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A Weekend in the Mosel Valley

August 20-22

Written August 31

Friends and Families ,

So far, this is not a year with a "real" vacation, but we do get to take weekends. For this one, we were bound by my needing to be in Offenbach (Frankfurt) on Thursday and the following Monday. The solution was for Marianne to drive up on Thursday to join me in Offenbach and then we would have a full three days to tour -- somewhere.

We talked about longer trips to Holland or Belgium or France, but settled on a short, two-hour hop over to the Mosel Valley, one of the most scenic spots in Germany. By the way, I am using the German spelling (Mosel) because I didn't remember that English is different (Moselle.)

If you just want to see pictures, click here:PHOTO ALBUM

Drive from Offenbach to the Mosel Valley

Facing a short trip, we were in no rush and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the Offenbach Best Western Hotel that I have spent a great deal of time at over the last year. Breakfast here is a lot more fun with Marianne and without pressure to leave early. It's a great way to start.

We now had both cars in the hotel parking lot and, seeing the sunny weather forecast, we decided to take the Boxster to see how much top-down weather we could harvest. Getting out of Frankfurt though, required a top-up sprint on the busy A3 autobahn, NOT my favorite place to drive. But, in about an hour, we could leave the hectic freeway and start our weekend on back roads.

Our first stop was a village called "Kirchberg" ("church town" )- a generic designation if I ever saw one. It was old, (so what), had an historic old church (so what II), a market square, with market (so what III) and plenty of quaint old houses (so what IV). But, the whole package of generic name and standard-in-Germany-features still gave us a good chance to wander around a little and start the unwinding process.

After Kirchberg, we crossed the "high plains" of the Rhine Valley, up where there are grain farms and wind-generators. I think of wind-generation as the new agriculture. These wind plants are heavily subsidized in Germany, are viewed as "eco-friendly", no matter what the effect on folks nearby, depend on weather, and make profit that no one will admit to (-- all the same as farms)

We left the high plains and descended into the Mosel Valley on a small road with turns that were as close to 180 degrees as the road-width would permit. This was definitely a Boxster road but even with our little sports car, we needed to slow waaay down on the turn-around bends. But, it was fun.

At the bottom of the twisty hill road we entered the village of Senheim, complete with more quaint buildings, and saw the Mosel itself. This is just a wonderfully scenic river valley with vineyards lining the lower parts of steep hillsides that run almost into the river itself. Now, we had to find our hotel.

I had booked a place on the internet at "Booking.com", our most reliable source for hotel recommendations. We had the "Ellenz-Poltersdorf" address programmed into the Tom Tom GPS navigator and were depending on our electronic Gertrude to tell us where to go. Unfortunately, I think we were looking at the navigator and missed the sign to the hotel parking lot. From there it was a hassle to track down where the hotel entrance REALLY was , since village addresses are sometime only approximate. (I refuse to talk about the absolutely nasty owner of a small parking space we tried to pause in while we got our bearings. THAT lady was having a bad day that she wanted to share.)

Eventually, we turned off the navigator and just drove around the block and found out hotel, the Hotel Dehren The room was not ready so we walked a block to the local meat market (Metzgerei) and ordered lunch. Going to the butcher for meals may not be the norm in America, but it's pretty common here in Germany at small, family-run butcher shops. And the meat is always fresh!

Next we went back to the Dehren and moved our stuff up to our room. It was not one of the river-facing units, but the gardens view was pleasant and, as always in Germany, the room was spotless. Truly, travel in Germany is very painless as cleanliness is never a question and small family-run hotels and guest houses are everywhere. Over the next two days, we would continue to enjoy the Dehren family hospitality, including two wonderful evening meals. Josef Dehren, the owner, chef, and overall host made us feel at home.

Leaving the hotel we went for a walk in the vineyards between Poltersdorf and Ellenz. The grapes were not yet ready for picking. That normally happens in September, at the same time as the many village wine festivals. (For example, the Poltersdorf fest is September 24-26 this year -- and Sept 31-October 2 in 2011, if you like planning ahead.)

Down on the river we spotted the ferry crossing to Beilstein and decided to cross over. Beilstein is very touristy, with several restaurants and a couple of souvenir shops too. While it was crowded with visitors, it was still a nice strolling town. The streets wove in and out and up the hill to the old cloister. The view from here was great, but above us was an even better vantage point: Burg Metternich.

Metternich was the castle ruin that dominated the scene from the Poltersdorf side of the Mosel River, a commanding fortress until the French destroyed it in the 17th Century. Climbing up there seemed like a natural goal, although our little walking excursion had already grown beyond our initial idea of just wandering in the Ellenz-Poltersdorf grape fields.

