After a brief and busy stop in Portland to re-pack and visit with friends and family, we flew to Frankfurt, Germany.
It’s been about a week and the weather has been Portland-like: grey, drizzly and cool and while that feels good, it’s not the best touring weather for exploring castles, cathedrals, gardens, etc. It also puts us to sleep as we’re still somewhat recovering from jetlag. But despite the weather and being tired, we are trying to make the best of our time here. We arrived in Germany at the Frankfurt airport on September 11 and breezed through immigration (they even told Sylvie to show her French passport so they would not have to stamp her US one), picked up our rental car and drove up to Bacharach, a little town in the Rhine valley, to our bed and breakfast” Pension Winzerhaus”.By fairly dumb luck we found our B&B without too many excursions & wrong turns! We loved this little village of Bacharach and used it as base for exploring the region. It has its own castle now transformed into a youth hostel and vineyards all around.We stayed there for 3 nights and explored the village as well as the Mosel valley and surrounding castles.
We took an inside tour of the Burg Eltz, a medieval castle nestled in the hills above the Mosel River. It was fantastic! The castle or “burg”took 500 years to complete. It is still owned by a branch of the same family that lived there in the 12th century. The Mosel valley itself looks very peaceful and serene without all the trains and boat traffic the Rhine has. It has some cute villages and towns along the way such as Cochem.
Another one of our excursions was to the city of Trier, near Luxembourg, which is the oldest town of Germany. It is also home to Germany’s oldest christian church (Trier Cathedral), the best preserved Roman city gate (Porta Nigra), and a 2nd century AD Roman bridge (Römerbrücke) across the Mosel, the oldest bridge north of the Alps still crossed by traffic, among other notable sites.
On a side note, it’s been a bit humorous dealing with some of the locals. We have been trying to stay in small villages rather than large cities both from a cost perspective and to get away from the crowds, but it also means that we are mostly dealing with german-only speaking folks. We don’t speak but 2 words of German ourselves so it makes for interesting experiences! One morning in particular, we were at this small German hotel in the village of Hochberg and an old man, the owner-we think, perhaps in his 70’s, was serving breakfast. He came to us first with juice, then with yogurt and bread, and started speaking to us in German. We tried to communicate with him with sign language but we couldn’t understand each other, so we had to take a guess at what he was asking. So James looked at him and said “coffee”. He left right away. We didn’t know whether we insulted him or guessed correctly. Soon he returned with our coffee and a big smile on his face. Not sure if he was amused or just happy we understood him.
One of the biggest challenges for us in Germany so far (besides the language) has been trying to find a good meal that doesn’t include potatoes and weiners! The pastries have also been less than impressive (can’t wait for France!!!), and trust us we have tried quite a few! But we did manage (with some trial and error) to find a couple of decent restaurants, some good snacks, and above average pastries. We also made a trip to the local supermarket and loaded up on chocolates and cookies.
After the Rhine and Mosel valleys, we started the romantic road and visited Wurzburg, a city in the region of Franconia, Northern Bavaria. We took an English tour of the Residenz in Wurzburg, a vast Palace (think Versailles) near the center of the town that was commissioned by two prince-bishops, and was constructed between 1720 and 1744. The palace suffered severe damage during World War II, but has been completely rebuilt. The interior is beautifully decorated with paintings, sculptures and stucco ornaments as well as the largest fresco in the world, which adorns the vault over the staircase.We took a stroll through town the rest of the day, walked on the Old Main Bridge, built in 1473-1543, and enjoyed the city festival that was going on.
We then headed to Rothenburg, a touristy but charming town at the crossroad of the Romantic Rd and the Castle Rd. It is Germany’s best-preserved medieval walled town. Lots of cute shops abound but we made sure to visit St Jakob’s church that hosts one of the most wonderful wood carving in all of Germany: a glorious 500-year-old, 35-foot-high Altar of the Holy Blood, get on top of the Town Hall tower and walk the city wall.We couldn’t resist though going to the famous Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas wonderland store, which has every conceivable Christmas decoration. Sylvie finally broke down and bought an ornament!