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We have been to Germany many times, mostly to Berlin, Hamburg and Munich. We know there are many small quaint towns in Germany worth visiting, though we haven’t made it there…yet.
Jim “The Travel Organizer,” who last wrote about Oahu, Napa Valley, Venice, Singapore, Bangkok, Sonoma County and Myrtle Beach, went to the small town of Deidesheim and here are his tips should you visit.
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If you’ve never heard of Deidesheim, let alone traveled there, you have plenty of company. But after reading this destination report, I hope you will add this postcard-pretty spot on Germany’s famed Weinstrasse (“Wine Road”) to your travel plans. My wife and I spent a week there in March 2018 and had an absolutely amazing time!
Getting to Deidesheim by train
We actually flew into Paris rather than the eminently more logical Frankfurt simply because the flights were significantly less expensive. Our first class (domestic)/business class (TATL) tickets from Raleigh/Durham (RDU) to Charles de Gaulle International Airport (CDG) on American Airlines set us back just $1,156.20/person – less than ¼ of what it would cost us to take the direct flight from Charlotte (CLT) to FRA! Tip: It often pays to compare prices of departure airports (we live only 20 minutes from CLT but RDU, CAE or GSO are all 1.5-3 hours away). And Europe is so well connected by trains that numerous airports may be within a relatively short ride from your ultimate destination. In our case, we could travel from Paris to Deidesheim in 3 hours, 35 minutes for just $62.45/person. And we got a couple nights in the City of Lights thrown in for our troubles – not a bad deal!
Deidesheim’s tourism strategy – “Citta slow”
Quaint, picturesque, idyllic – pick your adjective; you can almost feel yourself decompress and settle into a slower, more relaxed pace. This is by intent, not accident! We had lunch with Stefan Wemhoener, Managing Director of Deidesheim’s Tourist Service and Peter Sorg, wine guide and Deidesheim native (more on Peter below) during which they explained the Citta slow (“slow city”) philosophy adopted by Deidesheim. This approach focuses on “less frantic…more human, environmentally correct” approaches to development. There is no town-wide WiFi which Stefan explains by saying, “We don’t want visitors walking around looking at their mobile phones; we want them to look around and appreciate the beauty of our town and its setting.” And beautiful it is! The photo of Deidesheim shows Germany’s Weinstrasse dissecting the town’s central square.
Fountain commemorating centuries-old custom
For more than 600 years on the Tuesday after Pentecost, the neighboring town of Lambrecht has delivered a geissbock (“billy goat”) to Deidesheim as payment for grazing rights in a forested area of town. Over time, this contractual obligation evolved into a festival in which the youngest married couple from Lambrecht, followed by a procession of townspeople, leads a goat to Deidesheim to be auctioned to the highest bidder. But not just any goat will do! The centuries-old contract stipulates that the goat be “well-horned and well-endowed” (presumably for breeding purposes). Part of the comedic drama of this annual tradition is a lively debate over the – ahem – qualities of the goat. At exactly 5:45pm, a spirited auction begins with the goat going to highest bidder when the church bell strikes 6. Winning bids can be considerable – going as high as 4,444 Euros (=$5,332.49)! Celebrating this tradition is a fountain (geissbockbrunnen) on the way into town from the train station. A billy goat looks down on step-in figures of the traditional dress worn by the couple from Lambrecht, making a great photo opportunity.
Did I mention wine?
If you’re an oenophile (“wine lover”), there is no shortage of wineries and tasting rooms to visit in and around Deidesheim. With more than 14,000 acres in Riesling vines, this is the largest growing area in the world for this varietal. Most are trocken (“dry”) but a select few, left on the vine until they reach a raisin-like state, are used to produce a sweet and expensive nectar. The Deidesheim Weinkerwe, held each year over the second and third weekends (Friday-Tuesday) of August, has been awarded the title of the “most beautiful wine festival of the (region).”
During this festival, scores of wineries, restaurants, artists’ studios and galleries, complemented by 60 live concerts celebrate Deidesheim’s wine growing culture. The Weinfest+ app is worth downloading, even though it is entirely in German, as it facilitates searching for wine festivals by date and location. New in 2018 is the Pfalz Card which allows visitors staying in any of more than 100 hotels, holiday apartments, guesthouses and hostels complimentary bus and train travel as well as admission to many local attractions. One of the best things we did was to arrange a day of wine tasting with Peter Sorg, wine guide and sommelier as our guide. Peter’s knowledge of the wines and winemakers, as well as the history of the area, made our day of wine tasting infinitely more interesting and enjoyable than it could ever have been had we attempted to arrange such an experience on our own. Peter picked us up at our lodging (see below), drove us past the ruins of an ancient Roman winery (complete with sarcophagi!) and on to Kallstadt (childhood home of President Trump’s grandfather) where we tasted wines at Weingut am Nil (literally, “winery on the Nile” but, in this case Nil is the name of a vineyard; barrel room pictured here). Peter also took us to Weingut von Winning and Weingut von Buhl (TripAdvisor’s #2 and #3 things to do in Deidesheim).
