Yesterday, Corpus Christi Day, the whole city was shut down and closed like a trap because here in the heavily Catholic state of Baden-Württemberg, it’s a holiday. We innocent American travelers didn’t know that and did not plan on how to feed ourselves. Even the restaurants were closed tight. We made do with what crumbs we could find in our refrigerator and made it through ok.

In the afternoon we took an hour-long walk up into the beginning of the Black Forest for a bit of exercise.

Rhododendrons are in full bloom now. Here's a large one near the trailhead.

Rhododendrons are in full bloom now. Here’s a large one near the trailhead.

Our trail starts here.

Our trail starts here.

Trails went every which way and our poor map was not up to keeping everything straight. A speck on the map was labeled White Cross. That seemed like a good objective as it was less than a mile away, if we didn’t get lost. At times we almost did.

Signposts are common, thank goodness.

Signposts are common, thank goodness.

Along the way, birds were chirping and butterflies were flitting around the numerous wildflowers, despite the dense woods.

No litter or danger from zooming bikers here.

No litter or danger from zooming bikers here.

Ferns galore

Ferns galore

Rain here is about the same as in Santa Rosa, CA but it’s not seasonal so vegetation is thick and verdant.

A nice nest of color.

A nice nest of color.

Then, at one point, suddenly we almost stepped on a living, squirming thing that was crossing the trail.

What is that strange thing?

What is that strange thing?

Eva took a close look and said it sure looked like a Blindschleiche. A what?

A Blindschleiche

A Blindschleiche

We looked it up when we got home, and sure enough, it was a legless lizard. We avoided it’s jaws and let it slither snake-like into the grass, escaping – who knows – a lethal dose of venom, and a swift trailside death.

After all too many guesses as to which steep, upward trail to follow, I finally glimpsed a quite huge white cross through the trees above us.

A glimpse of the cross we were looking for.

A glimpse of the cross we were looking for.

Imposing momument

Imposing momument

It turned out to be a memorial to the war dead from the last two world wars, men who had lived in the village of Zähringen. A swath of trees had been cut down the forest slope so the villagers could have a clear view of it. We in the next village to the south cannot see it.

Around the base were all the names of the fallen.

Around the base were all the names of the fallen.

The cross faced the town from where the victims came.

The cross faced the town from where the victims came.

Continuing along a trail to the south, we came upon a welcomed bench, a memorial presumably to someone deceased.

Bench overlooks Freiburg environs.

Bench overlooks the Freiburg environs.

Good name - Martin

Good name – Martin, and a good long life.

Then we came across yet another inviting bench, constructed with such care. It had a view to the Freiburg cathedral with its tall spire, and well into France.

The bench of one log, perhaps.

The bench of one log, perhaps.

Presently, and not so far from the cross we came across a vineyard, high on a slope, well tended and well fenced against deer, and us.

A Baden State vineyard, all of 3.5 acres.

A Baden State vineyard, all of 3.5 acres.

A sign told us that the state owned it, the grapes were made into the very finest wines and they could be bought at the Baden state wine institute on the other side of Freiburg. We took note and decided to visit the sales office the next day.

Official signage

Official signage

The adjacent sign gave the viticultural history of these slopes. A century ago most of the forest at the lower levels all around Freiburg had been cleared and planted in grapes. Our 1000 year old village of Herdern at that time was focused strictly on grape growing and wine making. To my eyes there is no sign today of this viticultural past. The only remaining vineyard in our vicinity is the 3.5 acre patch we had stumbled across. Today it is devoted mostly to Weissburgunder, a relative of the Chardonnay grape.

This morning we hopped in our car and set the navigator to the wine institute. It was way across Freiburg to the south, a full four miles away. We could almost have walked there! Although located on a busy main two lane road, it was beautifully set in modern buildings nestled against a hillside of flourishing vineyards.

The state viticulture institute.

The state viticulture institute.

Tasting was generous and free. The place was right tiny but busy. Lots of wine was sold in the few minutes we were there.

Not at all like wine tasting at wineries in California.

Not at all like wine tasting at wineries in California.

All the available wines were presented along a wall.

All the available wines were presented along a wall. Eva seems shellshocked by a $40 bottle.

We came home with two bottles that nearly busted our budget at less than $10 each but we wanted something approaching their best. We would love to have wines like these in California, wines seemingly straight from the grape, no oak in sight. Not oaky, mushy and buttery but rather acidic, lean and clean with moderate alcohol.

A Riesling and a Gutedel, a regional specialty.

A Riesling and a Gutedel, a regional specialty.

We asked about the tiny vineyard we had passed by yesterday and wondered whether we might taste wine from it. Unfortunately the wine was sold out, but if we come back in September….

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