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March 2010
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Moselle Valley Germany


Moselle Valley - Home of Riesling Wines. 


Fortunately for us, this trip was a "drive" trip, otherwise we would not have been able to get a flight out due to all flights being grounded as a result of the volcano.  Our first stop was the historic town of Trier which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It was a Roman colony from the 1st century AD and is considered the oldest city in Germany.  Here we are at the Ancient Imperial Roman Baths, built in the 4th century during Constantine's rule.



 The gate to the city is called the Porta Nigra or Black Gate.  It was built in 180 AD - isn't that amazing?  Do you think they had ice cream back then?


It was a beautiful day and everyone was out and about, even the street performers.  He had one of the best costumes we have ever seen on a street mime.


Always give them a handful of change as they will do fun little skits.  Oh la la!


On to our B&B in a little town called Wehlen.



It had 7 rooms and was a winery, S.A. Pruem Winery.  It is the yellow house on the left and it has a front-yard view of the Moselle River.  The Moselle River runs through Germany, France, and Luxembourg. 


Check out the view from our window, and ladies, check out that "twist"  :  )


We enjoyed a wine tasting and a tour of the B&B winery.  Below, D is sampling the wines with the owner's daughter.  We learned that there are some very good dry German wines and not all of them are sweet. 



This winery has been in the same family since 1156 and has some of the oldest vines in the world with the roots dating back 2000 years to Roman times!  Wines have been commercially produced for 200 years here.  One reason all of the wines are such high quality is the characteristics of the soil which consists of very finely decomposed blue slate dating back to the Devonian era.  


They store their wines in dark, cool, moist vaulted cellars in aged "Fuderfassen" (large wood barrels of 1,000-liter capacity)  They have 150 of these barrels.


The next day we visited Bernkastel - Kues, a quintessential German village just down the river.  It had medieval timbered homes


and brightly painted homes with words and pictures on the side - both very common to this area.


From the town center we followed a path through the woods to the ruined Landshut Castle built in the 13 century.  In 1696 a fire broke out and left it in ruins - as it sits today.


There were equally impressive views looking out of the castle.


It was a quiet place to take a break and take in the beautiful scenery.


The hike to the castle worked up our appetites so we headed back to the town to enjoy and outdoor cafe.  As you can see, I have my gloves and a blanket - it was still a bit chilly.


We were so excited as they had one of our very favorite German specialties, Flammekueche - a thin- crusted pizza covered with lardons (bacon), creme fraiche, and onions.  It doesn't get much better than this!


Well, except for Flammekueche and a glass of wine!


This was taken at sunset.....they said we were suppose to have beautiful sunsets due to the Volcano in Iceland. 




IMG_6116 2

The next day at 9:30 am we headed out for another castle and just a few doors down from our B&B we saw these men bottling their wine by hand.  D pulled around the corner and told me to go back and take a photo - I told him he had to go take the photo.  He said no - I have to do it "for the blog". 


For the blog.....but of course I will do it for the Blog!  So off I go.... The men above are filling the bottle with the wine.  The man below is corking them.



D was sitting in the car.......10 minutes had gone by.  He was guessing things were going well......GOING WELL?  I'd say...


They handed me a glass, filled it up with the tube and handed me a bottle.....I was having a grand time flirting with a bunch of German men who spoke very little English.  And did you catch that it was 9:30 AM???  I drank my glass, thanked them and bounced back into the car.  Really I was bouncing after chugging a glass of wine at 9:30!  But it was all "for the blog"!!


This was the wine I was tasting.

On to the castle, the Berg Eltz.  We had to hike one mile into the forest to get to it.  It was a nice walk - all down hill. 


As we took a turn - we could begin to see the castle through the trees.  The Berg Castle was built in 1157 and has been in the same family for 850 years!  It was also never destroyed by any fires or invasions.


It was a beautiful castle and very well preserved on the inside with furnishings.  Unfortunately no photos inside.


Did you know that when you walk one mile downhill to see a castle - the mile back is all UPHILL!


I almost died at the Berg Castle.  But I was looking cute hiking in a dress.  All I needed was high heels to be a real European  :  )

Here are a few other castle and ruins we saw driving around.  They tower over the romantic wine villages and vineyards.  The large castle is Cochem Castle.




It was a beautiful day and we were able to drive with the top down.  We had a great view of the para-sailors.  They were so many of them sailing the skies.  These were taken as we were driving!



The vines were bare, but still a beautiful site.  They twist like ribbons through the countryside.


It was absolutely amazing to see how steep the vineyards are.  The vines go all the way to the top of this slope.  The higher up the grapes are grown, the more prestigious and expensive the bottle is.  They are said to be the steepest vineyards in the world.


It is very common for people to hike among the vines.  I was too tired after my hike to the castle  :  )

We took a little nap by the river instead.  The almond blossoms were in full bloom.


