Recently we had the chance to do a little more exploring here in Germany. We headed a few hours south to the Mosel Valley, an area near the western border with Luxembourg. Known as a wine-making region, it’s steep and winding, full of castles and centered around the lovely Mosel River, a tributary of the Rhine.
I was amazed at how steep the vineyards are—-those are grapevines in the foreground of the picture above—you can see how steep the drop is. When we did a wine tasting, I asked the winemaker if he used climbing gear to get to the vines. He said no, he and his workers just relied on their legs, but that it was his last year climbing since he is now eighty-four and his legs aren’t what they used to be.
I think I would fall down and break my crown if I were picking grapes on an incline that sharp. In many vineyards there are little rail-type tracks with what look like miniature trains to carry the harvest down from the slopes. Unfortunately we did not get a ride in one of those.
We did get a ride on a river boat, though, which was a fun way to see the valley. Boats go up and down the river all day, from tourist ones like ours to boats carrying scrap metal or coal.
The highlight of our trip was touring two castles. The Mosel Valley and the adjacent Rhine Valley are full of castles. In medieval times, the people who controlled the rivers were the ones who had all the dough, so they could build stuff like this:
Above is Reichsburg Cochem, originally built around 1000 A.D., destroyed almost entirely by Louis XIV’s men in 1689, and rebuilt by a wealthy Berlin businessman in 1868. I especially loved the mosaic of St. Christopher, and I got really into the heavily decorated ceilings. It made me think of a scene in one of the All of a Kind Family books where the girls use a mirror to look at the ceilings in their home. You can click on the photos below if you want to see these ceilings in more detail.
We also got to see Burg Eltz, an impressive 100-room castle that has been owned by the same family for 33 generations. Unlike many other German castles, which were destroyed and rebuilt over time, Burg Eltz has remained untouched by battle (though you can see some restoration going on right now in the picture below) . Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside, so I can’t show you all the cool artwork and detailing of the rooms. There is an awesome writing room painted bright green with all kinds of ornate designs. I think I’ll rent it for a writing retreat. Ha!