The Mosel winding and winding from the Vosges to the Rhine

On Saturday (our 12th) day traveling, we expect the last sunny day of this long lasting sunny period. We plan to see the Mosel valley with its wine villages and some selected wine growers and go for a short hike along the meandering Mosel river.


Looking for wine growers and finding one in Piesport and one in Leiwen 

With my Johnson I had selected some wine growers around Piesport. Laurentiuslay and Goldtröpfchen are some of the first class vineyards. We try Clüsserath at Trittenheim – they do not open the door. Julian Haart in Piesport does not open the door either. Reuscher-Haart next door opens and I buy a Riesling with the name “Goldtröpfchen”, for 8.50. From their garden there is a romantic view of the Mosel – the swan enjoys it.


In the late afternoon, we find the St. Urbans-Hof in Leiwen open. A couple is working in the courtyard. They are from Poland and tell me that the manager is out today at a wedding. Ah, you want only one bottle and you pay in cash? They fetch me a bottle Spätlese from the vineyard Goldenes Tröpfchen für 27.50 Euro. On the wine list I see that their Laurentiuslay 2015 (Auslese) is not yet available and will cost 100 Euros. Grans-Fassian is another interesting winegrower of Leiwen, but we leave him for some other time.


Walking from above Piesport to Minheim

We walk from Piesport to Minheim. Minheim lies at the end of a half island formed by the meandering Mosel. This is the view of the northern slope of the half island: Steep, rocky and covered by dense forest. Piesport is below us. We park our car and walk towards the rocks.


The steep rocky slope is called  “Loreley of the Mosel”. From the Loreley viewpoint we look down to Piesport and the vineyard called  “Goldenes Tröpfchen” labeled above it.


This is the panoramic view taken by Ursula.


Walking on top of the half island, we see several vineyards, one behind the other, each bordering a different meander of the Mosel on south facing slopes.


The Mosel has fought its way through hard rock with softer layers that forced it to meander reverting its flow from south to north giving many opportunities for growing wine on sun facing slopes reflecting in the water. The impressive scenery is visited by hikers, bikers, motor bikers and, of course, by wine lovers. The grape grown primarily is the Riesling.

Minheim lies on the sunny side of “our” half island. Some of the vineyards are very steep here.


Minheim is a village of wine growers – layed off and quiet in the midday sun.


We find the small restaurant managed by a Dutch couple where we have a drink. The dog on the balcony across the street has settled in the last edge of shade. It IS another hot day today.


We climb back to the top of the half island with its Loreley viewpoint and we do feel the burning sun. This must be a great year for the grapes. After about one and a half hours we reach our car.


Back to Schweich and our hotel Grefen

With the car we follow the Mosel meandering north and south and north and south to reach Schweich and our hotel Grefen. I finish the day with zander and a Riesling from Annaberg, the vineyard our host found his hunting luck. We do like our family hotel – the Fuchs family fills it with their charm and hospitality which makes us feel at home.



A cloudy day in Trier – Roman and medieval heritage

Sunday and our 13th day in Germany. For the first time after two weeks I hear rain splashing. Today is a good day to visit Trier with its museums and churches. We take the train from Schweich to Trier and arrive in the city center without having to look for a parking lot and pay for it… good idea, Ursula.

Trier has already been a Celtic settlement. Then it was the capital of the Roman Provinces of Gaul, called Trevorum. Already around 250 AD it had its first bishop. In the German Empire it became the seat of one of the migthy archbishops that elected the emperor (Erzbischof and Kurfürst).


Roman times in Trier: Porta Nigra, Roman baths and Nero

The Porta Nigra is this “black gate”.


Somehow it is like coming home for me – I have seen this gate with my mum, when I was 15 years old.

The gate has been built for representation, not for fighting, somewhat like a triumphal arch. I learn that the Porta Nigra only survived, because Saint Simeon decided to live in this gate. Later Napoleon prevented his troops from destroying the Porta Nigra.

The Kaiserthermen or Imperial Baths are being renovated.


When constructing a park house under the Viehmarkt in the late 80-ies, Roman baths and a medieval monastery were found. This is now an underground museum, covered by a glass cubus. The ruins are numbered and well explained on the museum map. These are the remains of the Roman swimming pool.


The underground ruins give an interesting contrast to the upperworld life on the Viehmarkt.



