When our Stammtisch decided to have a meeting on the Mosel this year - my travel juices started flowing and I just had to figure a way to budget another pond crossing. With the blessings of my sweet Frau who thankfully understands my occasional wanderlust and travel needs - I set about planning an itinerary around the scheduled Mosel gathering. Working within a very tight budget I decided the easiest way to stay on track would be to keep my travels within a relatively small area and utilize public transportation instead of renting an automobile. The notion of staying strictly within the boundaries of the Mosel river and Rhine gorge for two weeks was exciting but I couldn't believe I was planning a trip to Germany without including Bavaria and the Schwarzwald. I kept telling myself I could throw in a day trip somewhere south of the Neckar but in the end I resisted the temptation and stayed on schedule and within budget.
Air Transportation - lots of research to find best deal for airfare from DFW to FRA - tried Expedia - Discount Fares - Travelocity - Flights.com - plus several others. Unable to find anything less than $800 roundtrip until I discovered EconomyTravel.com. There it was - $558 total - DFW to FRA (via CLT) - US Airways. I would definitely prefer a direct flight but for the savings involved I decided I could handle a short layover in Charlotte, NC (which turned out to be a nice little airport - easy to navigate).
Ground Transportation - lots of pre-trip research to find train routes, bus schedules, and boats operating on each river. Determined that the best use of public transport services would be paying from point to point as needed. Found fares to be very reasonable considering the current price of car rentals and gasoline. Detailed schedules and prices for trains can be easily found online prior to travel. Boat schedules (K-D and Personenschiffahrt) are also available online for download and printing prior to departure. Bus schedules are a bit harder to come by but some can be found with a little in depth research.
Accommodations - lots of villages along the Mosel and Rhine loaded with hotels, pensions, and Zimmer Frei in private homes (B&B). After several rough drafts I decided my first two nights would be in Braubach (just below Marksburg castle) - then two nights in Traben-Trarbach (Mosel) - three nights in Cochem (Mosel) - three nights in Brodenbach on the Mosel (small village where the Stammtisch meetings were scheduled) - and finish my trip in Bacharach (Rhine). Only reservations made prior to trip was a nice little pension in Braubach (first two nights) and a bargain find in Brodenbach for three nights (for Stammtisch gathering).
Departed DFW on a Sunday afternoon via USAirways to Charlotte, NC. Courtesy of a friend who donated an Upgrade coupon I was bumped up to First Class for this first leg of the trip. It could have only been used for one leg and had to be during the domestic travel (between DFW and CLT). I later wished I had saved it for my last leg but I was just glad to have it and glad it actually worked. Thanks USAirways!!! Out of DFW on time and with 1st Class service to boot. Connection in Charlotte smooth - next leg to FRA on time - great flight w/nice onboard entertainment system - Airbus was less than half full from what I could see. Extra seats all around to include the two to my left - the 4-seat row behind me had one lucky passenger who could lay full out with room to spare. I'm sure traveling on 9/11 had plenty to do with it as my return flight was sold out and full.
Day One - Braubach on the Rhein
Frankfurt airport via train to Braubach on the Rhein. This 2 hour leg was planned out with train schedules available thru DB Bahn. Arrived late morning in the small village of Braubach (sitting just below the majestic, never defeated, never destroyed Marksburg castle) to a light misty rain.
Plenty of time to explore and relax at leisure this afternoon - recover from any lingering jet lag. First hump with full backpack and carryons - about a ½ kilometer up a nicely inclined street to the -
56338 Braubach (Rhein)
Tel - 2627/275 ~ Fax - 2627/974357
Email - KD-Felsenkeller@t-online.de
Singles - Doubles - Triples w/wo bath/shower
Gasthaus Zum Goldenen Schlüssel
56338 Braubach (Rhein)
Tel - 02627/340
(Also has 5 rooms at budget prices)
Excellent Schnitzel plates (had meals here both nights) and equally excellent Königsbacher Bier. Smooth Schlager music playing softly in the background. Highly recommend the Goldenen Schlüssel for good meals.
