How we ended up going back to work for the day in a German vinyard
Strumpfelbach – Germany, 2018.
With Phil being retired for more than three years, and Carol now into her second year of retirement, we thought we’d finished with going out to work……as we sit here with sore backs after a hard day out on the German hills picking grapes, we’re glad it’s not an everyday occurrence! How did we come to be grape picking? It’s a long story…….
We were recently in a lovely little campsite in Hammershmiede, in the Schwabian district of Southern Germany where we met some lovely people, one of which was Peter, the guy who was playing his guitar around the campfire. Chatting to him at the end of the night, he invited us down to a town called Strumpfelbach where he was playing for a couple of nights at one of the cellars at a wine festival. Our ears pricked up at the words wine and festival, and being only 50 or so miles away from where we were, we decided to give it a visit.
We found our way to Strumpfelbach, but were stumped at where to stay. Working through our phone apps, none of them were offering us any camp sites or wild camps anywhere near the town, and we certainly weren’t planning on driving into the festival. Our last chance on our last app, gave us a vineyard just outside the village with space for three motorhomes to park up in their yard. We hot-footed down to the vineyard, to secure one of the those three places!
“Come in, come in” said the vineyard owner as we pulled up in his yard, “park yourselves over there, and we can fix you up with some electric”. Bearing in mind this was a free stopover, we were stunned at how he welcomed us, and with such a big smile on his face. Now a massive coincidence. Of about 30 vineyards in the area, the one where we’d arrived just happened to be the one that our friend Peter was going to be playing for in their cellar! It was obviously meant to be!
After spending a day generally milling about, and wandering through the beautiful village of Strumpfelbach, we sat watching the guys in the vinyard, working with the freshly picked grapes to squeeze them of their juice. (Its all done by machine now, no more foot presses!). “It’s obviously their busy time of year, I wonder if there’s anything we can do to help” said Phil, who wandered down to talk to Horst the Vinyard owner.
Well……we were thinking they might ask us to sweep the yard, or clean some buckets, or some other little menial task…..but no, Horst jumped on our offer and all of a sudden we were scheduled to meet up with the grape picking team at 8am the next morning. 8am – We were normally having our first cup of tea in bed at that time. (Double click images to open in full screen)
What a fun day we had out picking grapes with about 15 other people. We set off in a few vehicles, and drove through what seemed like miles of vines, until all of sudden we stopped, everyone jumped out of the vans, and the picking had begun! We were armed with some lightweight secateurs, given our own row of vines, and told to strip it clean. We took a side each and started snipping, filling a large bucket every 5 minutes or so, which was replaced by another team who’s job it was to carry the full buckets back to the trailer. (The snipping was easy compared to the job the bucket carriers had )
Having stripped about 20 rows of vines, it was all back to the vans, drive another 15 minutes through the miles of vines to another batch of Horst’s vines, where the process started all over again. We did about 8 stops during the day, spending about an hour at each. By lunchtime we were both complaining to each other about our poor aching backs! We couldn’t complain too much though, some of the pickers were a lot older than us. Fortunately we did stop for lunch – we drove back to the main cellar, where Horst’s wife gave us a fabulous meal of boiled white Munich Sausages, bread, cake and of course lots of wine! That was the only stop of the day, no tea breaks, and no coffee breaks – don’t think English workers would be happy with that!
Back to the Cellar, where we had German salami, cake and more wine.
Now a soak in a hot bath after our long day would have gone down a treat, but we had to settle for a shower in our van before we headed off to the festival, where we met up with Albert, who’d been picking with us all day. What a fabulous night we had, as we sampled – lots – of wine from the various wine houses. It was great meeting up with musician Peter and his wife Ramona again – from last weeks campfire. At first Peter and his buddy played low key music, but by the end of the evening they were rocking, and so was the cellar.
What a fantastic day and what a fantastic night we had. The grape picking, while hard work for us soft retired folk, was absolutely fantastic fun, and the wine festival topped off this great day. If we’re down here again, or in fact near any vineyard near to picking season we’ll certainly volunteer our services again….but just for a day!
We stayed at the”Knauss” vineyard just outside Strumpfelbach, if anybody’s down that way, call in, say hello and offer to help…if you dare. The family is so friendly and The Knauss wines are absolutely fantastic – look out for them in a supermarket near you 🙂
Our friend Peter (on the right) and his singing buddy – They Rock!