Where we stayed
We inherited a timeshare from my wife’s parents and have managed to extract value equal to or greater than the annual maintenance fees by exchanging our week for properties near Disney World, in Las Vegas – multiple times, Hawaii, Northern California, Sedona, New Orleans and twice in Germany including for this vacation in Deidesheim. Residenz Mandelgarten, a holiday apartment complex with studios and 1-bedroom apartments, was perfectly adequate but nothing fancy; the view from our window is pictured here. It is just a 5 minute walk from the train station, a large supermarket (we bought breakfast items for an entire week for a little more than $35!) and Deidesheim’s many wonderful restaurants. Each unit has a kitchenette; the 1 bedroom apartments are very spacious.
Things to consider if you stay here:
- The website is only in German; Google Translate is your friend here.
- A deposit of 100 Euros – in currency – is required at registration.
- This property has no elevator; the studios on the top floor require climbing 2 flights of stairs, the last being a bit narrow.
- WiFi costs 15 Euros/week for 2 devices but speeds are fine for e-mail, surfing, etc. – we didn’t attempt to stream any video content even that might have been a welcome change from the single English channel (CNN).
Where we ate
The total population of Deidesheim is just 3,735 but it has 4 restaurants in the 2018 Michelin Guide! We ate at one of them – Fumi.
Fumi (rated #2 restaurant in Deidesheim on TripAdvisor with 75% “excellent” ratings, 4.6 out of 5 on Google reviews) is a Japanese restaurant on the estate of Weingut Josef Biffar, located just a few steps north of the train station. The Tokuoka family from Japan purchased Weingut Josef Biffar in 2013. Fumiko (from which the restaurant’s name is derived) Tokuoka manages this chic restaurant on the estate which features traditional Japanese menu items but also offers a Japanese take on traditional German dishes. Where else can you order Japanese schnitzel? Fumi also offers a 5-course menu, with or without paired wines. Our tab for 2 people, with wine and tip, came to 86 Euros which we considered a good value given the quality of the food and wine along with the ambience of the setting.
While we fully appreciated the “Japan…located in Deidesheim” experience at Fumi, we are both of Germanic descent and were in search of authentic, local German cuisine. We fell in love with Zum Woibauer (4.5 stars on TripAdvisor, 4.6 on Google reviews), just around the corner from Schloss (“castle” – although it looks more like a grand estate than a typical “castle”) Deidesheim. Servings here are huge; the schnitzel is so large it has to be served on a platter instead of a plate! Tip: Make a reservation a day or two ahead of time; it can get crowded!
The name for the region in which Deidesheim is located is der Pfalz (“the Palatinate,” from the Latin word palatium, meaning “palace”), referencing the period in Germany history during which it was ruled over by a prince of Holy Roman Empire. The Pfalz is known for two dishes: Saumagen (“sow’s stomach”) and Leberknodel (“liver dumpling”). While the former may not sound particularly appetizing, it has been enjoyed by the many heads of state German Chancellor Helmut Kohl brought to Deidesheim. The latter is kind of like a meatball made from pork. The restaurant Leopold at Weingut von Winning, also in the Michelin Guide, serves a dish it calls “Pfalz Trilogy” (a plate of house-made Bratwurst and Leberknodel along with Saumagen made by a town butcher, all complemented by Riesling sauerkraut and mashed potatoes) for less than 17 Euros. It’s what I ordered and it was fabulous!
Largest wine barrel in the world…sort of
The neighboring town of Bad Durkeim is home to the Durkheimer Fass (“the barrel/cask of Durkheim”). While it has never actually held wine, it can hold 430 guests on two levels in its interior restaurant and wine bar. It sits at one end of the site for the Wurstmarkt (“sausage market”) the name given to the biggest wine festival in the world. Held each year on the second and third weekends in September, the Wurstmarkt attracts 600,000 guests from all over the world.
World-renowned guitar maker Jens Ritter
The definition of a serendipitous moment came when our guide, Peter Sorg, rapped on the window of an unassuming building while walking down the Weinstrasse and asked the gentleman who peered out whether we might drop in for a moment. Oh, were we in for a surprise! As it turned out, this was none other than the home and studio of Jens Ritter, who has been called “the Stradivarius of the electric guitar.” In 2011, the Smithsonian Institution acquired “Eye of Horus,” a bass guitar Ritter designed and made for Phil Lesh, a founding member of The Grateful Dead. Equally noteworthy, the Metropolitan Museum of Art started its collection of electronic base guitars with one of Ritter’s creations.
Self-guided walking tour of Deidesheim
Deidesheim is not very big but there are a number of additional interesting museums, wineries, tasting rooms, houses of worship and locations with architectural interest that are worth seeing. I have mapped out a self-guided walking tour with descriptions of each stop which I will be happy to share with readers of The Flight Deal.
About the Author:
I organize things; it’s what I do! I enjoy the natural adrenaline high of travel as much as the next person but I also try to limit the likelihood that the surprises I experience along the way will be unpleasant ones. To this end, I spend more hours than most preparing for each trip. Fortunately for me, I enjoy the anticipation of travel as much as the experience of it. The focus of my trip reports will be to help those who read them to enjoy high value experiences — maximizing enjoyment while minimizing cost. I’ve been a minister, nonprofit agency executive, professor and consultant; my “job” in retirement is planning our next trip. If you would like additional information and/or recommendations, please feel free to contact “The Travel Organizer” via email.
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