Day Two - Braubach on the Rhein
Up early - breakfast requested for 0730. Today's plans include taking train southwest along Rhine and use the KD boat service for return. Most train stations have automated ticket vending machines similiar to this - Check posted schedules, purchase ticket and find posted track number.
Lots of good internet sites with tips for train travel - including this one from the Texas Highwayman - Riding the Rails in Germany
Took ½ hour train to Kaub - via several quick stops along the way (including Kamp-Bornhofen and St. Goarshausen). Enjoyed Kaub Konditorei (coffee and pastry) and walked to KD boat pier for ½ hr boat ride to St. Goar (via Oberwesel). Great weather day - partly cloudy and cool.
with plenty of time to walk up to The Marksburg for some photos.
Lots of signs throughout the village indicating the location of footpaths up to the castle. Another option for getting up to the Marksburg (besides walking or a taxi) is the Marksburgbahn which makes the trip several times a day (depending on passengers available).
Easy walk down to the Pension - shower - then off to eat at the Schlüssel again. A beautiful September day along the Rhine Gorge.
Day Three -
Up early to pack and walk around village - breakfast at 0730. Today is a travel day - moving on to Traben-Trarbach (on the Mosel). I had information on several Zimmer Frei in this village and called ahead from Braubach to reserve a place for three days. All of my first choices were booked solid but my last hope had a single room for two days. I took it. Humped to Bahnhof - purchased ticket - only to find out the train had been cancelled. Caught the next bus (using the train ticket) to Koblenz Bahnhof and proceeded from there by train along the Mosel. I selected Traben-Trarbach because going northeast from Trier it is the first place directly on the river with train service. Actually it is a mini-Zug service that you have to transfer to in Bullay and continue on to Traben. There are several sister cities along the Mosel that are separated by the river and a bridge - to include Traben-Trarbach, Bernkastel-Kues, Treis-Karden.
The Haus Würzgarten was a few Euro more than I like to pay but it was actually a spacious double room with private bath and shower, a cable TV and with balcony overlooking a nicely maintained backyard complete with goldfish pond. At 35 Euro a night this would be my splurge for the trip.
Spent remainder of day exploring Traben (quiet) and Trarbach (more activity with nice shopping area - turn right after crossing bridge).
Excellent walking and biking paths along both sides of
river. Great area for relaxing. Dinner outside on the terrace of the Hotel Vier Löwen (Traben side) overlooking
the Mosel (near the bridge). Great location for dinner but this place proved once again that not all Schnitzels
in Germany are created equal. Not a good choice this night.
Nice little cafe/bakery in Traben with
friendly owners and a one-terminal internet service (coin operated) -->
Tel - 6541/4342
Nice little cafe/bakery in Traben with friendly owners and a one-terminal internet service (coin operated) -->
Nice breakfast buffet at 0830 - friendly owners. Had originally intended to stay around Bullay for upcoming three days but decided Cochem would have more action in the mornings and late afternoons and that turned out to be a good decision. This morning I called ahead to reserve a room and got lucky with first choice - the Haus Andreas in the Altstadt - then walked to the boat docks (Traben side)
and caught the 10 am boat to Bernkastel-Kues.
Across the bridge into Kues is a nice little game room with two internet terminals at -
Had a nice dinner with Carolyn and Jim (also Stammtisch members) who drove northeast from Schleich (near Trier) where they were renting an apartment.
Schänke Zum Fröhlichen Weinberg
Tel - 2671/4193 ~ 2671/917559
Frau Wolff is the very nice owner and showed me to a nice little Einzelzimmer that had to be the smallest room I have ever had in Germany (that included a toilet, sink and shower insuite). Worked for me at 21.50 Euro and even had a nice little TV just above the bed. It was small but clean and very adequate for my first day in Cochem.
