Wednesday October 4th – Day 12, Traben-Trarbach, Kinheim, Minheim
We got off to a very slow start as it was another foggy morning.
We were also not in a hurry as Lynne had decided that she really needed a pedicure and manicure and that this would be a good time to do it. I’d expected that this would take around 90 minutes when we booked the appointment for her at the hotel’s spa, but it took twice that, which left me time to take a slow wander around Traben-Trarbach (or Tr-Trarbach or Traben-Tr depending on which side of the river you’re on at the time).
After I’d been out and about for a while I decided that I’d take it easy so I parked on the terrace of our room and watched the world go by, when I wasn’t taking the time to photograph some of the autumnal flowers and foliage still rampant along the railings.
It was all very lovely and relaxing and gave me time to bury my nose in a book as well (John le Carre’s “A Legacy of Spies” which I’d been saving to read in Germany as it seemed appropriate) until Lynne arrived back and we set off to investigate the other side of the river.
We crossed the main bridge, the Brückentor (or Bridge Gate), designed by the incredibly prolific Bruno Möhring and opened in 1899. From there we were straight into the main street of Trarbach, where a lot of shops seemed to be attracting tourists from the various river boats.
There’s a lot of history on this side, as it’s really the original site of settlement along this bit of the river, and the town very handily has plaques recording a variety of events including the winter when the river froze over (1783-4).
There are some lovely views up to the tops of the vineyards from the high street and the medieval street patterns are still visible in places like the bones of an old dinosaur showing through. It all looked very steep.
We did a bit of thinking and decided that maybe we wouldn’t flog up to the top and the ruins of the Mont Royal Fortress (built in 1687 for Louis XIV by Vauban, this was a fortress providing space for 12,000 soldiers and 3,000 horses but was demolished by the French themselves, just a decade later, following the Treaty of Ryswick) or to the Ruins of the Grevenburg which loom above the old town. This was built around 1350 for the Counts of Sponheim. It was besieged, damaged, occupied and rebuilt, and was conquered for the fourth and final time in 1734 by the French, during the War of the Polish Succession. The castle was blown up leaving little in the way of superstructure but much in the way of foundations.
We could, however, find and view plenty of other buildings including quite a few Art Nouveau buildings which presumably went up as a result of the prosperity brought to Traben Trarbach by the railway connection built in 1883. Suddenly their wines could be sold far and wide and shipped easily, hence the collection of splendid villas, especially on the Traben side where there was space to build. However, I digress.
We walked past the lovely little square (and it is very small) where the old town mill is now a restaurant of some repute.
We would drop back in later for a light lunch but first there were other things to look at in the streets behind the main town area in the form of some lovely houses and villas that are now business premises.
We were now ready for a light lunch so returned to the Stadt Muhle where the waiter clearly thought we’d gone mad because we wanted to sit outside. The thing is it’s lovely out there and it wasn’t that cold, especially under the canopy.
He did forget we were there so I had to go back in to order for us. We went for a round of Federweissers again, because it’s fruit juice really!
We also shared a portion of Grawes with a massive bratwurst. Grawes is basically mashed potato and sauerkraut combined, with added speck (very fatty bacon). It’s not exactly a slimmer’s meal but it’s very, very tasty!
From here we headed to the third of Traben-Trabach’s churches, the Evangelical church which is up a ludicrous amount of steps. I suspect the congregation of being at least part mountain goat…
Behind the church is what used the be the Alte Lateinschule (Old Latin School) which dates from 1573. It is now a pilgrimage hostel on one of the German branches of the pilgrims’ route to Santiago di Compostela.
The church itself is also of historic interest with it’s rare twin choir. The first historical mention of a church here is in 1330 when it was extended by the Count of Sponheim, and the right hand side choir was founded as a county burial chapel in 1379.
It also has a beautiful vaulted and painted ceiling that would make it worth a look in its own right.
It’s a lovely spot, with fine views up the vineyards and down over the town, and it was worth the climb.
As a result of all of that we weren’t at all surprised to find that some of the local buildings had scallop shell embellishments, the scallop being the emblem of pilgrims on the route.
A stroll back towards the river saw us blunder over an unlikely competition car on the way to the Buddha museum.
Mind you the Buddha Museum is pretty unlikely in its own way, being, as you might have guessed, full of representations of Buddha. It’s also in a pretty wonderful Art Nouveau building that used the be a winery.
From here we walked back towards the bridge, trying to get into the other church on this side of the river only to find it closed… due to repairs to the organ. This really did keep happening and it was starting to be somewhat hysteria-inducing.
I settled for a clamber to the top, via a lot of old coats of arms and a lot of stairs.
It was worth it for the views from the top even with the anti-pigeon mesh – though I had to enjoy it on my own. Lynne really doesn’t do heights or small winding staircases if there’s no good reason to.
It was starting to get cold and somewhat windy and I had a scheduled trip back to Minheim in pursuit of the orange wine we drank in Helsinki. After our somewhat abortive trip to Minheim over the weekend I’d done a bit of digging on Google and had managed to make contact with the winemaker, Christoph Koenen, who had arranged for me to swing by the vineyard and winery at 17:00 to buy some of his Wirewalker wine. He seemed a little bemused by the mad Englishwoman on his doorstep but happily handed over a box at a slightly reduced rate too.
I drove back the quick route, having been hampered at every turn by tractors pulling cart loads of grapes, and a little old lady in a VW who should probably not be behind the wheel any longer if her 15 mph progress and repeated indicating then not actually turning off was anything to go by! There was also a second sighting of the pumpkin seller on the approach to Kinheim, whose wares were spread out along the grass verge. Some of them were very odd looking!
We had one last trip to the hotel bar and a round of Hugos, along with a little photography.
We then set out for a gentle stroll along the riverside, admiring the boats as dusk started to creep in.
From there we walked to the neighbouring hotel for dinner. The newly renovated Moselschlosschen looks very good and its restaurant, Zum Schlösschen, certainly delivered the goods. A round of excellent bread appeared while we considered the menu.
Given the season, it had to be the Gourmet Pumpkin Menu. Lynne and I both started with the braised veal cheek croquette, which came withsweet and sour pumpkin, beetroot gel and some wonderfully sticky caramelized walnuts.
We also had the same mains, a pink-roasted duck breast with a plum and pepper sauce, romanesco cauliflower and a pumpkin puree. Unlike what often happens in the UK, the duck genuinely was cooked pink, as it should be, and was all the better for it. The sauce was glorious, shiny and unctuous, and the sweetness of the pumpkin puree nicely contrasted the sharp fruitiness of the sauce.
For dessert there was a fried polenta slice with pumpkin, figs, ginger ice cream, and a passion fruit sauce. I felt the polenta was rather dull but the rest of the dessert was fruity, fine and just the thing to end a meal.
We paid the bill and waddled back to our room where it proved rather difficult to get off to sleep because there was a river cruise boat moored opposite with its generator running all night. It looked pretty out there though.
Sleep came eventually and when we woke up in the morning the boat was already gone.