Traveling around Berlin in Brandenburg – this is also a wine region, yes!

Brandenburg – wine region – are you serious? Yes I am.

Brandenburg is surrounding Berlin, and is located pretty far north in Germany. Too far north for wine, I always thought. But then I came across the book “Weinland Brandenburg” by Tom Wolf (be.bra Verlag Berlin 2016). Tom Wolf describes 31 vineyards in Brandenburg. Very interesting. I decided to explore some of them, when traveling in Brandenburg, the hinterland of my mother town Berlin.

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Why are there wines in Brandenburg – so far north?

In early medieval times, Europe was christianized. As a consequence, monasteries were founded – also in Brandenburg. The monasteries needed wine for their cult and hence started to grow grapes for that, but perhaps the monks also enjoyed some of their wine from time to time.

It was Frederick the Great who stopped the wine production in Brandenburg in the early 18th century. He was of the opinion that potatoes are more useful – and he made his people cultivate potatoes instead of wine.  In addition there were more frequent frosts at that time that discouraged cultivating wine.

Shortly before the iron curtain fell and even more after the reunification of Germany, the tradition of cultivating wine took off again on some of the sunny hills that the monks had already selected earlier. Hills in Brandenburg are not high, but there are slopes that allow to produce wine, especially now with global warming. It may not be a Bordeaux or a Burgundy wine, but I found well made wine from biological production. Oh yes, some people say that wines from Brandenburg are sour – but I found them to be good companions for tasty local meals.

Let me tell you more about the monasteries and about the vineyards that we visited. Check out the book of Tom Wolf to find out more about 31 vineyards in Brandenburg.

 

Source: LBV Raumbeobachtung 2011

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Potsdam: Frederick the Great had his own vineyard – nevertheless

Frederick the Great or, as we call him, der Alte Fritz, may have told his subjects to cultivate potatoes instead of wine, but… he had his own vineyard in Sanssouci – a patchwork of small greenhouses with stone walls and glass windows climbing up the hill to his intimate palace “Sanssouci”.

I had always thought that this wine garden in Potsdam is somewhat excentric… and now I know, cultivating wine here is not excentric, but it is an old tradition

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Uckermark: Prenzlau – the monastery of the Dominicans  and the vineyard hanging on the town wall

Prenzlau (north of Berlin) is located on the northern shore of the Uckermark lake. The Dominicans founded a monastery here. In the former refectory some frescos have been renovated.

This beautifully carved altar shows the pastor with his sheep just arriving at the stable where Christ was born.

The monks needed wine for their cult and selected the town wall to capture the heat and light of the sun reflecting in the Uckermark lake. This southward looking slope is very warm, indeed. I could feel that even on a chilly day.

In 2013 the vineyard has been reinstalled for the LAGA which is a German garden exhibition (Landesgartenschau). The grapes planted are Regent (red) and Solaris (white). The wine is pressed in Pleisweiler in the Pfalz and can be bought in the tea- and wine house Gotzmann. (Tom Wolf, p. 207). Gotzmann was closed, when we were in Prenzlau, because it was a Sunday.

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Lausitz/Spree: Welzow with a vineyard in the open cast mine and Dr. Martin Krause’s vineyard in Drebkau

We spent a few days in the Spreewald with its woods along ramifications of the Spree, where cucumbers become “Spreewaldgurken” in vinegar.

All of a sudden the forest opens and we see the open cast mine of Vattenfall near Welzow. A huge, huge desert. Villages had to  be sacrificed, one of them being Wolkenberg with a former tradition of wine growing. Vattenfall started to plant their deserted hole and local specialists are cultivating the wine called “Wolkenberg” that can now be tasted in local restaurants (Tom Wolf, p. 145). Well, Vattenfall undertakes a small effort to repair what they have destroyed. I just stopped to breathe, when I saw this naked landscape.

We selected the lookout point of Welzow, but from here, we could not see the vineyard.

