Thursday, October 25, 2007

Die Mosel

We have just come back from a few days in the Mosel Valley, and what a beautiful, charming river valley that is. The winding river, those romantic castles and all those vineyards climbing the steep slopes! It is surely one of the most beautiful parts of Germany.

We entered the valley at the lower end, near Koblenz, at a little place called Kobern-Gondorf where Roman artifacts were discovered in the late 19th century. Then we headed for the very picturesque town of Cochem, but we felt obliged to visit one of the most spectacular castles on the way there, the Burg Eltz, which is still privately owned by the family von Eltz. They have quite a challenging walk to the shops, is all I can say!

After a meandering drive in the drizzly weather along the Mosel we found our hotel…

…which astonishingly enough was built 20 years before the town wall on the left, which, in its turn, was built by Kurfürst Balduin in 1352! The hotel was filled (read ‘cluttered’) with old paintings, hunting trophies and suchlike, and had a beautifully decorated Postbriefkasten mounted on the outside wall. Although staff were friendly, they charged us extra, quite disproportionately, for a two-hour extended stay due to illness and topped it up with charging us for an extra cup of tea for Ms S, who due to said illness had not been able to enjoy her breakfast. So much for being friendly! As for the kitchen, I have had better school dinners. So there, ha!

Cochem itself is a very picturesque little town with a pretty square, relaxing river promenade and the famous Reichsburg Cochem on a hilltop. The castle, which was originally built in the 11th century, was completely destroyed by French soldiers in 1869. The castle that stands today was rebuilt in the 19th century. From it you have some stunning views, and if you take the lift up to the nightly illuminated cross, you will have an impressive view of the castle itself, and if you walk even further up, you can take in both the cross, the castle and the whole of Cochem. Can you spot the cross? (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Next stop was Trier, allegedly the oldest town in Germany. To get there we chose to follow the somewhat slow road that intertwined with the river Mosel; first you’re on one side of the river, then you’re taken across a bridge to the other side, then back again, and so it goes on. We could see people harvesting those succulent grapes in the sunshine; could that be Spätlese, I wonder? Just like when we were in the Beaujolais district in the summer, we recognised place names that we normally see on wine labels. Magic!

Trier was founded in 16 BC by supposedly Emperor Augustus himself. In the 5th century the town was conquered and destroyed by Germanic tribes, but it still boasts a rich architectural heritage, and it was of course the birthplace of Karl Marx.

The Porta Nigra, the town gate, is the oldest German defensive structure; it stands today at the one end of the lively, pedestrianised town centre, so it really feels like entering the town when you walk through it. The fact that it is still standing, is quite a construction achievement, since they did not use any mortar, only iron rods to hold the massive stone blocks together.

Passing through the old gate you soon find yourself at the main market square, Hauptmarkt, where you will find the Petrusbrunnen (St Peter’s fountain), with St Peter and the Four Virtues, the Marktkreutz (Market cross), symbolising the right to hold markets and also Germany’s oldest pharmacy with records dating back to the 13th century. The present Löwenapotheke building is as young as from the 17th century though.

In our modern times we speak about carbon footprint, but now I understand better why the Romans were able to leave behind such long-lasting imprints on our culture. Hail Augustus!


Carol said...

Wow -- beautiful! Now I'm "home"sick!! Thanks a LOT! :-)


Eric Valentine said...

Swen, thank you so much for sharing such a collection of wonderful photo's and a running commentory explaing as you went.

I feel like I was on the tour with you.

You do take such marvellous trips my friend, I look forward to 'our' next one if I may. :))

Nutty Boy said...

oh my, great photos!!! i wish i could be there!!! im always fascinated about everything german... aww...

hey keep me posted.. pay me a visit in my blog too.. thanks.. how can i subscribe?

nutty boy said...

here's my blog...

can i print some of your photos?

swenglishexpat said...

Carol, Eric and Nutty Boy,
Yes, those panoramic views in particular are always stunning in real life, but they don't always turn out as well in a photo. Enlarging the picture helps though, I think. I'm glad you appreciate them. We'll see when the next trip is, otherwise I could always upload some more photos from this time. ;-)
Nutty Boy, thanks for asking. Yes, you can use my pics. Please acknowledge me as the source.

Lynda said...

That is a lovely part of the world - often neglected in favour of the Bavarian view of the world. We are heading over to Koln for Xmas this year - might be time for another tour.

Rositta said...

Wow, that's almost a mirror image of our trip to Trier in September, even the photos are similar. We did have a better experience with a hotel in Cochem, we stayed at the Hexe across the bridge on the other side of the Mosel. It was actually really nice and we were treated very well...ciao