Especially around Ingelheim am Rhein, there are many orchards and meadows in the valleys not far from the Rhine. But it's not only grapes, apples, cherries and the like that feel right at home here, but also the people we will meet today on our tour along the fruit route.
Up on the saddle and into the pedals
To learn more about the region around Ingelheim am Rhein, we get on our bikes for a day. We cycle along the West loop of the fruit route with start and finish in the red wine town. Counterclockwise, as it says in the route recommendation, we set off on the approximately 30 kilometers with only one longer climb from Gau-Algesheim to Ober-Hilbersheim.
But wait - we don't have any bikes yet! Before we let the springtime Rhine-Hessian air blow around our noses, we borrow them today in the form of two sleek e-bikes at the Fetzers Country Hotel in Ingelheim. The hotel is situated in a quiet location in the district of Sporkenheim, only a few kilometers away from the fruit route and is therefore also ideal as a base for further exploration tours in Rheinhessen.
Gau-Algesheim - Mecca for wine and bicycle lovers
So now helmet on and off we go in a westerly direction to our first stop in Gau-Algesheim. Past the northern foothills of the Westerberg and the first blossoming fruit trees, the small wine town awaits us, which becomes a pilgrimage site for many wine lovers every year on the second weekend in October. The "Festival of Young Wine" has been an integral part of the event calendar since 1952. Meanwhile, it also belongs to the special Rheinhessen EXCELLENT wine festivals. On and around the market square, the Gau-Algesheim winegrowers then offer the young wine - Federweißer - as well as older vine treasures with much entertainment and culinary specialties. But October is still far away now in spring and so we enjoy the peaceful scenery of the marketplace with a small breakfast before we drive the few meters to Ardeck Castle.
Here Emil Busch, honorary director of the museum, awaits us. Rhinehesse Bicycle Museum. Many treasures and rarities await us in five rooms of the castle. Always on Sunday afternoons from 14:00 to 18:00 and on holidays you can take a look inside and discover a whole 85 exhibits around the wheel.
Starting with a replica of the running machine of Karl Drais, over
true "Drahtesel" of the last centuries up to the racing machines of modern times you can touch, photograph and examine everything. Touch and photograph? Yes, that's right, because unlike many other museums, this is expressly permitted in the Rheinhessen Bicycle Museum! This is the philosophy of the exhibition, as Mr. Busch enlightens us: "Grasping to grasp and touching to grasp!", while he joyfully mounts one of the many bikes and illustrates its functioning to us with much dedication and appreciation.
By the way, admission is free of charge, but of course a small donation will be appreciated at the exit.
Through blooming fields and meadows to Appenheim
We get back on the saddle and, after the museum visit, feel like time travelers from the future on our e-bikes. Since we still have a lot to do today, we pedal on and set course for Appenheim.
Now it goes a long way through nature on the well-built and asphalted bike path. And it quickly becomes clear why this route is called the "fruit route". Apple orchards in full bloom line our path and we can't help but take a short photo break. The quiet buzzing of the bees, the chirping of the birds and the warming sun actually invite us to unpack the picnic blanket and enjoy this spring moment. Excited for even more great views, we first cycle through the quiet Welzbach valley with a view of the Gau-Algesheimer Kopf on the horizon and set course for the next climb. After all, many more such panoramas await us on our way.
Approximately 50 meters off the fruit route behind Appenheim, at the foot of a vineyard, is the Mills tavern. We have an appointment with Stefanie Heucher, who welcomes us with open arms at the farm gate. She and her entire family are still preparing for the new summer season. From May, the Mühlen Schänke will be open on Sundays and public holidays from 3 p.m. - "until there's no one left!" the boss explains with a smile. Three generations work hand in hand to provide cyclists, hikers, horseback riders and other day-trippers in the large garden with tarte flambée, homemade steak oven pizza, steaks and refreshing drinks. Children can let off steam in the inviting playground, which is supervised by Emil the donkey and the two goats Herkules and Hennes.
We empty our cooling grape juice spritzer and say goodbye to the Heucher family, Emil, Herkules and Hannes, who accompanies us along the fence for a few more meters.
Swings with a view
Firmly back in the saddle, we can not get enough. Everything is in bloom and brings anticipation of the delicious fruit! We pass a small, reed-covered pond and continue to follow the signs on a slight ascent via Nieder-Hilbersheim up to Ober-Hilbersheim. A huge cherry tree directly at the edge of the path with its impressive blossom cloak has done it to us.
