Monday, 8th/Tuesday, 9th June 2009 – Zeltingen-Rachtig, Traben-Trarbach, Bernkastel-Kues, Erden, Wehlen, Urzig, Jezus-Eik, Days 5 and 6
Monday dawned sunny and fine, so we had a late, leisurely and extremely good breakfast. The hotel specialises in organic produce from the immediate area as much as possible and also various smoked and home-cured meats and fish.
After that we spent twenty minutes fighting the local bank machines (and NatWest’s enquiry line) to a standstill so we could extract some cash (there was wine buying to do after all). After that we decided to catch the boat to Traben-Trarbach for the morning, buying a round trip ticket that allowed us to hop off and on the Europa if we wished. It was lovely sitting on the open top deck, drinking coffee in the sun and taking lots of photographs.
We enjoyed taking it easy while the vineyards and villages drifted past, the whole being overtly (and possibly maliciously) picturesque, including the ruined castle just outside Traben-Trarbach. Lynne reckoned it was all being wilfully “Germany at its most Romantic or even Fairytale” in places and ought to be reprimanded for overacting.
On arrival in Traben-Trarbach we got off and spent some time admiring the swan and cygnet that were hanging about near the various river cruise ships that often stop there.
Then we strolled about a bit.
We finally stopped for lunch at the Aacher Hof, reputedly the oldest building in Traben-Trarbach, dating from 830AD. All we were really bothered about was the fact that the terrace was sunny but shaded with vines.
Once settled at a table overlooking the river we continued the theme of being overtly Germanic by ordering Bitburger beers and bockwurst with mustard, because, well, we had to.
Opposite was the delightful Hotel Bellevue, which looks fabulous from the outside, a restored Jugendstil gem of a place. We nipped inside to request a brochure from the reception desk, and then wandered around admiring the details.
It helped that there was a wonderfully cute amphibious car outside (apparently they use it as a river taxi).
In addition, our inner petrols heads were catered to further by the discovery of a British-registered Bentley, whose owner was just packing luggage into her.
Turned out he was a member of the guild of motoring writers and they’d just completed a tour of the area. He was heading off for Le Mans (quite right too), and had had the car since the 1960s. She looked as if she’d been used quite a bit in that time, and I approve wholeheartedly of that. It’s always struck me as a shame that people buy and restore vintage cars only to let them moulder in a garage somewhere. Her proud owner chatted with us for a while, remarking that we seemed remarkably well-informed about cars and racing so we came clean and admitted we’d spent the weekend at Hockenheim, which was when he admitted he was the man behind Race Tech magazine, and gave us a free copy when I admitted I hadn’t read it in a while as I couldn’t afford the subscription (I used to steal a copy from the business lounge when I was travelling all the time).
Anyway, we hopped back on the boat for an afternoon meander back to Zeltingen, which was to be followed by some wine tasting and buying. But first we ordered a bottle on the boat, which to Lynne’s distress was not served in the “proper” local Roemer glasses, but instead came with two very ordinary wine glasses.
She got over the disappointment enough to drink the wine though and we spent part of the trip back being amused by the riverside caravan sites, especially with the neatly lined up vans with their awnings all pointing the same way, and their precisely aligned satellite dishes on poles. Only in Germany…
Once off the boat we dived into the nearby supermarket and bought beer, mustard, various ready-to-cook dumplings, potato pancake mix and curry ketchup, all of which can be got in the UK but at a much higher price. We then leapt into the car and headed off for various villages, starting with Erden (Erdener Treppchen being the wine we were looking for).
And after that it was Wehlen for some Wehlener Sonnenuhr examples, and with that we had spent our allocated budget (we went over by €1 on the wine but we were under by the same amount on the beer so it levelled out).
We then drove to Bernkastel-Kues and wasted 20 minutes trying to find a filling station somewhere (anywhere!) so we could refuel the car and not have to bother on Tuesday morning. A very helpful lady at the campsite on the edge of the town was able to tell us where we could find the last remaining source of petrol, so we filled up and then went back to Zeltingen for a cafe-stop.
After all, we needed a coffee break after all that wine tasting, and as I muttered at the time, I couldn’t come to Germany and not have Kaffee and Kuchen just once. So we did:
After that it was back to our hotel to shower and change for dinner at the Hotel Moselschild in Urzig. Oliver’s Restaurant came highly recommended (and justifiably so as it turned out). It being a low season Monday evening the place was very quiet, but that was fine with us. We had a table overlooking the river and the terrace (indoors – it was raining by then). After some consideration we opted for the Krautermenu (the Herb Menu), and settled down to enjoy some local sekt with wild strawberries as an aperitif.
It was a good way to start, even if the berries weren’t too cooprative when we tried to fish them out of the glasses to eat them. Some splendid breads were brought, including some made with turmeric, and some butter and quark and herbs to go with them. However, we restrained ourselves, because we knew there were a number of courses to come.
Matters commenced with “Greetings from the Kitchen”, amuses bouches plates with a tomato cream soup, a horseradish mousse and a small piece of fried pike-perch (zander fish) on some cabbage. It was looking promising now.
Next up was a pancake and home-smoked salmon roulade, with a creme fraiche dressing and salad.
The soup course was a real revelation. It was a foamy herb soup, light but richly flavoured, with some fried eel that was crisp-coated and delicious. I’ve always liked eel (except when barbarically massacred by being jellied) and I assume this was the chef’s take on the Flemish speciality of paling in ‘t groen as it’s known in Belgium.
Next we were presented with a canteloupe melon sorbet as a trou. It cleared our palates beautifully ready for the main course.
And the main course was guinea fowl with a lemon thyme risotto, carrot and vanilla flan and mangetout. It was quite, quite wonderful, the guinea fowl full of flavour and the risotto with just the right amount of bite left to the grains. Beautiful!
And then they insisted we have dessert! Well, it would have been churlish not to. Dessert was a woodruff mousse in a chocolate tear, with lavender ice cream and a mango coulis. It was very pretty to look at and it tasted even better than it looked.
I wish I could tell you what wine we drank, but as we’d selected the wines to match option, and they weren’t listed in detail anywhere, I can’t. Suffice to say they were excellent, and we left the restaurant much later, full of food and very happy.
Tuesday was coming home day, though we still planned on taking it easy. We made a 9am start and hit the motorway, finding the relatively new road away from the Mosel to be very quiet and very smooth. We hit Brussels, or more precisely Jezus-Eik/Overijse, around 11.30, which had always been part of the plan. Unfortunately, Lipsius is closed on Tuesdays, as is the Auberge Bretonne, both favourites of ours. We settled instead – and by way of a change – for Wang Kaew, where we had the set lunch, starting out with prawn crackers, moving to the mixed starter of satay, Thai spring rolls, crab noodle salad, and fish cakes. It’s always very good there and Tuesday was no exception.
For mains we had Pad Thai and Duck Curry and finished off with coffee to make sure I didn’t need a post-lunch nap.
By 2pm we were back on the road, and we made it to Dunkerque to get the Norfolk Line ferry about two hours before our sailing. Our intent was to relax over a beer in the bar, but instead we ended up getting loaded onto the earlier sailing, much to our surprise. So that meant I couldn’t get a beer and had to have coffee instead. Lynne got her beer, and everyone was happy. We drove away from Dover at 6.30pm and were home two hours later, unloading the beer and wine and feeling far more relaxed than we had when we left on Thursday.