Instead we found Dr. Martin Krause’s vineyard in Drebkau/Klein Ossnig.

Dr. Martin Krause has done research and found that about 50 winegrowers were active around Cottbus in the 16th century  There was a vineyard in Klein Ossnig that delivered wine to the monastery of Cottbus – look for the monks! (Tom Wolf, p. 163).

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Fläming: Baruth and the Glashütte with the very special wine shop

In the southwest part of Brandenburg called “Fläming”, we visit the open air museum “Glashütte”. Beyond learning about how they made glass here, I buy three bottles of wine in the Weinsalon Glashütte:  Brandenburger Landwein from Zesch (Pinot white) and two bottles of Goldstaub with white wine made from the grapes Solaris and Helios that are common in this area. By the way, the wine saloon also offers wines from Moldovo and organizes events. A very inviting place.

Tom Wolf talks about the Weinberg Zesch that benefits from the lake of Zesch, not far from Baruth (p. 83). He also mentions the Mühlenberg in Baruth that produces the wine called “Goldstaub” – yes, there is a mill-wheel (Mühlrad) on the label (p. 89).

I have never tasted Solaris and Helios before and I am curious.

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The monastery Lehnin and the vineyards in Werder one of them being the Wachtelberg

The monastery of Lehnin and the adjacent hospital are now run by deaconesses. By the way, this romanic monastery is called Le-H-nin (with an “h”).

The monastery owned various vineyards in Werder which is a quiet town spreading out widely on the shores of the Havel near Potsdam. The Wachtelberg was one of the vineyards and today it is a vineyard again. We found it amidst the houses of Werder. There is a wine bar (Weintiene) on top of the hill that is open in the afternoon.

Dr. Linicke started to grow wine in the late 80’s in the former GDR, but after the fall of the iron curtain, nobody was willing to buy wine from the “east”. In 1994 the wine production was restored, again involving Dr. Linicke (Tom Wolf, p. 33). Now he has installed the “Erlebniswanderweg Wachtelberg”: Each line of grapes is described in detail, like this line of Ruländer or Pinot Gris.

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Wolanski and his Klosterhof Töplitz

Lara Wolanski does horse dressage and her father, Klaus Wolanski, started in 2007 to grow wine in Töplitz (Tom Wolf, p. 19). When we arrive at the Klosterhof, we find a message at the door: “Call me, I am happy to come”. Very soon a roaring noise announces the arrival of Klaus Wolanski. He comes on his small tractor and welcomes us with his black-white dog. He tells us that his wine production is based on biological principles. Here – so far north – the  grapes are not delicate, they do not need those strong pesticides, he says. There is grass in the vineyards that the sheep “cut”. The sheep also eat the leaves such that the grapes get more sun. They do not like the grapes, as long as they are sour, but – they would love them, once they are sweet. Hence these “helpers” have to stay outside now, in autumn.

We walk around in the area. There is a picnic place on top of the Töplitz hill. People used to flat land might be happy to recover from the steep ascent. And it must be a great place to celebrate.

We buy some wines – Riesling, Pinot Gris (both white) and Regent (red) – one bottle of Regent has matured in the barrel.

Annerös takes one bottle of Regent home. She drinks it with her husband, and they like it. Well made, they said. Soon after arriving at home, I shared the Grauburgunder or Pinot Gris with my neighbours. The wine was clean and freshly fruity – a  real “Ruländer”.

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Not only wine, but also stronger stuff for the monks: The KlosterBruder

In the monastery of Zinna – also a Cistercian monastery founded in 1170 – they produce the “Zinnaer KlosterBruder” or “Zinna Monastery Brother”.  Right in the building under the clock.

It is a herb liquor that is supposed to be healthy (monks called their herb liquors “aqua vitae” (water of life) and used them as a medicine. The technique of distilling liquor has been known at least since the 12th century, perhaps even earlier.

