The 11th century church of Maria Laach and the fairy tale castle Eltz

It is our 11th day. We say good-bye to Bacharach, and direct our car north to the Mosel valley. From the motorway lookout we see the meandering Mosel for the first time.

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Then we continue farther north to the Eifel mountains and to Maria Laach.

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Maria Laach – gorgeous church from the 11th century

Near the crater of a volcano filled with water (lake of Maria Laach), there is the Benedictine abbey Maria Laach that is still in use. The Romanesque church from the 11th century is attached to the monastery. The church is open for visitors, but the monastery is reserved for the monks.

This is the western fassade of the church with the entrance for visitors (photo taken by Ursula).

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In the entry hall we find this interesting capital. Two boys are fighting. And to the right of them there is a devil writing down our sins and freeing us from them before entering the church.

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Behind the capital with the fighters and the friendly devil, the paradise welcomes us with the lion fountain (from 1936, modeled after the Alhambra). “Paradise” is the name of this courtyard.

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Through the paradise, we enter the church. The nave is decorated with a cob web of “clouds and leaves” that should connect earth and heaven. In the eastern choir (reserved to the clerical people), Pantocrator looks down on to us, like in a byzantine church. The altar is a Romanesque ciborium.

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The western choir was reserved for the political powers. It has been decorated with stained windows from the 1950’s.

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I also like these plain grey windows, one of them decorated with a pigeon.

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There are frescos from around 1500, one of them being Christopherus – former Reprobus – who carried Christ across a river and felt, how heavy his burden was – as if he had to carry the whole world (photo taken by Ursula).

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The underground crypt with the Romanesque columns is adorned with sunflowers and a cross.

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We walk along the lake of Maria Laach and watch the ducks and crested creeps. This one does not get rid of the reed though trying and trying.

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To the castle Eltz near the Mosel – a fairy tale castle

Christa, my cousin-in-law gave me the advise to visit the castle Eltz. “Hmm…”, says Ursula, “do you not know this castle? – In many guidebooks it is noted as a must-see”. I read that the castle Eltz has never been destroyed and now belongs to the 33th generation of the noble family Eltz. It was built around 1200 on top of a customs house taking tolls from merchants traveling along the Eltz. After a twenty minute walk from the parking we see the mighty fairy tale fortress appear at the last turn of our path.

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This is Ursula’s photo of the Eltz castle with the “swinging” cloud pattern.

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Inside, we have to buy a guided tour. In the courtyard we wait for our guide.

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The guide shows us the rooms that are open to the public. There are weapons, the dining room, the sleeping room, the eating room, the children’s room, the hunting room (with hunting trophees from Alaska, even a bear stretched out on the floor), the knights’ room (the rose says “everything we say here, remains inside this room”) and the family picture gallery. The family Eltz became one of the most mighty noble dynasties in the German empire. One of them was Archbishop and Prince Elector of Mainz and one of them was Archbishop and Prince Elector of Trier. The family split into three branches and that is why there are three house complexes in this one castle. The guide has some good humour and tells us anecdotes such as: “The current duke of Eltz sold wood from his forests to a winemaker who was of the opinion that the wine tastes better in barrels made of oak from the Eltz forests. “Oh yes, sure, I fully agree, I have also noticed the difference”, the duke said to the winemaker. And then, after having closed the door and sold his wood, he laughed: “Hm, crazy guy, but it is okay, we sold our wood…””

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Along the bends of the Mosel … do we now drive north or south… or east or west?

We have reserved our next hotel room in Schweich on the river Mosel, in the hotel Gerfen. From Eltz we drive down into the Mosel valley that meanders and meanders, with vineyards once on the right hand slopes, then again on the left hand slopes. After some time, I am confused… I find it impossible to keep track of whether we are driving north or south or east or west… now that the sun is hiding between a veil of clouds and gives no point of orientation.

In Schweich we are welcomed by the family Fuchs. The husband has cooked in Switzerland (in Grindelwald, in Zermatt and in Zürich), and now he runs this hotel with his wife, daughter and grand-da. We have venison meat cut into strips  – the husband has shot the deer in the vineyard called “Annaberg” – and recommends a Pinot Noir from the same vineyard “Annaberg”. Excellent.

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