Friday, November 15, 2013

Germany Part 2 - the Rhine Valley, Burg Eltz and the River Tour

We got off to an earlier start on Day 2 in the Rhine Valley since we had a lot planned.  We had snagged some delicious German pastries in downtown St. Goar the previous day and noshed on those for breakfast before heading out.  We drove back north (downstream actually) and to the west, across the Mosel River, and finally into a heavily wooded area.  We parked in the lot and decided that the crisp cool air was perfect for taking the walking trail to Burg Eltz.  We walked through some incredibly gorgeous, green hiking trails flanked by beautifully forested valleys.

With the fog hovering over the trees it was almost unreal.  And finally we come to a bend in the trail, turn the corner and all let out a loud gasp at the completely gorgeous sight that met our eyes:
Burg Eltz is one of the only privately owned castles still inexistance in German.  It never fell in a battle and as such it is one of the most well preserved castles in the region.  The family that owns the castle actually still maintains a vacation residence in one wing of the castle.  Could you imagine - vacationing in a castle surrounded by rolling hills and the trickling of the River Eltz flowing below?  It was magical.

We signed up for the English tour and then proceeded to use up our 30 minute wait time in the "Treasury" where the family stores all of their old trinkets museum style - it was the only interior portion of the castle where we were permitted to take pictures.
This is one of the family tree of crests that was on display.  Our tour was not very long, but VERY detailed - the tour guides could tell you the history of every painting and piece of furniture in there.  After tour we ate our lunch at the outdoor cafe overlooking the beautiful valley and it was actually rated amongst all three of us as one of the best meals we ate on the trip.  S got some beer that he deemed quite delicous along with a big soft pretzel (he got these EVERYWHERE that he possibly could) and a garlic-y German style pizza, K got a super delicious venison goulash served over spaetzel, and I got some pea soup with German sausage and a glass of hot mulled wine.  Yum!
We then hopped back in the car and made our way back to St. Goar through the vineyard covered hills that surround both the Rhine and Mosel rivers.  We actually parked along the Rhine in St. Goar in order to board a nearby river boat to take a Rhine River cruise.  We spent about 2 hours on the river heading upstream to Bacharach, taking pictures of castles, and small towns, and vineyards along the way.  The view was lovely.

I got a little filter-happy, I know.  I love the way those pictures turned out, though, since the weather was kind of grey and gloomy and didn't do much to enhance the natural pictures I took.  Another feature of this area is the Lorelei rock, basically a huge cliff.  We didn't really get the appeal, but it is plays a huge role in the history of the area as this rock was known to be the most dangerous point along the river and caused many boating accidents over the years.  At one point its danger was mythically linked to mermaids and sirens...
Not too exciting to look at, but the legends make it fun.  Once we arrived in Bacharach we had about 45 minutes to explore.  After making our way under the highway bridge and into the completely adorable town we kind of kicked ourselves for not giving ourselves more time.

We managed to tear ourselves away in time to catch our boat back to St. Goar.  The trip back was with the flow of the current and so it went quite a bit faster.  When we returned, we headed to another of our favorite restaurants from the trip, Philipps Muhle, a small restaurant owned by a local vineyard.  We'd heard that vineyards had establishments where they served dinners and were determined to try one, Wolfgang and Gabi recommended this one and we'd highly do so as well!
We had a crazy good cheese dip for an appetizer (similar to a liptauer dip I made for our Oktoberfest party), cold cut and cheese platters with homemade sausage slices for dinner, and of course the vineyards wine - probably the best wine we had the entire trip.  I bought 2 bottles to take home, though one was consumed over the course of our trip and only 1 actually made it home!

Day 3  of the Rhine Valley coming up next week!  Have a lovely weekend!

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