Fortunately, the volcano isn’t active these days. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good lead-in photo of it because it’s so worn down there’s not too much left of it. But the volcano is highly significant as a geological feature. It’s located right in the tippy SW corner of the country, plunk in the middle of the Rhine River valley. Seasonal warm winds from the Sahara Desert in Africa blow up the Rhone River valley, through France, and then over to the Rhine valley. The Kaiserstuhl (Emperor’s throne) stops the flow of warm air. Sand carried all the way from Africa drops and makes a fine loess soil. It’s great for growing vegetables and fruits. The slopes are prime land for grapes. It’s one of the warmest spots in Germany and the region is a major salad bowl, so to say.

Up, up and away, in the wrong direction!

Up, up and away, in the wrong direction!

Our intention was to drive the hour’s distance from our abode high in the Black Forest for a good hike to the top-most peak of the Kaiserstuhl. (Notice how diminutive Europe is, where an hour’s drive will really get you somewhere different). We didn’t make it. Poor planning and weather interfered. Our hike started in the village of Bickensohl, nestled inside the crater. We had already been here a couple of years before, but had turned back when Eva’s heart began to send out warning signals.

I knew exactly where to go. But I was wrong. The trail I chose so dauntlessly was in the opposite direction to our objective but I was soon aware of the error. So we made a mid-course correction among the vineyards and finally found our way.

Many small vineyards are here, planted in numerous grape types and owned by many different people.

Many small vineyards are here, planted in numerous grape types and owned by many different people.

Trail routes and informative places describing the preservation of historic works.

Trail routes and informative plaques describing the preservation of historic works.

An unofficial route through the vineyards.

A route through the vineyards.

Eva studies the map we found along the way.

Eva studies an information board we found along the way.

Inside the crater is filled with vineyards an a winery.

Inside the rim, the crater is filled with vineyards. The distant antenna is at the tippy top of the mountain.

Before the age of mechanization, access to vineyard terraces was via slotted routes cut into the soft loess. Most of these routes have been lost due to enlarging the terraces with bulldozers and building paved access roads. Here and there we found informative signs.

A preserved ancient route in the loess.

A preserved ancient route in the loess.

A cave suitable for tool storage and haven from drenching rains.

A cave suitable for tool storage and a haven from drenching rains.

Wildflowers were in profusion.

Wildflowers were in profusion.

A snake hangs from a grass shoot.

A snail hangs from a grass shoot.

As we gained in elevation we had splendid views of the French Vosges mountain range, sprinkled with picturesque medieval wine villages. What really captured our attention was the seemingly huge storm bearing down on us from the west.

Storm coming

Storm coming

Eva was prepared for rain.

Eva was prepared for rain.

How lucky could we be but to find a shelter near at hand where we could wait it out. Fortunately we only got showers and the worst of it blew off somewhere else.

A hut in time...

A hut in time…

As we saw our peak drawing nearer and nearer, we became more and more aware that it was already past lunch time and we had forgotten to pack a snack. The more bothersome thing for us was the knowledge that most all restaurants close at 2:00 and we would be hard pressed to find anywhere at all to eat. These tiny wine villages have few or no amenities.

We anxiously drove through a few hamlets until we came to a right nice looking restaurant, which even had a parking lot. We dashed inside. A well tailored gentleman directed us to the dining room and we were seated among a room full of well dressed guests. We were handed leather bound menus, and a small side bench was placed at the table for our wet umbrellas which we had stashed on the floor.

Then we became enlightened. The smallest appetizer was $32, and main courses started at $50. Wines would add to that. I nudged Eva as unobtrusively as I could. We folded our menus and headed for the door. The maître d’ was most gracious and directed us up the street to a place more in line with our budget. It turned out that we had stumbled upon a very special high end restaurant owned by the richest man in the area, owner of the Freiburg soccer team.

For lunch we had low-brow Pfannkuchen and a local Müller-Thurgau wine. It was such a fitting meal and location for us tourists, dressed for hiking and damp from rain like shaggy dogs.

Our down to earth lunch spot. We didn't know but dozens of people were out back on the terrace.

Our down to earth lunch spot. We didn’t know but there were dozens of people dining out back on the terrace.

Pfannkuchen - thin pizza

Pfannkuchen – thin pizza-like pie

Not a crumb left

Hardly a crumb was left

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