Monday October 2nd – Day 10, Burg Arras, Manderscheid, Traben-Trarbach
We woke up to a very foggy morning, with the other side of the valley shrouded in mists. The castle/hotel didn’t get any less odd in the morning, though they provided a perfectly good breakfast. Our bill was handwritten on a sheet of mathematics exercise book, with no suggestion of a business address, a VAT number or anything at all formal. It was also remarkably cheap, given that the pre-paid room was the most expensive stay of our trip!
After we’d packed and paid, we thought we’d go round the museum in the castle, especially as it was included in our stay (to be fair it was only €4 if you had to pay but we figured we’d handed over €180 to stay the night so we’d have the attached freebie). We had to run the gamut of the fierce lady on the door again, as she did rather seem to think that paying guests were rather beneath her, and should not have to be tolerated. We assumed she was the matriarch of the family Keuthen who own the place. Anyway, once inside the museum (where photos were not allowed) there is quite a lot to see, especially to do with the history of the region. It’s only any use to anyone who can read German (in some cases in Gothic script) though there is an A4 sheet with short descriptions of each room in English. There is also a room dedicated to the former President of the Republic, Dr. Heinrich Lübke with gifts and memorabilia, including a tapestry that apparently belonged to Madame de Pompadour. It seems the family are related to Lübke, which might explain the attitude… There is also an intriguing tiny chapel in the tower, which has a Gothic altarpiece; it could be easier to see if you didn’t have to hold the light switch in the on position to actually look at it.
Lynne refused to follow me the rest of the way up the tower, so I went on my own and tried hard not to get blown off the top.
We got in the car and navigated our way very cautiously back down the hill, discussing among ourselves what you could do if the place was yours. It has the makings of an absolute goldmine but you’d have to put some money in first, starting with the track to get to the car park. It really could be the skies the limit, but it feels like it’s struggling right now, although it may just have been that it was a mid-season Sunday night that meant only 4 rooms were taken. The rooms as vast and comfortable but they need modernising, and the restaurant could do to take a step up from solid home cooking. I wish I had a couple of million Euro to spare and I could see ways of making it into something truly special.
From Alf I had it in mind to head towards Manderscheid where I’d been told there was a castle. Actually, that turned out to be inaccurate. It turned out there are two of them, the Oberburg built on top of a hill, and the Niederburg (which is predictably lower down and would I assume have controlled the river and the road)! The weather was wet and cold and horrible but we weren’t going to let that stop us. We paid our €2 and went for a scramble around the ruins, trying not to fall over on the slippery slate pathways.
Again there is much to see including a gate tower but the best views are from the very top.
After much slithering around, the rain started getting heavier so we opted to sit in the cafe over coffee and cake while we dried out our coats and cameras. There’s an outside seating area for people who really can’t cope with 10 minutes sitting indoors without a cigarette, but the inside was lovely and warm and leaning against a radiator seemed like the best policy. Inside, there are lots of tins from old domestic products for sale, and old toys. There’s also excellent coffee and superb apple cake! I was very glad I only ordered one piece though, because it took two of us to deal with it!
After that we drove up to the Ober Burg, which can also be seen from the Nieder Burg.
The two castles really do provide a spectacular sight, even on what was not the best of days.
There were one or two other tourist attractions within easy reach, but we opted instead to head on towards Traben-Trarbach and our hotel for three nights, the lovely art nouveau jewel that is the Hotel Bellevue. The town is another twin-town setup, rather like Bernkastel-Kues, with Traben on one side of the river and Trarbach on the other. We arrived somewhat early of our check in time so we decided it would be a good idea to stop for lunch on the terrace of the restaurant, or at least we did for a few minutes until we realised it was far too cold to stay out there; we moved into one of the lovely internal rooms and enjoyed the fabulous decor.
We also enjoyed a Federweisser each and a slice of the inevitable Zwiebelkuchen. We were, as we’d suspected, too early to check in, but the reception staff did everything they could to get us settled in as fast as possible, including settling us with a glass of Sekt each while we waited and they confirmed the room was ready. When we did get in, to a room in one of the annexes, we were most impressed by the standard of the accommodation.
We were in what had originally been a craftsman’s home, built in the 1400s, and lovingly converted in 1908. The room was massive with a foyer that was big enough to contain all of our luggage, and a huge bathroom, with a separate shower and bath.
We were on the ground floor, with French windows opening onto a terrace overlooking the river. It was most impressive. We unpacked quickly, then scooted out for a look around the town, following the route set out in the leaflet the Receptionist gave to us. There are a lot (and I do mean a lot) of art nouveau buildings, which were built on the back of prosperity in the town that was partly caused by the railyway reaching the town very early on. With money washing around, the locals who could afford it, seem to have decided to throw their cash around. A lot of the work done was planned by the Berlin architect, town planner, and designer Professor Bruno Möhring, which means there’s a cohesiveness to it that is very harmonious. We picked up some more information from the local Tourist Information office and then followed the trail from one side of the two to the other.
There are some very fine buildings to be seen and we were intent on seeing as many of them as possible including the two churches on the Traben side of the river.
There are of course also a lot of medieval timber-framed houses to be seen (though there are more on the Trarbach side).
The weather was starting to turn against us once more – though it didn’t seem to deter the military jets that were out and about again – with light drizzle intermittently disturbing our progress. It was time to wander back to the hotel, finish unpacking (we would be staying for three nights) and get ready for dinner.
Once ready we investigated the hotel bar. It’s lovely, with the head bar man a Welsh man called Josh who looked after us very well indeed, proving very information and talkative after we’d both stopped speaking German to each other! He also introduced us to the Hugo, a cocktail that seems to have gripped Germany of late. It’s sparkling wine (Sekt here obviously), with elderflower syrup, mint and lime. It’s very refreshing and enabled us to convince ourselves it was still summer.
Here’s the recipe:
- Ice cubes
- Fresh mint
- 1 part elderflower syrup
- 3 parts sparkling wine (brut only)
- 1 wedge of lime, squeezed
- Place the ice cubes in a large glass.
- Muddle the mint and add it to the glass with the juice from the lime wedge.
- Add 1 part elderflower syrup and 3 parts sparkling wine.
From there we walked across the bridge to the Moseltor Hotel and Bauer’s Restaurant. Oddly, when we arrived we were the only guests although the hotel was apparently close to full. The woman in charge told us that their guests seem to want to eat “traditional” food like schnitzel, and so weren’t interested in the restaurant. We were. It was excellent.
We started with a small salad of lentils and carrots which was very pleasant as an amuse bouches.
Next we moved on to the starters. The duck liver with quail’s egg was lovely, the sauce sticky and the egg slow cooked to just the right texture.
There was also a celeriac soup with toasted almonds, a light, creamy bowlful that made the most of the celeriac’s robust flavour.
For mains we both had duck – it would have been rude not to. It was accompanied by a raisin sauce, which made a change from the dense, deeply dark sauces we’d had a lot of up until now.
It came with a fabulous potato gratin, soft, creamy, and with a perfectly crisply browned top.
Then it was time for dessert. We finished by sharing a parfait with figs, and a plate of cheese.
It’s beyond me why the place wasn’t rammed to the rafters. I’d heartily recommend it to anyone.