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Getting out


Wine Country, Speyer

Last week when my partner Anita was visiting we had the opportunity of getting out onto the local hills. It was another very hot day and so the thought of getting into slightly cooler air was incentive enough regardless of the beautiful forest and the big views. We went to a slightly different area to that which I’d visited with friends a few weeks before. The hills were similar but slightly higher here …perhaps around 600m but still densely shrouded in mixed woodland.

As we drove away from Speyer we left the huge bright fields of ripening crops and got into the vast areas of vines – stretching in broken lines for what seemed miles and miles. We parked at a large mansion situated on the side of a hill overlooking this beautiful patchwork of vines – the building apparently a summer villa for a former king – as I say, a modest little residence! But he’d certainly chosen to build his villa in a place with a fantastic view. Looking straight out the view was big….but it was the lines of vines that caught my attention – each patch set at a slightly different angle it seemed and making a perfect composition for a painting.

At this point we had a surprise for although the afternoon was getting on, Mike suggested we climb to the top of the hill …it’s only a couple of hundred metres of ascent he said. It seemed a good idea but then he led us towards what I thought was a bar …a beer before clambering up the steep hillside?! As it turned out, it was a chair lift but one that was due to close for the day we’d get a lift to the top and walk back down. This really is a very civilized place.

Before we knew it we were swinging three or four metres above the ground and creaking our way up through the forest. It was all very peaceful and made even more impressive by the constant birdsong and the appearance at one point of a small deer …seemingly unperturbed by the constant passage of humans as we dangled by above. All too soon we got to the top and were hauled out of our seats by a waiting attendant…..and there was a bar / cafe … with a patio that looked out over the now even bigger views. We had enough time to sit and enjoy the views whilst supping a not very well earned beer ….well, we were carried all the way to the top. It took us about an hour to follow easy paths back down through the steep woods and we saw no one until we were back again to the car park.

I did another short trip out just a few days ago. I had been painting away one afternoon when the doorbell rang and Ingo – one of the members of the Kunstlerbund, arrive and asked if I’d like to do a short trip on a small ferry across the Rhein. It sounded a perfect idea as the heat was getting just a bit too hot in the studio. We drove just a few kilometres from Speyer to one of the inlets that were part of the old Rhein.


Storks, Speyer

It was idyllic, the calm waters reflecting the trees and the small boats moored for fishermen. The main stream of the river was just off to our left and before long a small ferry appeared from this direction and made for a small jetty. I was amazed at how many people and bicycles got off – apparently it’s very popular with cyclists as it saves them crossing the river by one of the busy road bridges.

The hop across the river took just five or six minutes but was lovely in the late afternoon sun. On the other side was a small village and of course a small cafe that was doing a roaring trade with the cyclists. We wandered into the village and on returning towards the ferry a short while later, Ingo suddenly pointed out a large old tree trunk with a massive nest at its top …in which sat three very large young Storks …Wow! The nest was about five metres up off the ground but right close to the road …we’d walked by underneath without seeing them. At such a short distance and with my monocular even I got some amazing views …it really made my day …this really is a very beautiful landscape.