Germany 2013 - Part 1
The 2013 Meeting of the International Clematis Society in Germany
This is the first of my informal reports about the visit by the Society to Germany in June/July 2013. A comprehensive set of reports by attendees will be published in Clematis International 2014.
Our itinerary was based around three centres, Würzburg, Stuttgart and Ulm. This report is about the first few days in Erlabrunn, a small village on the banks of the river Main, about ten kilometers north west of Würzburg and the home of one of our past presidents, Klaus Körber. Klaus is the director of the Orchard, Trees and Garden Department of the Bayerische Landesanstalt für Weinbau und Gartenbau - the Bavarian State Institution for Wine-growing and Horticulture (LWG), located almost directly opposite Erlabrunn across the river Main in the village of Veitshöchheim.
To read the second of my reports, please visit Germany 2013 - Part 2, for the third of my reports, please visit Germany 2013 - Part 3 and for the fourth of my reports, please visit Germany 2013 - Part 4.
Saturday 29th June
We used two hotels in Erlabrunn, Hotel Weinhaus Flach and Hotel Meisnerhof. Saturday afternoon was warm and sunny as attendees arrived from some ten different countries, old friends and new alike. On Saturday evening we congregated in the courtyard of the Hotel Meisnerhof prior to enjoying a welcome dinner, served in their cellar restaurant. A very tasty typical German menu with local German wines and beer and lots of conversation.
Sunday 30th June
Sunday morning and the first event of the meeting, a visit to the LWG Trials and Display Garden, the domain of Klaus Körber. As well as testing plants for commercial usage, in particular fruit trees and vines, over many years Klaus has developed an area devoted to clematis, but displayed in his own special and "crazy" (his word, not mine) way.
Not only this, the displays are constantly changing, so whether you have visited before or not, there is bound to be new plants to see and new ways in which they are displayed.
After an initial introduction by Klaus and his team, we spent a lovely sunny morning wandering around these gardens.
Fans of this website will have seen previous pictures that I've taken of the Volkswagen Beetle car, nose buried in the earth with clematis growing over, through and inside the car. But there are many other interesting displays, including the bed with C. 'Prince Charles' on one side and C. 'Kamilla' on the other side.
A table of clematis blooms, freshly picked from the gardens
One of many new "crazy" displays
The "Royal Bed"
Time for a rest
C. 'Fiona Woolfenden', looking as lovely as ever!
After a buffet lunch laid out in the new glasshouse, the group, minus the Council members, departed for Veitshöchheim, famous for Schloss Veitshöchheim, the summer palace of the Würzburg Prince-Bishops, built in 1680/82 and enlarged in 1753 by Balthasar Neumann, and the formal rococo gardens. It is very easy to imagine just how the grand these gardens must have been in their heyday. As well as the carefully laid-out gardens with framed viewpoints, there is a large lake with ornate fountain. Note, these pictures were taken two days previously, as I was involved in the Council meeting.
Then it was back on the coach for the few minute drive to the LWG college, where we had kindly been given use of a lecture theatre for our Constitutional General Meeting.
Dinner this evening was hosted by Klaus Körber and his partner, Ewa, in the courtyard of their old traditional Bavarian house in the centre of Erlabrunn. The mayor of Erlabrunn joined us for the evening, welcoming our international group to his village.
It was a great opportunity to talk about the events of today and hopes for tomorrow.
With good food and drink, the evening was already going very well when a group of Klaus's musician friends joined us and, with Klaus on saxophone, started to play. Everybody gathered round to listen, to dance and, for suitable songs, to sing along. Everyone had a great time and it really made the evening.
If you want to hear a short clip of the music,
click the "play" button below!
Monday 1st July
Monday morning, hot and sunny, and the morning event was a walking tour of "Erlabrunn, village of 800 clematis".
In 2009, Erlabrunn celebrated its 800 year anniversary and one of the ways this was done was to plant 800 clematis, along the streets, in gardens and generally wherever they could be grown. This was supervised by Klaus Körber. Although some did not survive, others have been planted to replace them and the majority are now thriving, even those planted in the limited borders on the sides of the narrow streets.