Spent the day exploring Cochem -
shopping and surfing the internet (I found
three internet cafes in Cochem - may even be more). 1:30pm is my target time for a daily phone call home to the
wife and daughter. Two 10 Euro phone cards got me easily thru all my daily calls. Plus I found some time left on
the two phone cards from last year (still good). Phones that take cards - versus phones that only take coins -
seem to be losing ground. It used to be that booths accepting phone cards were everywhere and coin phones harder
to find. Found out from Herr Tooooobah that the Germans didn't care for the phone card-only booths so the majority
of booths now are coin-only. Carry a few 1 and 2 Euro coins in your change pocket and you can never go wrong. When
calling the USA from German phonebooths - dial 001 - then the area code - then the phone number. If using coins
the phone will show how much money you have left before it shuts off (the remaining money on a card will also show).
It will start beeping (when you are close to running out) to remind you to feed it more coins. Piece of cake...
Cochem is definitely alive at night with Stubes overflowing with people and loud music. Packed in like sardines at most of them. Being as it was a weekend might have contributed to the crowds. Twenty years younger I might have been in the middle of the action but I'm an old fossil now and settle for a Halb Hähnchen and a good Bier and CNN.
Day Six - Cochem (Mosel)
Up and about at 0600 looking for an early-opening bakery with coffee and pastry. Not a problem in Cochem. Only other folks up and running around at this hour are a few shopkeepers and hotel staff retrieving their morning Brotchen orders. Crisp, cool September morning air makes for a brisk walk. Nice Frühstück at 0800 - packed and moved to Haus Andreas by 1000.
Good weather so a hike up to Reichsburg castle was in order. A good steep incline for sure but not too bad.
Several forms of transportation will get you up there
if you prefer to ride but you can't take your car. I should have started up earlier because when I got there the
queues to take the interior tour were past my comfort zone - so I took a few pictures, took a snack break and headed
back down to town.
Had heard some good comments about the towns of Treis-Karden just north along the river so after a short train trip from Cochem I am walking across the bridge separating these two small villages. Not much to the town of Treis (even less in Karden) - but I was walking so I might have missed something deeper into the villages. Did happen upon a nice weekend Trödelmarkt set up along the river (Flea market). Seemed like everyone was selling their souvenirs from their travels around the US. I wasn't looking for Alabama or Arkansas license plates or a knife from Yellowstone but I did find a nice unusual souvenir of Reichsburg castle for a couple of Euro. Found relief from afternoon thunder showers at a protected sidewalk cafe and enjoyed a great plate of Putengeschnetzelties, Spätzle, Erbsen und Karotten mit einem Bier. Trained back and explored more of Cochem by foot, tried another internet site and called it a day.
Day Seven - Cochem (Mosel)
Up early for coffee and pastry at 0630. Outstanding breakfast at 0830. While enjoying the good strong German coffee - two older German ladies came in and despite there being several unoccupied tables available they asked to sit with me. A nice surprise as I enjoy the challenge of conversing in German with total strangers. Turned out one of the ladies was a veteran traveler to the US so it wasn't that much of a challenge this morning. Finishing up I found two Tennessee Volunteer Rick Steves fans in the attached breakfast room so I also had a bit of English conversation to kick start my day.
I considered taking a cruise boat from Cochem to Beilstein today but eventually opted to take a train north and recon my next location on the Mosel - that being the small village of Brodenbach. Knowing that I might have to hump my bags for more than 2 miles the next day concerned me enough to check out my route a day ahead of time. Trained from Cochem to Löf (the Tennessee folks rode with me as far as Moselkern where they hiked up to Burg Eltz) - then I hoofed it the two miles crossing the bridge to Alken - then right along the Mosel to Brodenbach.
Not a bad little hike but I could see that my dogs would be killing me the next day if I had to walk with full field gear.
Finished up last night in Cochem shopping and surfing (finally found Lederhosen for a co-worker's three year old son).
Had a great Cordon Bleu with a süße Spätlese at the "Alt Cochem" Restaurant for 11 Euro
Day Eight - Brodenbach (Mosel)
Last two nights were best sleep of the trip so far. Up early for bakery coffee and pastry then back to finish packing for a travel day. Very nice Frühstück at 0830 with the Tennessee couple. Cleared bill with Frau Pellny (23 Euro per night - super bargain considering Zimmer condition and location). Humping again at 0915 to the Bahnhof with short stop at Bank for money exchange (no problem with US $100 dollar bills). Trained to Löf where I am met by Don and Jan and chauffeured across the river to my new home for the next three days. Thanks Don!!!
