Hiking to Eberbach Abbey

Today saw us making the hike from our base in the old town of Eltville through the vineyards up to Eberbach Abbey – a distance of about 7km.

Eberbach Abbey is a former Cistercian monastery, originally found in 1116AD and then extended over the 12th and 13th century. Buildings – as to be expected for that period – follow Romanesque and early Gothic architecture. Today (and after secularization in the 19th century) the monastery is owned by the state of Hesse – and serves as a museum, a venue for cultural events and a location for filming (parts of “The Name of the Rose” were filmed here). For a full account of the abbey’s history refer to this Wikipedia page.

Wine production has been part of the abbey from its early days – and remains so until today. The “Kloster Eberbach” wine – coming from the vineyards in the region – can be sampled and bought right at the abbey’s wine shop. Of course, we did not leave, before sampling some of those wines.

We continued our hike to the nearby village of Kiedrich (about 4km away) for yet another wine tasting and dinner – before concluding the loop and making the 5km walk back to Eltville for the night.

At the Banks of the Rhine River

Today we did transition from the Nahe river back to the Rhine stream, first to Bingen – and then across the river via ferry to Rüdesheim. We had a short stop in Rüdesheim for a walk around town. From Rüdesheim we continued to Eltville, our base for the next few days.

In Eltville we did another walk, to explore town – culminating at the Ferris Wheel at the river bank for a 40minure trip combined with a tasting of three wines.

Hiking in the Nahe Valley

This year (2020) being what it is, a “proper” vacation was not an option. Instead my parents, two friends and myself decided, to go on a vine-themed trip in relative proximity, with a first stop near Bad Sobernheim, at the Nahe river – and a second one at Eltville at the banks of the Rhine river.

We spent our full day at the Nahe river with a full day hike of about 24km. First making our way from the hotel to the river, then along the river and up the Heimberg along the vineyards and to the observation tower on top of the mountain (or rather hill). Below some photographic evidence.

Back Home

With travel restrictions and social distancing rules now step by step easing up, it was time for a trip back home to my parents and the village, I did grow up in.

Obviously we had to adjust our activities to these weird times – and ended up doing some walks and hikes in the vicinity – featuring some nice views of mountains, fields, pastures, meadows and villages down in the valley. While no real adventure, a very welcome break from my solitary walks around my fairly flat new home. Below some photos …

Corona Spring

Well – this spring did not quiet go as expected. Per my original plan, I was booked for another epic trip, starting with a couple of days in Sydney, followed by a jump over to New Caledonia and then an expedition cruise to Palau via the Solomon Islands and the east coast of Papua New-Guinea … and then came Corona.

Needless to say – my trip got cancelled and I found myself looking at a completely changed situation and world – social distancing did become the norm, travel was impossible and the focus put on home – with most of the time spent at home …

The exploration did continue though – as I spent plenty of time for walks in and around the forests and fields in the vicinity – starting with the already known trails and roads, to eventually spread out further and explore some of the more hidden or further away areas. Below some photos, that I have taken in the two month period between mid March and mid May. Some locations are a short 15 minute walk away from my flat, while others require a more involved 45 minute walk (one way).

Wining at the Main River Bend

For my birthday my parents had given me a voucher for a wining trip to Volkach at the bend of the Main river in the Franconia region.

It was now – the weekend before we Christmas – that we finally made it to Volkach for a weekend of sightseeing, walking through vineyards, cellar tours – and of course the one or other tasting. Below some photographic evidence …

Conclusion in Baku

We were heading back to town now, with a first stop in the outskirts of Baku, at Bibiheybat Mosque. It was not the mosque though, that we were interested in, but its square, offering nice view over Baku’s port.

From the mosque we did proceed to our last official stop, the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre / (Heydər Əliyev Mərkəzi). We spent some time looking at the building and its unusual architecture from the outside, though eventually did proceed to the inside.

The inside – next to a different view on the building itself – featured a number of exhibitions on various topics (some of which fairly random … some fairly good, other less so).

From the center it was – via a market (for some final souvenir shopping) – back to the hotel. With our flights scheduled in the very early morning, we knew a short night was a head of us and with half the group being sick, we did not manage a final group dinner.

The trip has been an interesting one – covering three countries, a total of seven UNESCO world heritage sites (six cultural, one natural), two mosques and at least 30 churches and monasteries – all of which at high pace.

During the trip the similarities – but also differences between the three countries have become obvious – from religion, food, drinks to the development after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting political systems.

Though – what did become apparent – even with this long and (according to the trip brochure) all-encompasing trip, we had just scratched the surface – with all three countries deserving a return … though then (at least for me) with a focus on nature and less so on culture and history.

Mud & Rocks of Qobustan

This morning we were leaving Baku, heading South for Qobustan.

At a service station we changed into a smaller van and made our way out into the desert, following some dirt roads – the destination being the Qobustann Mud Volcanoes.

The volcanoes are part of the Gobustan National Park and its museum was the next stop here. Focus of the museum – next to the geological details – is on the prehistoric carvings/ petroglyphs found in one area of the park. Of course that area – the Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape was on our agenda next.

During a walk we were able, to see the carvings, but also to get a feeling of the environment around us – plus some good views towards Baku and the ocean. There was also an opportunity for a quick lunch here.

Baku at Night

After a day of sightseeing, we were hungry, so made our way to a restaurant quickly. After dinner we ended up in a cafe for tea, baklava and hookah (for those, who wanted – not for me though), afterwards some of us wanted to proceed for a drink with a view.

We somehow assumed, the flame towers would be a good place to do so (is there a better building for a rooftop bar?), so we made our way through town to the funicular, got on the last train of the day and eventually made it into Highland Park. We had another walk over to the viewing platform for some nighttime views of town. From here it was back to the flame towers, where – to our surprise – we ran into a construction site with two of the three towers closed off and parts of the third tower also not finished. Well – needless to say, there was no such thing as a sky or rooftop bar here. We ended up heading back towards the old town and finally found a good option there … directly looking at the flame towers.