On Sunday we explored our sweet little town.  D loved to watch the barges go by.  In the late afternoon we would take a glass of wine down and sit by the river and watch the barges.


There were many wineries in our neighborhood where you could taste and buy wine.  We visited this one as we thought it looked so quaint.


An older couple owned it and they did not speak one word of English.  But we manged to get a wine tasting....


and a glass of wine....


which we drank in their lovely courtyard.  We purchased several bottles from them, the Fredrich-Kern winery.  It was started in 1753 and is also still in the same family!


There were life-sized sculptures of people throughout all of the villages.  They were very funny as they looked so real from a distance.


We sure would have liked to have driven this around for the day..


We had a wonderful weekend in the Moselle Valley and hope to visit in the fall when the towns really comes alive with color and wine festivals!


Easter break with Maria and the boys


My cousin Maria and her two sons Liam (14) and Sean (12) came to visit us over their spring break from school.  Every day was jammed packed and we had a blast!


Castle 1v 2

Day 1:  They arrived on Good Friday.  We picked them up very early at the airport and after a shower, food, and a quick nap, we took them on a train to see the stately Beersell Castle


Built around 1300 out of red brick, vs stone like most castles of this time, it is one of Flanders greatest medieval castles.  Today it is just a shell, but so much fun to run around in.  


We were the only people there which made it even more special.  D ran ahead and discovered the torture chamber.  The rest of us were startled when we walked into the room and found him on the torture rack.


I've got my cousin right where I want her...I shall operate on her brain!!


I shall stretch you until you give me the secret information!


We saw the funniest sign outside of the castle - Beware!  Frog Crossing.  Unfortunately, we did not see any frogs crossing.


Day 2: It was all about eating.  We took them to our local market where Sean and Liam started the day off with waffles.


Next we visited The Grande Place, the Manneken Pis, the Jeanneke Pis, etc... and ate doner kebabs for lunch.


Cousins, but people think we are sisters.


The boys in the chocolate shop.


As always, there were crazy things going on.  


We ran into two "Hen-dos" (bachelorette parties in the US) where the bride's friends dress her up and make her beg for money.  Sean's was a dentist and although she looked like the more risque one......Liam's had very naughty giveaways in her basket!


 We had to introduce them to the Famous Brussels Pommes Frites (French Fries).  Did you know that the French fry was invented in Belgium not France?




After a long day of eating and walking - everyone was hungry!  So we stopped for more waffles and ice cream!


Maria did not order anything - but she sure kept stealing bites from Sean!


Believe it or not - we all ate a big roasted chicken for dinner that night.


Just as we were getting ready to leave for the Easter service, Sean pulled out his dress pants and he had packed the wrong pair - they were 6 inches too long!  You can guess that Maria was NOT happy!  We had to do a quick tape job....Which had us all laughing!


That evening we went to the Cathedral of St Michael in Brussels (built 1047), for an Easter service - a Gregorian Chant.  When we arrived the church was dark. 


The priests walked in with very large candles and each of us had a candle which was lit from the large ones.  The first 15 minutes was in candlelight.  It was very special.  I had to snap a photo (I know I know - not during the service!).  Blurry since I couldn't use a flash, but still interesting.


Day 3: Easter Sunday.  Maria, Sean and Liam went to another Cathedral for noon service.  We then ate a big lunch of Cassoulet and speculoos and chocolate bread pudding for dessert.  We then took a long walk in a neighborhood we knew was lively for a holiday.  


and some are lively no matter where they are!


We ate on the coffee table in the family room while we watched top chef, a British cooking competition show.


 Day 4: Maria, Liam, Sean and I hopped on the train to Ghent. 


We visited the Gravensteen Castle built in 1180 and walked to the top of the Belfry (built 1313). 


We had lunch at a nice Dutch restaurant.  It was Easter Monday, a holiday in Belgium, so most everything else was closed.


 Liam had what he declared the best waffle of the trip and after him eating 10 I trust his opinion!  Maria, Sean and I opted for Speculoos Mc Flurry's - Sean favorite sweet of the trip!

Maria (6)

That evening the boys played several hands of cards.


Day 5:  Brugge - a perfect day to visit one of the most beautiful towns in Europe.


Everywhere you look is a photographic opportunity.  This lake is referred to as the Lake of Love.  



An artist taking advantage of the beautiful street scene.  Think D will be in his painting?


Liam had borrowed Donald's sweater and scarf as it was a little chilly.  He decided he wanted to buy a scarf to take home.  We found this one and Donald gave him the sweater.  He is now looking very European!


I love this photo Maria took of me and D.

Maria (8)

A break for a beer.... some of us enjoyed ice cream instead.


and one last group photo!

Brugge group


Day 6:  We ate at our local pub and shopped for chocolates and gifts, and went to the Instrument Museum.  That afternoon, we went to the Wednesday food market and enjoyed a glass of champagne - A toast to a wonderful vacation!


We hope to see Maria, Liam, and Sean next year during spring break!