Many tourists have come to the village to admire the blooms but the inhabitants were especially proud that the International Clematis Society was now visiting and had spent much time tidying the various flower beds. They welcomed us with open arms, and we could walk into virtually any garden if we wanted.
For me, some of the most striking plants were those clinging to drainpipes, or single plants decorating a small trellis on the side of a house.
Interestingly, Klaus has planted many instances of C. 'Juuli' as he has found it is one of the most hardy and resilient cultivars in these sometimes difficult conditions.
Clematis have been planted both in many of the gardens of Erlabrunn but also in pots outside houses and in the narrow strips of earth that border many of the streets.
Klaus Körber's house (right)
After a buffet lunch in the courtyard of the house of Klaus Körber, we boarded our coach for the short drive to Veitshöchheim, on the other side of the river Main, to catch a boat down the river to Würzburg. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and the breeze on the water was most refreshing. Gently cruising down the river was a very calm way to enjoy the scenery of vineyard-covered hills en route to Würzburg. As we approach the city, Fortress Marienberg on the right hand side overlooking the city made an imposing sight.
Fortress Marienberg dates from the 13th century, though there was a church on the site in even earlier times. Used as the residence of the prince-bishops of Würzburg, it was enhanced with more fortifications in the late 1400's and various other building over ensuing centuries. In 1945 it was almost completely destroyed by fire but it was rebuilt, being completed in 1990.
Our coach met us at the riverside and drove us up the hill to Fortress Marienberg.
Unfortunately a number of the buildings that make up the complex were closed, but the cafe was open, so also a shop doing a very good trade in ice creams. But the main reason for coming here is the spectacular view from the ramparts overlooking the river Main and the city of Würzburg. It is only from this angle that the number of churches in Würzburg becomes apparent - from the number of spires visible.
It was a hot sunny afternoon and a number of our group opted to take the coach back down into the city, but the rest of us decided to walk down, crossing over the river Main by the Old Main Bridge.
There was a bonus for those who walked down, we passed one of the best ice cream shops in the city!
The group met up outside the Würzburg Residence as we had a guided tour of the building.
The Residence, along with about 90% of the city, was destroyed by an air raid on 16th March 1945. However, like the rest of the city, it was been restored and is a most beautiful building, inside and out. For anyone visiting Würzburg, a visit here is a must.
There was a little time between the tour and our next appointment, time enough to take a short stroll in the gardens at the back of the building. A food and wine festival was taking place and was very popular with visitors and locals alike, but we had other plans - a wine tasting and supper in the cellars of the Residence.
We descended the steep steps down into the cellars where we were greeted with a glass of wine and a short history talk. We took a tour of some of the main sections of the cellars, past large barrels, before coming to the dining hall.
Here we enjoyed a comprehensive white wine tasting of some seven wines and a buffet supper. Our wine guide described and commented on each wine, giving details of where it came from, the grape variety and the key taste characteristics. She spoke clearly and very knowledgeably.
Speaking for myself, I found it all very interesting, especially the differences in the wine style that location and grape variety impart. The majority of German wines that I've come across in the UK are quite expensive and generally medium dry at best (except, or course, German desert wines which can be wonderfully sweet and very expensive). The wines we tasted this evening proved that German white wines can be dry, crisp, fruity - making some perfect aperitif wines while others complement food beautifully.
We finished with a 2012 Würzburger Stein Albalonga Auslese, an amazing sweet desert wine from a 1951 Veitshöchheim grape crossing, "honey in a glass"!
It was a fine evening in magnificent surroundings.
To read the second of my reports, when we head off towards Stuttgart for some fantastic private gardens, a wet palace and a wine tasting, please visit Germany 2013 - Part 2. For the third of my reports, please visit Germany 2013 - Part 3 and for my fourth and last report, please visit Germany 2013 - Part 4.
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