I'm lucky - the last few days have been wet. But not today, when Steve MacNaull, a travel journalist from Canada, and I, currently living in Wiesbaden, plan to cycle through the Rheingau. But let's start at the beginning. How did we get here? As a journalist for Hessen Tourismus, I am in touch with every region of our stunning state, and of course with the Rheingau. At one of our regular meetings, I heard about the visitor from Canada. He was to be given a personal cycling tour of the Rheingau - in English of course. With the confidence of a former languages student, I heard myself say, "I can speak English." And anyone can ride a bike, right? The deed was done. Slowly it dawned on me that my language skills might be somewhat more impressive than my sporting prowess, and so I gratefully accepted the e-bike offered to me. It turned out to be a good choice, but more on that later...
Usefully, the "Zum grünen Kranz" hotel offers cycle rental - a luxury found often found in the Rheingau. The hotel can even organise tours. But there is no need for that today. The Rheingau is like a second home to me or, as I like to say, "The Rheingau is my big garden." Steve and I pedal out of Rüdesheim and head for Geisenheim on cycle route R3a. It is not long before we see why we chose this route for our cycle from Rüdesheim to Eltville and back: The route takes us right through the vineyards. This variant of the R3, which hugs the banks of the Rhine, largely follows the Rheingau-Riesling-Route. Before we make our first stop at Schloss Johannisberg, we pass Geisenheim University. The facility is a winery and a university in one and, most importantly, a state-wide institution for wine growing. Steve, who comes from a wine-growing region in Canada, is amazed - even more so as we head for Johannisberg, where wine has been grown for 900 years. I proudly lead the way up the hill to the palace, one of the region's most exclusive producers of Riesling. Steve and I are certainly glad of the help from our electric bikes. After all, the best vineyards are always on slopes.
Taking a break, we relax and enjoy the view of the Rhine valley from above, while I try to explain the friendly rivalry between us and our neighbours. I fear our guest is none the wiser as to why someone from Rhine-Hessen is not really from Hessen. Our next stop is Schloss Vollrads, above Oestrich-Winkel. The garden with a lovely seat right by the 14th Century moated castle is the ideal place for a break. It is a little oasis in the stunning weather. Steve tells me that he writes a lot about wine and that he particularly likes dry Riesling. Having briefly left the vineyards to return to the banks of the Rhine, we treat ourselves to one with our lunch. The Rheinschänke in Hattenheim is in an idyllic location on the river and has light dishes ideal for cyclists, including salads and flammkuchen. This is important, as the next hill is just around the corner. Following a small section of cobblestones, we return to the route into the vineyards, with a long and winding ascent towards Kiedrich. Passing Kloster Eberbach, we would not be able to enjoy the view half as much without our electric helpers. After Kiedrich, it is quickly downhill. But instead of pushing the speed, Steve and I ride sedately through the traditional wine village. Kiedrich is rightly known as a 'treasure trove' - the centre of the wine village is full of stunning half-timbered houses and historic buildings.
We have one more stop before cycling back along the river to Rüdesheim. I show my guest my favourite place: I have enjoyed many a wonderful afternoon in the garden of the Baron Knyphausen restaurant in Eltville-Erbach. With an imposing old manor house, ancient trees, vines and enchanted little corners, this place really does have it all. Visiting is like taking a little holiday in the Garden of Eden. The wine lounge with its cosy pallet furniture is only open at the weekend, but we take a seat in the garden and enjoy the tranquillity of this Rheingau paradise. After that, it takes us another hour to pedal back along the magnificent Rhine on a beautiful and effortlessly flat route. A wonderful day ends back where it began. In Rüdesheim, I say goodbye to Steve, my head full of all the wonderful things we've seen. My next cycling tour won't be far away.