Currently three museums tell the story of Nero. We visit the historical analysis of his life in the Landesrheinisches Museum. Great exhibition. Nero has been adopted by emperor Claudius that had married his mother Agrippina. He now was the oldest son of the emperor and succeeded Claudius, when he was 16 (in 54 AD). Well educated by the philosopher Seneca, he was a good emperor for about five years, modernizing Rome and providing games to the people. They liked him. Then he more and more showed, what we remember him for: He killed his mother and his first two wives, he accused the Christians to have set fire to Rome – and killed many of them, and he devoted more and more time to carriage racing, writing poems, singing and acting. After having spent 16 months in Greece (somewhat like a sabbatical), the senate forced him to resign and he commited suicide. He was 31 years old then. Though the senate tried to erase him from the memories of history, he is one of the emperors that is best remembered today. The exhibition about Nero is well curated, even at times with injections of humour.


Medieval churches with Roman roots

The Liebfrauenkirche is one of the first gothic churches in Germany, built on the foundations of a Roman palace.


The cathedral, just next to it, has been built integrating Roman foundations from the 4th century.


Both the cathedral and the Liebfrauenkirche share the cloister.


Not far from the complex of the cathedral and the Liebfrauenkirche there is the old basilica of Constantine, built in 315 AD.


Inside it is a beautiful church – its simplicity invites to pray.



Strolling through the city center with medieval houses and more

The old city center of Trier is charming.


This is the tower house “Dreikönigenhaus”. The “real” old door is far above the ground and can only be reached with a ladder. (The door on ground level has been added later).


This is a beautiful house with MacDonalds inside… the “M” has been kept “modestly” small.


Old and new meet one another – such as this rokoko building next to a Kebab restaurant in a half-timbered house.


Karl Marx is a son of Trier. The house, in which he was born, is now a museum.


Not far from here we find this travel agency…


and this hairdresser that I may not consider for cutting my hair (“Kopfsalat” is German for butterhead lettuce. The literal translation would be “head salad”).


Klein Florenz (Small Florence) is also not far.


In my memories from 50 years ago, Trier was primarily a town with remains from Roman times. Now, I am impressed, how the Roman foundations have been kept and integrated later (such as in the cathedral or the Roman Baths at the Viehmarkt). I also liked, how well kept the medieval city is and lives today. And I have learnt that with Karl Marx being born here, Trier (in a way) was the origin of the socialist and communist movements.


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.


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


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).


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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).


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


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.



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.


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


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


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…””


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.

The heart of Germany, the romantic Mittelrhein

Good-bye Rotenfels and Nahe

This is our tenth day in Germany. We say good-bye to the Rotenfels reflecting in the Nahe river. This rock is 202m high and at its foot is the vineyard “Bastei”.


Our plan today: Rüdesheim, Bacharach and a cruise on the Rhine to greet Loreley.


Disappointing Rüdesheim – little to see and just too crowded

After a short stop in Bad Kreuznach, we cross the Rhine from Bingen to Rüdesheim using the ferry. There are no bridges here. We park and look for the old town. We find the narrow Drosselgasse lined by half-timbered houses with souvenir shops and restaurants. This small street is crowded with tourists: Russians, Chinese, Japanese, American and also Swiss.


Too many tourists all focused on the one small romantic street of Rüdesheim. We quickly leave this busy place, disappointed that there is so little to see here.


Ansselheim – quieter, prettier, and Kesseler gives us a hearty welcome

We head north along the Rhine to Ansselheim. We find a pretty, small town with narrow streets, and we stop at Kesseler’s cellar to acquire a bottle of Pinot Noir (which is the specialty here). I select the a bottle from 2011- the same that the German president Gauck had served to the Queen of England, as the winegrower tells me with a smile.


Kesseler owns an unpretentious old-style cellar behind a courtyard – not a tasting area designed by a star architect,  as we had found in some places in the Pfalz. Kesseler and his people have worked here for generations and have produced good Pinot Noir that even makes politics. His wines are sometimes compared to Burgundy wines, he says, but they are just their own class and do not need to be compared.


To Bacharach – this IS a pretty town

We drive farther north to Lorch, take the ferry (no bridges here) and settle in Bacharach, named after Bacchus by the Romans, another wine growing town with beautiful half-timbered houses and with the famous vineyard Bacharach Hahn (Tony Jost owns this vineyard all alone as a monopole).


We settle in the hotel Altkölnischer Hof – a great place just across the St. Peter church.



Boat ride on the Rhine – the Loreley sings

We catch the boat  coming from Rüdesheim, ride down to Goarhausen and back to Bacharach, about two hours in all. The Mittelrhein is extremely romantic with the castles…


… and the steep vineyards.


We safely pass by the Loreleyrock.