The Liptau family just couldn't have been nicer. Excellent
double room with private bath and balcony for the price of an Einzelzimmer (20 Euro per night). Nice backyard terrace
with a bubbling brook running alongside the property. Frau Liptau even volunteered to press the packing wrinkles
out of a few shirts and a pair of trousers when I asked if she had an iron I might use.
Explored Brodenbach by foot (fairly small village) and caught a bus north to the next town on the river - Alken. From previous research I already knew Brodenbach had no bicycle rental shop but Alken does. The friendly Ammann family run a bike shop out of their home at Mittlestraße 9, 56332 Alken (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org). Only bike still available on this day is a female model but I have no problem with that. Seemed like the seat on this bike was bigger than normal. :) I was glad to have the extra cushion...
Rode down to the Zum Roten Ochsen and spent some time with Don before riding back to Brodenbach.
Spent the afternoon biking along the Mosel enjoying the weather and the scenery. The Hotel Peifer is a good sized hotel located alongside the Mosel about 800 meters southwest of Brodenbach.
This is where the majority of our Stammtisch
group would be staying for the next few days and where our meetings (over dinner) would take place in the evenings.
No meeting scheduled for tonight but I knew that about five families were scheduled to check-in today and spend
an extra day in the area. Biked down to the hotel and checked to see if any Amies had checked in yet. Spotted Bill
and Suzie (BHICKOX3) as they were leaving and found out they were being sent to a hotel in another nearby town.
Rode back to Brodenbach for dinner then later back to the Peifer again to see if anyone else had tried to check-in.
This is when I found out that the Hotel Peifer had screwed up the reservations of the folks who were arriving today. Confirmed reservations (some made months in advance) didn't seem to mean alot here. Discovered that all the Americans had been sent down the road about 10 km to another hotel for the night -
I got the Ostermann on the phone to see if any of the group might be close by and it seemed everyone was already partying in the restaurant. Herr Lumpster came to the phone, invited me to join them and was on his way to pick me up in short order. Tonight's early group included - Lump & Lisa (Oldgybe), Carolyn & Jim (CGRAM434), Beverly & Chuck (Ckronenbur), Bill & Suzie (BHICKOX3), and Greg & Erika (CooperGunner). I later spotted the back of a familiar looking head sitting at another table and told someone that looked like Charlie (DrCBK). Someone else remarked that it looked like Cornelius and then someone called out 'Charlie?' and sure enough it was him.
So we had a nice little group of earlybirds - drinking, chitchatting and enjoying dinner. When the group appeared to be calling it a night Lump and Lisa deposited me back at the Haus Christiane.
Day Nine - Brodenbach (Mosel)
After an excellent breakfast I did some biking along the Mosel and headed back towards Alken to return the bike. Lump and Lisa were kind enough to meet me in Alken and drive me over to Hatzenport where Larry should be arriving around 1100. Herr PStuyvsant was just beginning his trip and had spent his first two nights in Germany at a farm in the Odenwald. After being dropped off in Hatzenport and walking around the village for a spell - up drives Larry right on time - picks me up and I show him to his new accommodations for the next two nights -
This beautiful secluded castle sits perched on a rocky base with it's towers rising high above the surrounding forest. This is one Schloß definitely worthy of a visit if you are anywhere near the Mosel or Rhine.
Later that evening Larry picked me up
at the Haus Christiane and we headed to the Hotel Peifer for our first semi-official Stammtisch meeting of the
trip. The earlier reservations may have been screwed up but the Peifer staff seemed very nice and cordial this
evening. There was a separate dining room in the restaurant that was perfect for our group and I'm sure the hotel
was glad these rowdy Americans weren't anywhere near their regular customers. Tonight's group included - (BHICKOX3
- Bill and Suzie) - (CGRAM434 - Carolyn and Jim) - (Ckronenbur - Beverly and Chuck) -
(CooperGunner - Greg and Erika) - (DOWELT - Don and Jan) - (DrCBK - Charlie) - (Drsmom - Maryann and Bill and Terry and Keith) - (Fadoinka - Val and Ed) - (Oldgybe - Lump and Lisa) - (RJKARR - Joan) - (JESTER1J2D - Judy) - (Rolfoe - Rolf and Lovye) - (PStuyvsant - Larry) - (Tooooobah - Jim and Bess) - and myself (BavariaBen).
