Kaffee Kaput

I headed on southwards the next morning, stopping at the main railway station in Wiesbaden to ask about tickets to Venice.  It turns out the only person at the ticket counter didn’t speak English, so I had to go back into Mainz to the Hauptbahnhof.  There the second person spoke English and was extremely helpful.  She booked me a ticket from Heidelberg to Venice and walked me through the complicated sheaf of paper that was my set of tickets and how to find the correct carriage for my bike.  I cycled briefly through the old town in Mainz and saw the traditional wine bar Markus had suggested I visit, but sadly it was closed.  I really didn't leave myself enough time to see much of Mainz, but with the weather turning nasty I was eager to head south.
Mainz old town.
Then, it being about 3pm, I headed off in a hurry to my next host in Westhofen, a little town about 50km south of Mainz.  Usually I would leave by lunch time to cover 50km comfortably before dinner, so I pedalled pretty hard.  It took a lot longer to get there than I had hoped, mostly due to the fact that I was no longer following a well signposted route and so got lost on a number of occasions.  At about 7pm, as the sun began to set, I was close to Westhofen, but still separated by a large vineyard.  Deciding to risk it and follow the advice of Google Maps I plunged into the vineyard on a paved trail that soon became a gravel track, and then trailed off to mud and grass.  At this point I was half way through the vineyard and it was quickly getting dark.  So I decided to continue on and hope.  I did eventually reach Westhofen, after walking through the mud with my bike.  But I made it safely, and was warmly welcomed by my hosts Wolfgang and Michaela.  

After a dinner of very yummy homemade meatballs Wolfgang said that he needed to go out to help a group of friends serve drinks at a local wine festival, and asked whether I would like to come along.  The drawback was that his shift didn’t finish till 3am.  While I was fair exhausted after my fast ride I thought it sounded like fun and I would never get another opportunity, so I agreed and we headed off at about 10pm.  The festival was in a small village called Gau Algesheim, very close to Bingen.  What had taken me two days to ride we covered in less than half an hour by car.  The festival is held annually and runs from Friday to Monday.  Sunday night is the final night, but everything is open again on the Monday morning and many people take the day off work to attend the morning drinking session which even has it’s own term that means something like ‘early drinking’.  
Serving drinks at Kaffee Kaput.
Wolfgang showed me around the winery, Kronenhof, that was owned by his friend.  It is a small winery located within the village with a little underground cellar and a few sheds up above.  It was a lot smaller than I would have thought necessary to produce wine economically, but evidently it does and is just one of many small wineries in the village.  Wolfgang showed me the price list and I was surprised to see that a litre of table wine costs around 3-4 Euro with the better varieties costing up to 8 Euro.  The custom in this area is for most people to buy their wine direct from a winery, and very little is sold in the supermarkets.

Since they were in their early twenties Wolfgang and a bunch of friends have been running a stall at the wine festival called Kaffee Kaput giving all proceeds to charities.  There was an excellent live band (singing songs in English) and a team of dedicated volunteers behind the counter.  The drink of choice was a ‘Schoppfe’ (although I’m not sure I’ve spelt it correctly) for 3 Euro, which got you a pint glass half of wine, half of the soft drink of your choice.  I never would have thought but red wine and Coke actually works!  Other combinations were Rose and sparkling water, white wine and lemonade or white wine and a strange green German drink called Waldmeister.  Some worked better than others.

I spent the rest of the evening backstage talking to the awesome folk who were volunteering.  There was one other foreigner there that night, a guy from England who had become involved with Kaffee Kaput many years ago and now would fly or drive over to assist each year.  Testament to the great people involved.  I was very impressed with the people and the event, and was chuffed when I was given a small glass and a scarf with Kaffee Kaput on it to keep.  This is certainly something I would make an effort to come back to in future if I am ever in the vicinity during the second weekend in October.


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