From monastery to monastery – doing: excursions, fitness and trips

The first stage on the Klostersteig starts on a path as narrow as a towel. It goes steeply uphill over scree from Eberbach to the Hallgarter Zange. 350 meters of altitude in just four kilometres: The Rheingau “Jakobsweg” starts slowly.

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A total of 30 kilometers are in the plan. “That’s about 45,000 steps,” estimates Wolfgang Blum. The Geisenheimer accompanies hiking groups on the route through wine country several times a year.

The route connects the former monasteries of Eberbach near Eltville and Marienhausen in Assmannshausen-Aulhausen. Along the way there are three lively monasteries: the Franciscan monastery of Marienthal, the Cistercian community of Nothgottes and the Benedictine nuns of Saint Hildegard. The Klostersteig lives up to its name.

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If you make the first ascent, the worst is behind you. “At 580 metres, the Hallgarter Zange summit is the highest point on the Rheingauer Klostersteig,” says Blum.

From here, the Klostersteig winds gently up and down through lush vineyards. This is where the grapes for the famous Riesling ripen. Sometimes the route runs along forest paths, but above all along the wide agricultural paths of the winegrowers.

The path can be done in two daily stages. In between, there is ample opportunity to immerse yourself in the history of monasteries and religious orders. And in the history of wine in the Rheingau. Wine and pilgrimage, do they go together? Hiking guide Blum seems to have been waiting for this question and has a helpful answer: “What drink is frequently mentioned in the Bible? Wine!”

On the first day you will pass through Schloss Vollrads, an estate that is known to have first sold wine in 1211. And we continue on to Johannisberg. Half of the way is done here.

The interior of the Johannisberg Palace basilica is unadorned, with hardly any sculptures or paintings. But it is precisely this scarcity that gives way to spiritual thoughts in search of oneself.

Day two in the Rheingauer Klostersteig: The group, led by Blum, walks just over an hour along the forest road in the Elsterbachtal to the Marienthal monastery. Nine Franciscan fathers today preserve the tradition of the fourteenth century; it is considered one of the oldest pilgrimage sites in Germany.

Here the wine is called the pilgrim’s drink

Through the slopes of the vine you climb to the Benedictine abbey of Santa Hildegarda. The current church and monastery were not built until 1900. The approximately 50 Benedictine sisters are the successors of Saint Hildegard von Bingen, who founded a monastery in neighboring Eibingen around 1165. The relics of the important natural doctor and physician of the High Age Media are preserved in a gilt shrine in the parish church of Eibingen, just beyond the Klostersteig.

“Klostersteig, Rheinsteig and also the Camino de Santiago come together at the Abbey of Santa Hildegarda”, explains Blum. Hikers sometimes come across Sister Thekla Baumgart working in the vineyards. She is a winemaker and has run the monastery’s winery since 1998.

“We cultivate seven hectares of vineyards and press Riesling and Pinot Noir,” he explains. “We are the only monastic community in Germany that actively grows wine, from caring for the vines to pressing and selling in the monastery shop and shipping online.” Loggertrunk is the logical name for one of the dry Rieslings from the monastery cellar.

The last five kilometers on the Klostersteig mark the finish line. In Aulhausen, the hikers arrive at the small church of the former Cistercian monastery of Marienhausen, happy and satisfied with the hike they have made. And they are surprised and “flashing”. The bright room is dominated by a sculpture of Christ, three meters high, made from the trunk of a 300-year-old oak. “Christ opens his arms for those who walk,” explains Pastor Kurt Weigel. What a nice welcome. dpa-tmn

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