Heavenly views and earthly pleasures

The first steps are easy. But there comes a point when you have to stop and catch your breath. You glance up the steep, narrow steps, through the green canopy of trees and shrubs towards the sky.

The Himmelsleiter, or ‘sky ladder’, as it is fondly known in Trier, is the steepest and narrowest staircase for miles around, with 604 steps leading into a real natural paradise, a mysterious treasure trove of rugged, rocky scenery. There are steep sandstone cliffs, forests, caves and untamed gorges.

“There is a little canyon here where a very rare type of fern grows. It is known as the hart’s tongue fern. It really looks like a hart’s tongue and is just as rough to the touch,” explains Ralf Richardt.

Hikers look out over the Moselle valley in Trier, Moselle

Hikers enjoy the amazing view of the Moselle valley in Trier, Moselle

And he should know, as he is a qualified nature trail guide and knows pretty much all there is to know about the flora and fauna around Trier. He is happy to show off the beauty of his home region to those who want to step off the beaten track to explore it.

“I am always fascinated by this blend of unspoilt nature and cultural settings,” he explains with a grin.

St Mary's Column and the view of Trier, Moselle

St Mary's Column and the view of Trier, Moselle

A spectacular view awaits walkers at the foot of the ‘Säulenmarie’, the name given to one of the most important landmarks in Trier by the locals. The fascinating, intricate column seems to watch over the city and the valley, and officially goes by the name of the Mariensäule.

Ralf Richardt’s tip for hopeless romantics is to, “… arrive really early and enjoy a spectacular sunrise!”

The oldest city in Germany lies at the foot of the Mariensäule beside the mirror-like ribbon of the Moselle. Trier boasts shimmering slate rooftops, numerous church towers and the looming silhouette of St Peter's Cathedral, which, along with the Liebfrauenkirche, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The same applies to the Porta Nigra, which was built by the Romans in 170 AD using 7,200 sandstone blocks weighing up to seven tons each, all hewn from the quarries in the nearby Kyll valley. The Kordeler sandstone typical of the region comes in yellowish-grey and red.

Cellar vaults of the "Vereinitgte Hospitien" Winery, Moselle

Cellar vaults of the "Vereinitgte Hospitien" Winery, Moselle

“There is sandstone in the region, but only here in the Trier Basin and in a narrow strip out towards the Eifel. Just a few kilometres upstream, it is light shell limestone and, further down the course of the river, grey slate,” explains Ralf Richardt.

At a height of around 50 metres, there is the striking red sandstone cliff along the Moselle near Trier, with a vineyard stretching out at its feet towards the banks of the river.

The only remaining vineyard on the left bank of the Moselle and one of the few growing on red sandstone bears the charming name ‘Augenscheiner’. Award-winning Rieslings, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noirs are grown in the shelter of the cliffs.

But where does the name come from? The vineyard once belonged to a monastery on the other side of the Moselle. From there, the monks could keep a good watch over it at all times, and the German word ‘Augenscheiner’ derives from the expression for keeping an eye on something.

Today, it belongs to the ‘Vereinigte Hospitien’ estate. Why not finish off a hike through beautiful scenery with a tour of Germany’s oldest wine cellar and keep an eye on the ‘Augenscheiner’ for yourself? Or why not treat yourself to a couple of bottles from the Hospitien wine shop? A worthy memento of a lovely day.

Ralf Richardt is particularly fond of Riesling: “With the fruit and minerality, you can almost taste the soil. The sandstone. The water. All in a single glass.”

More recommended excursions for active and nature lovers in Trier:

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18,0 km

5:15 h
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25,4 km

1:45 h
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1:40 h
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Städtereise mit Charme

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Reichhaltiges und gemütliches Frühstück im Hotel

Reichhaltiges und gemütliches Frühstück im Hotel