This past Sunday I had the privilege of joining Oma, Opa, and some friends on one of their weekly hiking trips. Oma had stopped by earlier in the week to invite me and prefaced it with something along the lines of “this is a pretty tough hike, we don’t go far in distance, but it’s very steep and dangerous.” I sort of nodded her off and said of course, I would love to join, completely underestimating the physical ability of my elders. Sunday rolls around and I show up in my finest Urban Outfitters flannel and fancy new hiking boots ready for what I assumed would be a fairly basic hike. An hour car ride later I’m staring up at a flag that Opa has pointed out as the end point of our hike thinking, “it’s a good thing I wore my warmest flannel for a strenuous hike in seventy degree weather” followed by “these people are awfully ambitious.” All thoughts aside, the group set out on what would turn out to be the best hike I’ve ever been on.
The narrow trail weaved through the vineyards, going up, then down, then back up again lacking any guard rail for safety. If anyone needed to pass, from either direction, the entire group would have to lie flat against the side of the hill for people to shimmy carefully by, before we could continue on our way. We used cables to steady ourselves while stepping down on pegs nailed into the side of the hill and climbed ladders to overcome inclines too steep to hike. Plants and rocks became my greatest asset, saving me from, what I can only imagine, would have been a very unpleasant descent off the side of the trail. I began seriously reconsidering the Doppel Royal Cheese Meal (large) that I had consumed the day before as I was being out-hiked by people three times my age.
We eventually reached our destination, wine and cake enticing me to the finish, and boy were those views worth every inch of dirty, sweaty, yet still stylish, flannel. Paraglider’s rained down from above, landing in the vineyards below, as if straight from a postcard. Four different parts of the Moselle River laid out in front of us winding down through the valley and disappearing inthe distance. We all gathered around a table to sip on Federweisser (not technically wine, but i’ll save that for another post),munch on plum cake, and enjoy the view before finishing the day off with a shot of Opa’s homemade raspberry schnapps (he’s the best).
Well, after a month in my lovely new home, Ramersbach, I felt it was time to share with everyone what this place is all about. I arrived at the Frankfurt airport at two o’clock in the afternoon and was greeted by my host mother, Nina. The drive from Frankfurt to Ramersbach was mostly anti-climactic, filled with questions about Germany and some not- so-exciting scenery. A highway is a highway no matter what country you’re in even if it is called the “autobahn.” Once we approached Ramersbach, the opposite was true. There were winding roads, forest upon forest upon forest, rolling hills, ALPACAS (yes alpacas), and quaint German homes. I fell in love almost immediately. I say “almost” because I would soon be formally introduced to the alpacas and that’s when my love became official. For those of you wondering right now, no, alpacas do not originate from Ramersbach, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany. However, if you ask me, German (imported) alpacas have better style and personality. I’ve never met a Peruvian alpaca, but call it a gut feeling.
The village is tiny but that’s what gives Ramersbach its charm. Walking down the streets, there are goats between houses, chickens in people’s backyards, and so many cats you could call Ramersbach “a crazy cat ladies dream.” People are extremely friendly, welcoming, and chatty so I spend a lot of time smiling, nodding, and saying “Danke.” Everyone knows everyone and Friday nights are spent, almost exclusively, drinking at the Halfenhof where you go for one and leave having drank seven, courtesy of the old men in the village.
Once a year, each town in the Rhine has its own Wine Fest which is something I highly recommend to those of you traveling anywhere near the Rhine Valley while in Europe in September/October. These festivals are much like festivals in America, except that during the wine parades the people in the parade (four-year-old children included) fill your glass with wine rather than throwing out candy. This makes parades significantly more fun.
On any other Saturday, I venture down to Bad Neuenahr or Ahrweiler and walk the old cobblestone streets. Maybe stop to have a Milsch Kaffee, try on a dirndl, or do other things such as, go to Aldi, the tanning salon, or my personal favorite, McDonalds, because while most of Ahrweiler looks straight out of a storybook, it’s the year 2014 and this place has that stuff too.
I’d be lying if I said there aren’t days where I find myself a little bored, sitting on Pinterest, just like I would at home. Then I remind myself that this is home; at least for now, so sometimes (a lot of times) Pinterest-ing is completely acceptable. I also try to remind myself that Pinterest is what causes binge eating and that’s why my “Germany diet” isn’t actually going to work. Ramersbach is a pretty special place and while I have an entire year here, I know it will feel more like one month by the time my experience is through. Therefore, I intend to live every moment to the fullest, but for right now I’ll pour myself a glass of “prickly water” and cheers to one day opening my very own alpaca farm somewhere completely unrelated to South America.