There is a legend related to the “KlosterBruder”: A cavalier from the area was in love with a lady that was too noble for him. As he could not marry her, he went to the monastery, where he produced holy paintings with the face of his beloved noble lady. The abbot recognized the face and made him destroy his paintings. The monk obeyed and started to collect herbs. He invented the herb liquor “KlosterBruder” named after him and discovered that this drink made him feel cheerful and happy.

Herb liquors are not really my favourite drinks… To my opinion they taste like medicine.

But I like wine – and the wine culture in Brandenburg was a surprise for me. The wines make nice – though a bit unexpected – souvenirs from Brandenburg! And there are more vineyards to explore, when going back – at least 31 of them.

In addition, there is much more to see in Brandenburg – the early Slavic immigrants (Sorbs and Wends) and the ramifications of the rivers (Spreewald, Havelseen or Oderbruch). We found numerous castles (Wiesenburg, Eisenhardt, Lübbenau, the Fürst Pückler park with the duke’s castle or charming Sanssouci in Potsdam) and nice bigger and smaller cities (Bad Freienwalde, Jüterbog, Bad Belzig, Lübbenau or Brandenburg) with timbered houses and gothic churches and townhalls made out of brick (we call that German Backsteingotik – sometimes even Backsteinromanik). I will go there again. Perhaps for a bicycle tour.

South Palatine – spring impressions with almond blossom

Palatine (Pfalz) in Germany has an almost Mediterranean climate, as it is protected from the rainy west winds by the Pfälzerwald or Palatine forest. Wine has grown here since Roman times as well as sweet chestnut and almond trees. The almond trees are in blossom end of March/beginning of April. The Palatine celebrates that with their Mandelwochen (almond weeks).

End of March 2017, we visited Bad Bergzabern in South Palatine. We find the almond trees in full blossom – beautifully pink.

The plum trees are all white.

But now, end of March, the vines only show small light green leaves.

We stroll through the vineyards…

… and the forests above them. The leaves have not come out yet and the crowns of the trees point to the blue sky.

The sun plays with the shadows of the trees.

We climb the hill to the chapel St. Annaberg…

… and enjoy the view from here into the Rhine valley.

We walk back down again… a few shy clouds are above the trees.

With humor this snail leads us down to a winegrowers’ village called Burrweiler.

Spring can be felt in the winegrowers’ villages as well.

Many houses are half-timbered. This historical building stands in Geisweiler.

Even dogs are welcoming guests and visitors in the winegrowers’ villages. This friendly dog can be found at Pleisweiler.

But beware of this fighting cat – it watches a house in Burrweiler.

Winegrowers on the way offer to taste (and buy) their wines. One of them has this motto.

Well, I think happiness is both a way and a destination of life. Or even some ways of life with some destinations. We felt perfectly happy enjoying spring in the Palatine for two days – it is a great destination. We spent one night in Bad Bergzabern, walked in the hills behind Bergzabern, and the next day we hiked around Geisweiler and Burrweiler to enjoy the view from the chapel St. Anna located above these villages.

On the first day we had a coffee stop in Wissembourg in the Alsace. I love the church of Saints-Pierre-et-Paul with the glass pane of Christ from the 11th century (the original being in Strassbourg).

When driving home on our second day in the evening, we had dinner in Bergheim not far from Riquewihr. Spring can be felt here as well, now in the evening light.

Bergheim is a good place to round off two beautiful days looking for spring impressions.

Now we dream of the “way” to our next “destination” that will make us happy again – France with the Loire valley and Northern Spain.

 

 

Via Bad Bergzabern to Strassbourg in France

Wednesday, our 15th day traveling in Germany. We head south. Our destination is the Alsace in France. We cross the industrial zones around Heidelberg, Mannheim and Ludwigshafen and follow the Deutsche Weinstrasse of the Pfalz southwards.

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Bad Bergzabern – a charming quiet town – forgot my jacket here

Bad Bergzabern is about 10km north of the German border with France. It is a small pretty town with a castle,…

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… half-timbered houses – such as the “Weinstube zur Reblaus” or “Wine Tavern for Vine Fretter”,…

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… a church with this lion fountain,…

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… and the market square woth another fountain.

