An invitation to celebrate a birthday was the reason for me to return to my native village. Besides all the due family visits I still had the time to take a walk in a nearby natural reserve. This reserve is home to a very rare plant that should be in full bloom at the end of may. When I was a kid my father used to take me there to watch these flowers. For this visit though I had first to search the way to get there. One dosn’t have to climb the highest mountains to see a natural wonder.
Gissigheim – a endearing village
It is on rare occasions that I visit the village where I grew up. Allthough I am asking myself every time why. Returning to my roots is always a highlight for me. The people in the village are a funny bunch and most of the time the world is in order. It’s funny but once I have passed the city limit I am loosing the capability to speak proper German and am falling back into the idiom that people a few miles away already hardly understand.
Kirche und Maibaum
In my youth this place got soon to booring and square and so I set out everything possible to get away from there. With advancing age I got to appreciate the calm and the snugness of this village.
There is not much to see here. A small castle with a even smaller museum of local history which usually isn’t open to the public. A tavern and a bakery which attracts clients from far away since they practice old craftsmanship in high quality.
A bit outside deep in the woods there is a celtic entrenchment, a relic form a time long gone by. You can only see the walls that sourrounded this place. I am not sure if there ever has been an archaeologist showing interest for it.
The chapel of the guardian angels
There is one singularity: the chapel of the guardian angels. It was built in 1712 and was used as family vault for the counts of Bettendeorf. The most interesting fact about it is the story of its origin.
The young count was in turkish captivity when an angel appeared and promised to free him. After he did return home he ordered this chapel to be build out of gratitude and dedicated it to the guardian angels. If you want to visit the chapel you will have to find out who has the key. Once a year on the first sunday in september the people of Gissigheim celebrate the fest of the gaurdian angels and the you can visit the chapel.
Natural reserve Haigergrund
I inherited the love for nature from my father. When I was a boy the biggest thing for me was going on a hike with him on a sunday to explore rare plants and animals in the environments. And there are quite a few in this region.
When I first planned this visit I already thought that I should take the time and look at a very beautiful flower. May has been cool and rainy and so I was hoping that the dictamnus was still in bloom.
In the neighbouring village Könighem there is this natural reserve called Haigergrund. In this reserve of about 148 acres you can find tons of endangered plants and animals. The range of hills between Königheim and Külsheim used to be covered with vineyards. They have been abandoned long time ago. These days you can find apart from dictamnus many orchids like alpine dactylorhza and several kinds of ophrys.
A paradise not only for bees and butterflies. The easiest to get there is from Königheim. From the Haiger chapel a small road is leading through the valley with fields and orchards. There is no official parking lot at the reserve and when you are going on a visit please do not leave the trails and don’t touch the flowers. This ecosystem is extremely sensitive. So take your camera and take pictures but not more.
Dictamnus – a rare beauty
Dictamnus which is also called gas plant or burning bush is extremly rare and is under strict protection since 1936.This plant can be found in Asia, Southeastern Europe and Northern Africa but also in Middle Europe. In our regions it is so rare since it has high requirements. The soil has to be dry, chalky and low in nitrogen. On top it needs a place that is in the shade.
Dictamnus comes from the rutaceae family and reaches a height of 2 – 4 feet. After the bloom it builds fruits and develops ethereal oils that remind of a mixture between vanilla and lemon. On a very hot day these oils can ignite themselves and then build small blue flames that don’t harm neither the plant nor the surrounding. In the past dictamnus was counted as a healing plant. But new research didn’t show any effect. So it is probably just poisonous. If you touch it you can develop blisters looking as if you’d have burned yourself. Another reaseon to leave this beauty alone.
I find other flowers today as well. Along the ridge there is a roundtrip trail. Since I keep stopping to take pictures I need about an hour to make the round. The landscape has a lush green and the silence that surrounds me is very soothing. When you live in a big city you learn to appreciate this even more.
During my stroll I come across two people. But this could be due to the early hour. It is already pretty hot which feels a bit odd after this cool and wet may. At one point the path takes a turn and leads to the left into the forest sowly rising before I reach a forest raod. Here I come across a few white helleborines. This orchid is still wide spread in Germany in regions with chalky soils.
So I saunter slowly along the road back to my car and admire the last dictamnus. I am glad that I have taken this hour to marvel at these beautiful flowers. Dosn’t alwys have to be an alpine panorama.