Big Barrels of Fun

Trip Start Oct 18, 2012
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Flag of Germany  , Rhineland-Palatinate,
Saturday, October 12, 2013

Howdy folks,

We didn't have much to do on Saturday because we just got back from Prague and had nothing planned. I didn't want to get stuck in the house, even though the temperature was dropping under 10 degrees (shut up Adam Jewers). Ideally I wanted to go for a hike while we still could and suggested that we check out Bad Dürkheim, 30kms west of Edingen over in the Pfalz.

We drove through Mannheim, over the Rhine River, past ugly Ludwigshafen and parked right in downtown. I had heard of Bad Dürkheim before because they have the Dürkheimer Riesenfass, otherwise known as the World's Biggest Wine Barrel. The title really doesn't justify it because it should really be called: World's Biggest Restaurant Shaped Like A Wine Barrel. It is nevertheless impressive: built in 1934 from 200 fir trees and a capacity of 1.7 million litres (not that it was ever filled!)

The presence of such a barrel clearly indicates one thing: vineyards. Bad Dürkheim is part of prime wine growing country and sort of like the Barossa of Germany. All up and down the eastern fringe of the Pfälzerwald are vineyards. The region is the second largest wine producer in Germany after Rhein-Hessen. There is even a road called the Weinstraße which links the vineyards all together! Most people know about beer in Germany, but the areas around the Rhine River in the west of Germany account for most of wine production. Germany falls just behind Australia in wine production, but miles behind from Spain, Italy and France which each produce around 5 times what Germany does! Incidently China is quite a big producer, who would have thought?

With vineyards to the west of us and so much beer out of Bavaria, it is no wonder that the alcohol here is cheap! We opted out of doing a hike because a few things caught my eye in the town. Swearing that we weren't going to visit another church for at least a month, we took a walk through the nice gardens and came across some mini golf. Given that it is the last week that we could play, we threw caution to the wind and for 2.30€ per person it didn't break the bank either.

I have fantasised about opening a mini golf as my retirement plan for the last 5 years and each course I play, leads me to the discover the dos and don'ts. A few things I noticed include: cigarette ashtrays at every hole, a suction cup at the end of the club for picking up the ball, no stepping on the courses and stupidly no astro turf! With no friction, the balls would roll around for a minute without stopping. Still the airbourne hole was interesting!

The next thing we came across was a whopping, great big wooden building called a Saline. It looked like a large, brushwood fence with a roof on it and I had never seen one before in my life! The thing is 333.33m long and 18m high, the roof is covered in solar panels and it has a boardwalk all around it. Apparently this is the longest in Germany and is called a Graduation Tower.

The story goes that it is built because Bad Dürkheim is a spa town. That means that people come here for relaxation and rehabilitation and there are various businesses that cater to these people. The graduation tower is part of it and is supposed to replicate the sea air to improve lung function. Basically water is pumped up and trickles down the brushwood which over time become mineral encrusted as the water party evaporates. People are supposed to then walk around and breathe in deeply to better oxygenate their bodies and return to health. I paid 1.50€ just to walk around and take pictures!

Next to the Saline was a huge flea market or flohmarkt, which we had a look in. Usually I despise such things because it just encourages people to buy crap they don't need. However second hand clothes and books are always good, so I bought a book about Europe for 1€! If you can't beat 'em, then join 'em!

On the way back to Edingen, we stopped to go shopping at a Globus which is the German equivalent of a Walmart. Germany doesn't have many shopping centres and by that I mean big areas of land dedicated to 50 different shops. Shops here are more of a local affair, unlike in America where you can just pop one wherever you like and people will drive to fill up their pickup truck. The main difference I saw between Globus and Walmart, is that Globus has less electronics, but more fresh food. We must have been in there for 90 minutes and I was happy to get out alive!
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