Friday October 6th – Day 14 – Ahrweiler, Bad Neuenahr, Ligneuville
Now we really were on the last part of the journey, where we would leave Germany and spend a night at our old favourite stomping ground in Belgium, close to Spa-Francorchamps, before catching an overnight ferry back to the UK.
First however, we planned to do a little sightseeing around Ahrweiler and Bad Neuenahr, especially as along with our keys when we checked in to the hotel, we are also given a card that entitled us to free travel in the valley, and cut price or free tourist attraction entries. It seemed like a good deal, and with the local railway station just behind the hotel, we went for the three minute ride to the centre of Ahrweiler and aimed for the tourist information office to see if we could get a guide. Ahrweiler, as we had already discovered, is a lovely little medieval town, and Bad Neuenahr is the other side of the coin being a spa town that developed when mineral springs were discovered. It is open and stylish with wide boulevards and a massive spa complex.
The town has been settled since at least Roman time, and is first listed by the name of Ahrweiler in the 9th century, when it appears in the Land Register of the Abbey of Prüm. It also features, or the suburb of Sinzig does, in 1180 when the Holy Roman Emperor Barbarossa met envoys from France and Flanders. It was, along with Bonn, Andernach and Nürburg, one of the capitals of the Archbishopric of Cologne and is thus well within an area with which we should be more familiar.
The most obvious feature for visitors arriving in Ahrweiler are the medieval defensive walls, ramparts and towers which are remarkably complete under the circumstances.
As I say, it’s something of a miracle the walls exist at all. In Thirty Years War the town was besieged, plundered and set on fire by the French, and then in May 1689 the town was razed to the ground, and only ten houses remained intact. As if that wasn’t enough, the Ahrweiler City Gate and a number of other buildings were partially destroyed at the end of World War II. It’s looking pretty good now though.
We dodged the rain that hit as we left the station, and made for the Tourist Information office, where we picked up a leaflet that covered all the tourist attractions that we might want to see. Of particular note is the parish church of Saint Laurentius (St. Laurence), which was built in 1269, and which we were told is considered one of the most beautiful Gothic churches in the Rhineland. It really is quite striking on the outside.
It’s also very lovely on the inside.
We nosed around the church then strolled through the town until we found the old synagogue. The town had a noted Jewish community from the 13th century onwards, and by the 14th century, the Jews of the town were trading in salt and wine. However, despite the town refusing Hitler a chance to address the community in 1932, all Jews were taken away after 1933. Today the synagogue, desecrated during 1938’s Kristallnacht, is an art gallery.
We walked back by way of the market square, where there was quite a tempting selection of stalls in action.
Had it not been for the fact that the portable fridge in the car was already full, I might have done some serious food shopping. However, I managed to stop myself and instead we picked up the tourist train for a ride to the Bad Neuenahr side of town.
By the time we got there the rain had started to fall, changed its mind, and was loitering just off stage. The park had some work towards an event going on and was inaccesible so we walked round the spa complex itself. There are some fine looking hotel in Bad Neuenahr is all I can say.
The spring that triggered the development of the spa was discovered accidentally in 1852 in a vineyard owne by Georg Kreuzberg. He named it after St. Apollinaris of Ravenna, who was a patron saint of wine and by 1913 was producing 40 million bottles of water year Needless to say, the company is these days owned by Coca-Cola, who acquired it in 2006.
Round from the swimming pool complex, we found a very pleasant walk along the waterside.
As the rain started up again and we started to feel very cold we discovered the Martin Luther church, which is modern but interesting.
Outside it was absolutely hissing it down again so we dived into a cafe because frankly there was no pleasure to be had walking around in the rain. We settled in at the Carpe Diem, dripping gently and probably steaming as we started to warm up. I really needed a Federweisser!
And there’s no point in drinking Federweisser if you can’t get a slice of Zwiebelkuchen.
Lynne didn’t agree and went for a warming and rather lovely pumpkin and ginger soup. As the clock ticked round to the time that the train would take us back to Ahrweiler we gathered our things and squelched to the stop.
Back in Ahrweiler the weather had improved again. A chance discovery of a shoe shop proved useful for me, as they sold shoes that can take orthotic supports and that are also insanely comfortable, so having done some impromptu shopping, we caught the train back to Walporzheim and then drove back to Ahrweiler to do a raid on the local supermarket and then made for the town winery where we struggled to buy some red wine because we kept being interrupted by every single tourist in the town coming in to do the winery tour! It was time to head up the valley towards the Belgian border.
On the way we came across some wine makers who had put up roadside awnings and were offering tastings of their wares. We stopped at Weingut Max Schell and came away with a couple of cases of very good reds. We now had very little room left in the car, and that was being saved for a Belgian supermarket run.
We headed along the Ahr and then towards the Nurburgring on the grounds that from there we’d know where we were going. The SatNav was being uncooperative so it was basically navigation by memory now. We did stop for refreshments, after realising that the wine tasting was having an effect. It did take a while to find anything that was actually open. However, a bunch of bikes parked up suggested that cake and coffee could well be in the offing. Where there are cyclists, you can usually guarantee cake. And so it proved.
After that we were on our way once more, crossing from the Eifel to the Ardennes and dropping down towards Ligneuville. The weather was changeable, and driving conditions varied between thoroughly enjoyable and “what on earth are we doing out here?” from one moment to the next. When the outside temperature indicator on the car pinged and then dropped to 3°C I did start to think we might have been better going home another way!
It was something of a relief to pull up outside the Hotel St. Hubert where we first stayed in 1988. Sometimes it’s nice to stay somewhere where they know who you are, and you know how everything works.
We settled in then dropped back down to the bar to see what Edgard had to offer in the way of dinner. A kir while we digested the news that there was no trout (in the “Capital of the Trout” no less) was required.
We gave some thought to the menu and then decided we’d pursue the gourmet route. We’ve never eaten a bad meal here in something like 28 visits, so we knew we’d be well fed whatever we chose. We shared a dense, meaty pigeon pate with a foie gras nugget in the middle of it. The pate was solid, gamey and came with a very good chutney.
The other starter we shared was unadulterated foie gras.
For mains we both had hare with potato gratin and “its accompaniments”. It was superb, tender meat, a rich creamy sauce, and excellent potato gratin. I can never get potato gratin right. Mine never sets right, and the potato won’t cook properly. I really must try again.
We refused dessert – which has been known to be tricky here – but instead sat in the bar and finished a very good bottle of wine before heading for bed.