The hotel had a special menu prepared for just our group with a choice of ten entries - which seemed to work out just fine. Tonight I had the pleasure of dining with Rolf and Lovye who had graciously arranged to pick up my tab. I told Rolf since it was on him I would trust his judgement and enjoy whatever he ordered. My meal tonight was Mastochsen-Rumpsteak mit Zwiebeln, Pommes frites und Salat der Saison. An excellent dish and even better after Rolf encouraged me to send the Rumpsteak back to the chef to actually cook it. I can eat rare meat but I prefer it browned... :) The hotel was also kind enough to play several music CD's that I had brought along of my favorite German Schlager singers. I had imagined this scene many months before it actually took place - good friends, good food, good Mosel wine, good German Bier, good conversation and with that music playing in the background. It just don't get no better than this...
It was great to meet Judy for the first time and good to see Charlie at his first gathering. Several members were in attendance for their second and third meetings. Had a super night getting to spend time with so many nice folks. Some members were just getting started with their itineraries and had made the gathering their first stops, others were in the middle of their vacations and I for one could think of no better way to end a trip than with this great group.
Day Ten - Brodenbach (Mosel)
After another outstanding breakfast at the Haus Christiane - Larry swings by to pick me up and we head in the direction of Ehrenburg castle which is located up in the hills behind Brodenbach. Eventually we find some signs and arrive shortly before opening hours. This ancient castle has been around for almost 900 years in various stages of repair and disrepair. These days the castle is alive (especially on summer Sundays and Holidays) with handicraft exibits, plays, historic castle characters, festivals, banquets, etc. On this particular day there are no special activities and just a smattering of visitors (self-guided tours) so we snoop about for awhile, take a few pictures and reflect on what it must have been like to have been a resident here. I discovered one hallway off to the side with numbered rooms and didn't realize until later that the castle has five double rooms available to anyone who would care to spend their nights here. A far cry from a large castle hotel such as the "Auf Schönburg" above Oberwesel on the Rhine but I think the Ehrenburg would give you more of an old castle atmosphere (especially at night and early mornings when no tourists are around).
So after a nice little uphill hump back to the parking area we are off again for a nice lazy day of sightseeing along the Mosel. Crossing the bridge at Alken you get a nice view of another 12th century castle in this area that offers accommodations.
Tonight is the final gathering of the Stammtisch so we arrive once again at the Hotel Peifer for a night of fun and merriment. Everyone is now in attendance to include late arrivals - (AsbachNate - Nate, Monja, Cameron and Nissa) and (JRLVR1 - Jane, Jerry and Jimmy). Nate and his family live just a few hours south of the Mosel near Kirchheimbolanden (where many of us take advantage of their hospitality) and drove up just for this evening. Jane and Jerry have their grandson Jimmy along this trip and tonight will kickstart their vacation. All in all it was a very good gathering and so enjoyable to share a bit of time with so many great folks who share the common interest of a love of travel in Germany.
Day Eleven - Bacharach (Rhine)
Last full day in Germany so let's make it a good one. Up early, packed and breakfast with Jane, Jerry and Jimmy who arrived at the Haus Christiane yesterday afternoon. Good breakfast and conversation and Larry's taxi service is johnny-on-the-spot soon thereafter. He has graciously agreed to drive me over to Bacharach on the Rhine before he takes off for Rothenburg o.d.T. We cut across country, hit the Rhine in Boppard and drive south along the B-9 with a short stop in St. Goar for me to call some Zimmer Frei in Bacharach to see what vacancies are available. My first choice is the Pension Winzerhaus and Frau Petrescu has a room for me with balcony for 26 Euro, but she and her husband are leaving for Frankfurt this morning - so Larry and I skat on down the road to catch them before they depart.