After we have crossed the small village Engelstadt, we notice a Wingertshäuschen on the right of the path, perfectly placed on a small hill in the vineyard. Great view from up here. But that is not all. Only a few meters further on there is a swing in the middle of the landscape, which of course has to be tried out right away. Flying can be so easy!
Continuing on the fruit route, we touch Stadecken-Elsheim and rest at a place steeped in legend, the Eleven Thousand Maidens Tower. According to legend, this former customs post from the 14th century takes its name from the crossing of the Selz River, which once flowed below it, by Saint Ursula of Cologne. With her retinue of 11,000 virgins, she was on her way back from her pilgrimage to Rome and settled in the village for a night. The local carnival association "Die Schnorressänger" took over the sponsorship and the partial reconstruction of the ruin in 2006. Not entirely altruistically, as the accompanying information board explains: it is hoped that in the near future another 11,000 virgins will tread the same path.
Delicate temptations in Schwabenheim an der Selz
The fruit route now has no more inclines and accompanies the Selz just as quietly on its way north through dense and lush greenery. The fruit trees stand trellis for us.
In Schwabenheim, we briefly leave the route to indulge in a small but delicious snack. Since 2011, Nina Klos has been operating her Chocolates manufacture. Twenty types of chocolate bars and thirty types of chocolates are produced by the one-wheel business of the trained master confectioner. In addition to her favorite pralines, the coconut saffron truffles, the showcases also contain varieties such as honey-almond truffles, heart-warming truffles, Dornfelder truffles and many, many more. A variety of handmade chocolate bars and hollow figures round out the assortment. "My customers especially love my marzipan cream filling. It melts so beautifully on the tongue," proudly reports the chocolatier, who always lacked the opportunity to live out her own creativity in her previous jobs. The small organic certified delicacies can be enjoyed directly in the manufactory on Thursday afternoons or at any time by telephone appointment. And we can assure with a full mouth that the visit is worth it!
Final spurt to Ingelheim
The last section of our tour leads past the vineyards of the Westerberg. At the top of the mountain, we recognize Westerhaus Castle, the largest farm estate in Rheinhessen, and the Bismarck Tower perched on the foothills of the mountain, before we pass the Ohrenbrücker Gate on our route in Ober-Ingelheim. It is one of the reconstructed town gates of the former town fortifications of Ober-Ingelheim from the 13th century. We take a detour from the fruit route to the Hiwwel routeto explore the historic Ingelheim with the castle church and the city wall surrounding it.
If you want to soak up even more history in Ingelheim, you'll find in and around the former Imperial Palace as well as in the associated museum impressive testimonies from the time of the Roman-German emperors. Here, where Charlemagne or Frederick I Barbarossa ruled over their empires more than 1,200 years ago, you can still feel the breath of time. Many of the former buildings are visible above ground, such as the hall church and the ruins of the Aula regia or the Heidesheim Gate.
Fruit on the fruit route is also available in spring
Only a few kilometers separate us from the end of our varied stage. Unfortunately! From the Kaiserpfalz Museum, we simply let ourselves roll downhill along Mainzer Strasse and Binger Strasse into the city center. Although we are now in spring, still at the very beginning of the annual cycle, there is no need to miss out on fruit on the fruit route. Our last stop on our tour is one of the fruit farms in the region. At "Elli's Hofladen" in Ingelheim, also the home of Gottschalk fruit, we get apples and fresh juices for home. Fruit farmer Michael Gottschalk tells us more about his farm. He is currently cultivating 16 of 20 hectares around Ingelheim with all kinds of fruit, including around 10 hectares of apple trees alone. In addition, there are pears, quinces, sweet and sour cherries, gooseberries, raspberries and much more. These can be purchased either as whole fruit directly in the farm store or in some supermarkets in the area, or pressed as juice in various container sizes.
And he makes an urgent request to hikers and cyclists as we leave the farm: As practical as it may seem - picking fruit and snacking on the fruit growers' trees is taboo! Far too often in the fall, he has stood in front of empty trees along the way, which he actually wanted to harvest himself.
Our conclusion about the fruit route (west loop)
A beautiful spring day is coming to an end. With the last warm rays of sun on the tips of our noses, we switch from the bike back to four wheels and start our way home. An impressive tour on the western loop of the fruit route lies behind us, which can be done without much effort on an e-bike. For those who prefer a more sporty ride, we recommend the great Fruit route with a total of over 45 kilometers. Unlike its little sister, this one still has a few steep climbs up the Rhine-Hessian plateau up its sleeve, but rewards you with fantastic views of the Rhine and as far as the Taunus.