On the boat they play the music that was composed for Heine’s poem”Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten, daß ich so traurig bin, ein Märchen aus uralten Zeiten, das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.” (“I cannot explain the sadness, that’s fallen on my breast, an old,old fable haunts me and will not let me rest”). It is sooo sadly romantic.


Bacharach is a gem

After the boat ride, I walk along the town wall of Bacharach. This is the view of St. Peter church, the Werner’s church (the ruins) and the Stahleck Castle above the town.


Half-timbered houses – all well maintained.


We have dinner in the Posthof, just under the Werner church.


We eat a delicious meal with roasted pork. I combine it with a Riesling from Bacharach Hahn, produced by Toni Jost.

Early in the morning I go for a second walk to the Stahleck Castle.


The sun rises, when I arrive in the Castle…


… and the day is taking off, when I climb back down to Bacharach.


Yes, we agree: “Halte im Gedächtnis wach, wunderbar ist Bacharach.” (Keep it in your mind, Bacharach is wonderful).


We buy a bottle of Riesling from the Hahn vineyard at Toni Jost’s and then we leave Bacharach. Our next destination are the Eifel and the Mosel valley.




The Nahe – a very fine and steep wine region

On our ninth day through Germany we drive to Bad Münster-Ebernbach in the Nahe valley. It is now the last day of August.
First stop at Rockenhausen, a friendly country town
Shortly after breakfast we feel like a coffee and stop in Rockenhausen. It is a friendly, small town with a clock museum,…
… a central market square with a church…
… and a cute monument in front of the church including these rabbits.
We have our espresso and buy some self knitted baby socks in the shop nearby that celebrates “ten years of the busy thread”. It is the kind of shops that sorely has disappeared in our towns: Just wool and filz and some hand knitted stuff.

The Nahe valley – Dr. Crusius at Traisen and the highest cliff north of the Alps
We drive through the Alsenz valley and reach the river Nahe. Behind a huge-huge rock we stop in the wine village Traisen. We find Dr. Crusius, a winegrower that I had selected from my Little Johnson for being an excellent family estate.


The daughter of Dr. Crusius opens the door. I buy two bottles of Riesling and a late harvest Riesling from the Bastei, a small band of vineyards below the Rosental rock. It is the highest rock in Europe north of the Alps (202m). The sun almost “roasts” the grapes here. We take pictures from the Rosental view point. Impressive. This is the upriver view.

This is the view down river towards Ebernbach.

The Nahe valley – Döhnhoff at Oberhausen
We drive along the Nahe to Oberhausen. We oscillate a bit, until we find the traditional winegrower Hermann Dönhoff in the Bahnhofstrasse. This winegrower, Johnson says, is perhaps Germany’s best. I expect a huge and representative tasting and selling area with a lot of staff working there. We find the wife of Dönhoff – she is under stress, as she is cooking a meal for guests that are expected to arrive soon. We find her husband in a rather modest selling and tasting area, also under stress, because he has promised to join his wife now. But, okay, he can sell me some Riesling. I buy two bottles of Grand Cru and a late harvest from Hermannsberg, the steepest and best rated vineyard in the Nahe region, just above a bent of the river. Mr. Dönhoff is proud of his wine, and when he hears me laugh about “Dellchen” (another name for a vineyard here, “little dent”), he mumbles something and disappears to fetch a description of his vineyards: “Look, this is for you, as your are interested”…  But now, he absolutely has to join his wife and receive the guests – the phone is ringing angrily.
Next place in the Nahe valley – Schlossböckelsheim
Ursula cannot remember “Schlossböckelsheim” (literally “Castle-Ram-Home”). She always says “Schafböckelksheim” (“Sheep-Ram-Home”) and we laugh. We drive through steep-steep vineyards,…


… reach Schlossböckelsheim that is a steep-steep village squeezed into a narrow valley, decide, we have had enough, take a drink in a friendly restaurant and then move to Bad Münster-Ebernbach.


Bad Münster-Ebernbach – the hotel is “solala”, but the Amtshof is a great surprise
We settle in the hotel Burgblick in a small apartment. The hotel is run down a bit, wifi does not work, the lady is overstrained, her kids are shouting at her… but the room is quiet. However, there is a surprise waiting for us: Near the hotel we find the Amtshof, a small restaurant in a historical building.
It is managed by an archaeologist who has specialized in medieval history. His menu looks indeed very medieval. Look at the Prae Scriptum about what the kitchen has to offer.
We settle in the courtyard. Ursula has a mixture of potatoes and apple baked with cheese – excellent. I enjoy roasted pork – also delicious. “Lasst es Euch wohl munden” (enjoy it well).
Tomorrow we will continue to the heart of Germany – the Mittelrhein and the Loreley.