The path up was fine, not a Disneyland path with smooth surfaces and sturdy guard rails, but manageable for two tired travelers. (There was a five euro charge for entrance, apparently too expensive for the French king but OK for us.) The path leads through destroyed entrance fortification, but even the wall remnants give the impression that getting inside uninvited would not have been easy.

At the top, I left Marianne in the terrace cafe while I got even more exercise climbing the central tower ("keep" in English-castle terms.) The view was spectacular (see below) but my old legs are still shaking from the climb.

The walk down was OK, although it's never as easy as one would expect. Dirt paths can be slippery. Anyway, down the path, down the narrow street of Bielstein, ferry across the Mosel, walk through the vineyards, and crash back at the hotel Dehren. This was a good walking tour!

Of course, a long walk justifies a good dinner. We stayed at the hotel because the website showed some serious cooking. We were not disappointed as Johan (Josef?) Dehren and his mother prepared a very nice meal. (Marianne -- remind me what it WAS!) After, it was early to bed and looking forward to our second Mosel day.

Saturday, a Valley Drive

After a leisurely breakfast, one of my favorite parts of traveling, we decided on a driving day - top down of course. We drove upstream to Cochem and downstream to somewhere. The pictures are the best record, but it was a wonderful use our little sports car. And, while we did not have the excuse of a long walk, we still celebrated with a good meal back at the hotel.

Sunday, our last day of "vacation". Another slow-food breakfast.

Today, Josef came over to play the gracious host and we pried a bit into his and the family's history. In a story we have often heard, he grew up in his family's village and is carrying on a family business. Also true to form, he has added modern training to the old village inn, including periods in Orange Country, California and in Japan, working for a major hotel chain. (This explains his fluent English.) Now, as the owner of the hotel, he and the rest of the family work long hours, seven days a week, for the six-months of tourist seasons. While the work is long and hard, and the risk much higher, it did not sound like Josef had any interest in going back to the chain hotel world. He'd found his place. Nice story.

It was another top-down, sunny day and we took advantage of the weather driving "home". From Poltersdorf we went with the flow of the Mosel to Koblenz, where it joins the Rhine. From there, we went down the eastern side of the Rhine, past all the traditional landmarks of this castle-infested region. It was three hours of European driving that we dream of. OK, we were heading "home" to Offenbach, my semi-industrial second home, but could remind ourselves that this was a European driving vacation without jet lag and airport hassles. So what that it was only three days long.

On Monday, I went to work and Marianne drove back to Pommersfelden, our real home. By the good planning of another slow breakfast, she even managed to out-wait the infamous traffic on the A3 autobahn. All in all, a wonderful driving weekend.

So, that's our summer vacation. We hope to squeeze in a couple more small trips before Marianne heads off for a month with family in California.




ps: I'm having another should-we-do-this-diary-stuff crisis again. Family talk of exposing personal detail to strangers has arisen (in regard to another family member's "Blog") and it causes me to think again about our "Diaries". We have been doing these since September of 1998, almost 13 years, "forever" in our modern age of always-connected social networking.

In the beginning, it was a novel way of keeping in touch with family and friends as we started our European adventure. Early on , and through the middle period of the Diaries, we asked for (demanded?) - and received - feedback from both family and friends. Now, in the age of ubiquitous email, Twitter, texting, Blogs, Facebook, Foursquare (?), Skype, etc., etc., a hand-made, sometimes rambling, diary no longer has the novelty -- and no longer gets responses from family or friends.

Does that matter? On several occasions, I have reminded myself, and silent readers, that diaries are done for the writer, not a public audience. That may be the crucial difference between a diary and a blog. But, did I start saying that just because reader feedback had dropped to almost zero? Maybe. Frankly, among some of the family I wanted to stay in touch with, communication has indeed dropped to zero, after years of no volunteered feedback, by email, phone, Skype, letter, or anything else. (Finally, I tired of being ignored. Childish, perhaps, but even old people can be immature if they want.) Perhaps the more intrusive approach of Facebook's "wall" would be more effective, but that whole scene seems so self-agrandizing.

And, does our diary expose us to a new criminal genre, set on stealing our identity? No, I don't think so. In my view, the very obscurity of this diary makes it an unlikely target. There are no advertiser links, no email addresses, no viewer feedback forms. The site is hosted by a careful but relatively obscure internet service provider, obscure but managing to stay in business over the years.

So, in balance, I am left again with little risk but little external reward. I'll continue doing it because I enjoy taking pictures and I enjoy writing. Next year, I might save some money and eliminate any residual risk of privacy invasion by moving the site off the web, but, for the near future, it stays on the wide web.


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