dothaidh or Ben Starav would be a good idea. Possibly after hauling myself up these I might think it was a good idea …but perhaps the peace, quiet and the horizontal rain and gnawing midges would be best enjoyed without a beer tent!

We watched a falcon of some type turn and swoop around the top of the castle and then we headed back towards the car by a different path. It was a great little day and a fine introduction to the regions landscape.

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