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In the second hand shop called “Hoppla”, Ursula finds a pair of elegant German design shoes for 15 Euros. I find a linen white jacket for 15 Euro and a pashmere scarf for 5 Euros. We take it all – thank you, Ursula… but then – hoppla – we forget my favorite blue windstopper jacket in the shop called “Hoppla”, and we only notice it, when we are already in France. Ggrrrr… We drive back – it is about 10km – and we find the shop closed – until 2 PM. We look for a place to eat lunch. We find restaurants that are closed, uninviting or unwelcoming. Hesitating we stand in front of one of the closed restaurants, when a couple of about our age passing by says: “Just round the corner you will find the restaurant Haas, they serve excellent regional food.” Some minutes later we share a table in the restaurant Haas. We enjoy a great Leberknödelsuppe and a salad plate. We learn that the couple lives in Namibia and comes home to the Pfalz every year, now that they have retired. I have been in Namibia as well, and we have a lot to chat – about the town Windhoek, the Etosha park, the Waterberg and the Namibian winery (yes that exists…). Well, hoppla, sometimes unluck produces luck.

Shortly after 2PM the shopkeeper of “Hoppla” opens her shop and returns me my favorite blue jacket. Now we drive back to France.

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The Weintor (wine gate) at Schweigen – a touristy tourist attraction

Schweigen is the last German village at the French border The Deutsche Weinstrasse of the Pfalz starts here. The beginning is marked with this gate.

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The gate attracts tourists. Hords have come here in busses. A train is ready to take them to Wissembourg just across the border in France.

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We leave this touristy place immediately. Both Ursula and I carry an old Dumont Kunstführer of the Alsace, mine is from the year 2000. The information about history and historic buildings are still valid.

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Wissembourg – a charming Alsacian town and a harmonious Romanesque-Gothic church

Wissembourg is our first village in the Alsace with half-timbered houses and a small creek -this is an arm of the Lauter.

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In the 11th century, a Franciscan-Claristic monastery was founded here and the construction of the cathedral St. Peter and Paul started. This cathedral is a gem with much preserved from Romanesque and Gothic times (source: “Die Kirche St. Peter und Paul”, Editions du Signe).

This Romanesque tower is from the 11th century.

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The second tower is Gothic in style – here is the view from the cloister.

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I love the solemn, dark-cool atmosphere inside with the 11th century representation of Christ made from one piece of painted glass with a diameter of about 25cm (the original is in Strassbourg).

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The windows are preserved – they are from the 14th century and earlier (one rosette is from 1190). There are frescos like this Christopherus from the 14th century.

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This guy – you can tell – is working hard. The column weighs heavily on his shoulders.

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The organ is from 1766.

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The attached Romanesque chapel hosts an art exhibition. We love this church and spend something like two hours here.

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Soufflenheim – pottery – and The Moulin de Wantzenau – a quiet place after noisy Heidelberg

Next stop is at Soufflenheim that produces pottery. The shopkeepers speak this soft Alsacian dialect, German mixed with French.

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I buy an Alsacian cook book (“Kochen im Naturton von Soufflenheim” or “cooking in natural earthernware from Soufflenheim”). I plan to prepare the rabbit cooked in cider – it looks tempting.

We decide to look for a hotel near Strassbourg and find the Moulin de Wantzenau, just some 5km away from Strassbourg. The Moulin is a charming place to stay. It is quiet here in the middle of nature. The attached restaurant serves delicious meals. We enjoy another warm summer evening in the garden.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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This is the panoramic view taken by Ursula.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

Back to Heidelberg

Monday and our 14th day on the road. The sun is back after the rainy and cloudy Sunday in Trier. We drive back to Heidelberg. Along the motorway we see the signposts pointing to the places we have visited. Kusel – craddle of Fritz Wunderlich. Münchweiler – memories of the great hotel and restaurant Klostermühle, and also memories of the Celtic wall on the Donnersberg. Neustadt and the Riesling wines of the Pfalz. And after some two hours we already approach Mannheim. Ursula proposes to visit the remains of the Carolinguian monastery of Lorsch. Agreed…

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Lorsch, a gem of a village with this Unesco world heritage, the monastery

Lorsch was an imperial monastery founded in the 8th century. Today it is known for these arches.