What a wonderful, friendly family the Petrescu's are. I'm shown to a very nice Double set up as a single with a great balcony overlooking Blücherstraße which is the road that runs from Bacharach up to the village of Steeg and past it to the A-61. I have a private bathroom but the shower is just outside my door in the hallway. A nice little TV will keep me company my last night in Deutschland. Larry has stayed at the Winzerhaus several times I do believe and is on a first name basis with Sybille and Stefan. After renewing his aquaintance - Larry is off to Rothenburg and I am strolling the streets of Bacharach looking for those last day souvenirs promised to family and friends. I run into Carolyn and Jim twice in Bacharach this morning as they are also window shopping and staying just up the road in Oberwesel at the Castle Hotel-Restaurant "Auf Schönburg". As I am returning up the hill to the Winzerhaus, up drives Jane and Jerry who are heading up to the "Im Malerwinkel" to find rooms for the night. I tell them they should check out the Winzerhaus first since they don't have a reservation at the Malerwinkel - so they give me a ride and end up staying in a nice Mehrbettzimmer with connecting room for grandson Jimmy (and they saved about 12 Euro to boot).
One of my last "must bring back" German gifts is a music CD (Die Toten Hosen) for my semi-rocker daughter who is enrolled in her first high school German class and simply must have a CD from this obscure German rock band. Well - needless to say - Bacharach has no music CD shop so I make the sacrifice of a few hours and hop a train to Bingen which luckily has a department store with a music department. And after searching endlessly with no CD in sight I enlist the aid of a very nice store clerk who is bound and determined to find what I am looking for. And she eventually does and after giving the Bingen shopping area another hour looking for goodies I hop a train back to Bacharach.
The rest of the day is spent shopping the Phil Jost shops at Rosenstraße 16 & Blücherstraße 4 and no trip to Bacharach would be complete without a visit to Frances Geuss at her woodburning shop just across from the Altes Haus.
Holzbrandkunst Geuß Woodburn
And for my final meal of the trip I again try a favorite little cafe just up the street from Frances at the -
Café Restaurant Rusticana
Bacharach is one of my favorite stops along the Rhine. When the weather is nice I enjoy grabbing a Brat at Wagner's Imbiss (in the corner of the parking lot) - walking down near the KD dock and watching the river traffic. Love to then enter the city via the city wall (under the train tracks) and stroll along the Oberstraße.
Knowing that this little village was once a key trading point along the Rhine and has been sitting beneath Burg Stahleck for the past 900 years makes it just that much more enjoyable.
I spend the rest of the evening repacking my bags (tossing away old clothing and making room for the newest souvenirs and chocolate) and finishing off my Asbach reserve while enjoying the balcony overlooking the street below. It's dark outside but there is no mistaking the familiar American voice belonging to the penguin-like character waddling up the street from town. :-) Jane (recovering from knee replacement), Jerry and Jimmy are also calling it a night after a day of touring the Rhine.
Day Twelve - Heading Home
Up early - no breakfast (Larry says they serve a great breakfast at the Winzerhaus) - ease out without waking the house - hump down to the small Bahnhof and take an early train to the Frankfurt Flughafen. It's an easy check-in at US Airways with minimum waiting time. Flight on time with a friendly crew, great onboard entertainment system and the absolute best airline meals I can ever remember. Customs was a snap in Charlotte and the connecting flight on to Dallas was quiet and uneventful. Good to be home - but the record September heat was still in place.
* * *
All in all - a wonderful vacation to remember!!! Temperatures in the 40's at night (two nights in the high 30's) and for the most part 60's and 70's during the day (just a smidgin of rain). A lazy, leisure two weeks (almost) with minimum output of energy on my part. The only negatives to using public transport is that you do a lot of walking and waiting. No problem when you are traveling solo but when I travel with family or friends I much prefer using a rental car. Already looking forward to the next trip... BavariaBen