A mountain hike followed by a stroll about town make St. Martin a relaxing day trip
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 3, 2020
St. Martin is more than just a cute village with wine, though it would be a wonderful place even if it weren’t.
It’s the picture of a fairytale, complete with quaint cobblestone alleyways, vine-covered half-timbered houses and plenty of locally grown wine. The town is nestled in the low-mountain region of the Pfalz forest near the southern end of the German wine street, about an hour’s drive southeast of Kaiserslautern.
Overlooking St. Martin and the neighboring wine town of Maikammer is Kalmit mountain. Rising to 2,208 feet, it’s the second highest peak in the Pfalz region, behind only Donners-berg.
Kalmit’s peak can be reached by road or trail. For those feeling ambitious and up for a hard climb, a circular route from the Maikammer-Alsterweler parking lot takes you to the top and back down through St. Martin, starting with an easy stroll through the vineyards before the steep, 400-meter ascent begins in the forest.
The Outdoor Active app describes the nearly 7-mile loop as beautiful but demanding, with an estimated four hours needed to complete it.
The other way to the top is by bike or car; a twisty, narrow road takes you right to a mountain parking lot. On a recent November morning, driving was a harrowing choice, it turns out, as oncoming headlights were barely discernible in the thick fog. We drove anyway to ensure we had enough time to explore St. Martin before it turned dark.
We parked and ventured out into the fog and biting cold to check out the summit. Heading into the woods from the parking lot, you’ll find the felsenmeer — in English, rock sea — an area strewn with boulders, many larger than cars and piled on top of one another. It looks like a fun place for kids to explore.
To reach the summit, you have to walk a few minutes from the parking lot up to the Kalmit hut. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic restrictions, the hut was closed in late November, a sad circumstance given that its menu of hot food would have been perfect on a wintery day. The view of the valley was also obscured by the fog.
Hoping for better luck, we headed down to St. Martin in search of some mulled wine, blasting the heat to warm our toes and fingers during the short ride to town.
We didn’t find any mulled wine — many of the wine stands were shuttered due to the current restrictions. But a few vintners had the lights on, selling bottled Pfalz red and white wine, champagne and spirits, though there were no wine tastings. Local clothing and craft shops were open, and the magnificent sandstone church on a hilltop overlooking the town had its doors open.
Despite the cancellation of traditional Christmas markets across Germany due to the pandemic, the town’s streets were decorated with Christmas trees and lights, making St. Martin a stop for anyone in search of some holiday spirit — or spirits.
Directions: St. Martin is located just under an hour’s drive southeast of Kaiserslautern, near the southern half of the German wine street. From Kaiserslautern, head east on B37 and south on B39. The circular hike to the Kalmit starts at the Maikammer-Alsterweler parking lot, about 1.5 miles east of St. Martin. Use 67487 Maikammer, Kalmitstrasse on GPS to find the parking lot.
Times: Open all year
Costs: Euros for food and drinks.
Food and drink: Only takeout available due to current pandemic restrictions; some restaurants are closed. Some vintners are open for wine bottle sales, but no wine tasting is currently offered.