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Above the arches there is a room with frescos, as this plate shows.

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Around the monastery are the remains of a church, reconstructed buildings (to illustrate the monastery), a garden with herbs, and a pretty, small village with half-timbered houses and welcoming restaurants.

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This fountain shows a woman with tobacco leaves.

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Lorsch takes care of its world heritage and loves to share it with visitors.

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Heidelberg – in a way “my” town… I was born here

Then we continue our way to Heidelberg and settle in the hotel Monpti in the old city center. The hotel is about okay, but a bit noisy and it may need some renovation. It is like coming home for me, as I was born in Heidelberg.

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Morning walk in the city

We start our 14th day with an early morning walk down to the Neckar to catch some photos of the city river line.

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I had to climb through the trees and bushes to take my morning photo.

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Ursula took this foto of the famous Heidelberg castle in the haze.

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Having crossed the Neckar, we visit the gothic Heiliggeistkirche.

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Inside the light is beautiful.

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All windows of the church have been made after 1945.

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We have a coffee in the traditional confectionary Gundel. They are proud of their specialty “Mohrenkugel” that the grand-grand-father had invented for the anniversary of Kurfürst Friedrich V and his wife Elisabeth Stuart.

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Inside the Mohrenkugel there is a nougat filling. This is the story:  The grand-grand-father could not think of a creative shape for the anniversary sweet. The daughter asked him to tell her the fairy tale of king frog. While she fell asleep, the confectionist took the ball the (king) frog retrieved from the fountain and invented the “Mohrenkugel”.

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Walking steeply uphill to the ruins of the Heidelberg castle

Over steep stairs we reach the famous ruins of the Heidelberg castle in ten minutes. We enjoy the view of the city center, the Neckar and Mannheim.

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The Heidelberg castle originates from the 13th century. Each Kurfürst added one notable building, e.g. Ottheinrich added the Ottheinrichsbau (Renaissance, early 16th century) or Friedrich the Friedrichsbau (around 1600). Friedrich V also built this gate for his wife Elisabeth Stuart that he was in love of (Ursula’s foto).

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The castle was destroyed in the Palatine succession wars end of the 17th century, as Louis XIV wanted to expand and conquer the Palatine (Pfalz). The castle was never rebuilt, and later it was decided to preserve just the ruins, as poets such as Goethe had already made it known which attracted tourists.

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Strolling through the old city center

We stroll through the old city center. This is my favorite building, the Hotel Ritter with its Renaissance fassade.

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Ursula has memories of the university library. Some years ago she studied the facsimile of the Codex Manesse with the medieval minstrel songs such as by Walther von der Vogelweide. She cites “Ich saz ûf eime steine,und dahte bein mit beine…” . He thinks and concludes that he does not succeed trying to achieve honor, possession and the mercy of God at the same time.

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Our hotel is close to the gothic St. Peters’ church that hosts a lot of interesting epitaphs – some tombstones are more than 500 years old.

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We spend the afternoon with a friend of mine in a small village close to Heidelberg and then have dinner in the restaurant Romer… a gourmet dinner with sea brass. Delicious.

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).

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

The Porta Nigra is this “black gate”.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Medieval churches with Roman roots

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

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

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Both the cathedral and the Liebfrauenkirche share the cloister.

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

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

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Strolling through the city center with medieval houses and more

The old city center of Trier is charming.

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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).

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

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

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

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Not far from here we find this travel agency…

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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”).

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Klein Florenz (Small Florence) is also not far.

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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.

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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.