Sunday, May 31, 2009


SATURDAY, MAY 30, 2009 – 142/3 – COCHEM, GERMANY

Today is a down day for us and we need it! The room was comfortable last night and we both sleep well. Dick is up and working on the Blog…we are way behind…by 8:00AM. Carolyn sleeps in until after 9:00AM. It is nice not to have to pack up!

The hotel provides a very nice spread for breakfast and we are one of the last guests into the dining room. It turns out that we have an assigned table for our stay with our name as “FAMALIE NEAL” written on a ceramic place card. We find that a nice, classy touch. The buffet offerings include fried and scrambled eggs, croissants, hard rolls, several kinds of yogurt, bacon, jams, a tea caddie, coffee, etc. They also have riesemilch or, as we call it at home, sweet rice or sticky rice.

We talk to one of the owners, Oliver Meyer, about things to do. We take the hotel car down to the center of Cochem and explore there. As we have said, this is a three-day weekend in Germany. It is actually a Catholic Church holiday but nobody seems to know just what it is when asked about it. The town of Cochem is a German tourist destination at the best of times and this weekend, it is crawling with people. Every parking place is full and the motorcycle crowd is pulling in by the tens. There must be several hundred motorcycles parked in the areas through which we walk. While quaint and pretty, the village is given over to the tourist trade and offers nothing that we have not seen too much of already. Again there are no shops with the nice handmade things we have found in Germany in the past but we do treat ourselves to some delious chocolate candy and some pastries! We cannot seem to catch a taxi on the street, so we go to the information office and they call one for us. There is an antique car show in the parking lotso we check that out while we wait for the taxi to come. €8 later, we arrive back at our hotel. We spend the afternoon, reading, working on the blog and enjoying our balcony view of Cochem and the Mosel River Valley. About 5:00PM we go for a short drive up river toward Trier. We had thought we would rent some bikes this afternoon, but that did not happen. All the restaurants are full or people and we are glad we are not looking for a place to eat. The river drive is very nice this time of day. Dinner is included in today’s room cost and we go down about 8:30PM. The sun is still up and it seems like 6:00PM in Texas in the middle of the summer. While good and well presented, the food does not compare to what we had last night but we enjoy a quiet meal and share a bottle of local Gewürztraminer. We had pre-ordered a pastry wrapped salmon dish, however we are not fans of turnips and they were on the plate as a vegetable and the leaves were in the salmon wrap. It seems to us that most German meals are white! White asparagus, white potatoes, white turnips, white sauce and almost white pastry wrapped salmon. This all white type of plate has been the standard for several meals.

Back in the room, Carolyn reviews pictures from the last few days until the small hours of the morning while Dick, as usual, crashes at a reasonable time.

Saturday, May 30, 2009



What with no A/C in these German hotel rooms, we sleep with the windows open and that means that we hear the trash trucks come by in the middle of the night and we hear the kitchen staffs of two hotels arrive and start their days at the top of their voices at 5:00AM. (Or you do if you don't sleep with the iPod earplugs to drown out al sorts of noise!) While we both slept fairly well, we are up early due to the noise. At least one of us is! Fortunately, it is still very cool in this part of Germany so being without A/C right now is not too bad. By the way and for the record, this is our 44th wedding anniversary.

After another typical German breakfast of hard rolls, croissants, ham, jam, yogurt, and a hard-boiled egg, we pack up but leave our luggage in the room while we explore Trier a little more. After taking some photos of the Porta Nigra, we buy tickets for €14 for a 30-minute tram ride around the historic, old city. This takes us to some places we have not seen such as the Roman baths, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We wonder why they cannot make these tram cars with a little better suspension system. Even on city streets, this one is rough and when we hit cobblestone streets, it is uncomfortable. As we drive along the street beside the baths we pass a long section of the city walls.
After the tram we walk back to the square for some pictures with the morning light. The fruit and flower market are in full swing!

We then go back to the church or Baslilka und Kurfurstliches Schloss as Dick wants a picture of the outstanding organ pipes. The bascilica was built for Emperor Constantine around 305AD, then in the 1500's part of it was incorporated into a Renaissance castle so it is rather odd looking as seen in yesterday's picture. The church has lots of beautiful marble carvings at each column and it also has a double choir nave, one at each end. One is for the altar and the other was for the Emperor! Back at the hotel, we check out and head for three more sites on Carolyn’s list. One is the Roman amphitheatre, but it is charging €16 just to walk through and we pass on it, as the one we visited in Turkey was in much better condition. The second is a bridge across the Mosel River that uses the original Roman Bridge as a base. We drive across it, but unless you are on the bicycle path along the river, you cannot see the Roman part of it. Finally, we visit the St Matthias Church and take some rather crooked photos of its simple but elegant interior. They are setting up for a program in front of the church so we can't get a picture of the colorful facade, but do take some in the garden and well tended graveyard beside the church.That does it for our second visit to Trier. We were here the first time in 1984. Our impression of the city is very positive. It is clean, easy to navigate with a good GPS and has some significant sights to see.
Now we head, by the most direct route, to Cochem on the Mosel River. The GPS takes us through more beautiful, spring-green farm country until we arrive on the ridge overlooking Cochem down on the banks of the Mosel. What a beautiful view! We wind our way down the steep sides of the river valley and find our hotel with ease. It is the Moselromantik-Hotel Kessler-Meyer. Our room is very nice
and our balcony has a view of the river and the castle. The hotel is new looking with a pool and spa and nice public areas.

We do not bother to unload after checking in, as we want to drive north to Koblenz and see the river valley on both sides of the river. Our drive takes us along the west bank of the Mosel River and then back on the east bank.We are amazed to see how steep some of the vineyards are. The valley sides are terraced in most places

but we also see rows of vines planted up and down instead of across the hillsides. Some are so steep that we wonder how they can pick the grapes and get them down to the road but then we see small tram tracks running up the hillsides and have the answer to our question. Still, if you fell while picking on some of those slopes, you would break your neck.
On the drive to and from Kolbenz there are several nice castles, but I think the prettiest one is the one at Cochem though this one is a close runner up!.In Koblenz, we go to the Deutschen Eck or German Corner where the Mosel and the Rhine merge. Across from the point is the Festung (Fortress) Ehrenbreitsteinwhich was used to house captured flyers, mostly British, during WWII. It is a formidable looking place. After a stroll through the old, pedestrian only part of the city, we head back up the Mosel Valley to Alken, on the east side of the river. Our goal is the restaurant Burg Thurant.
When we arrive at the restaurant, there is only one table left in the small front courtyard and we take it. The menu is in German, naturally, and the owner/waiter has very limited English but we manage to select a delicious meal. Carolyn has a bowl of potato soup and prawns done scampi style but with a twist that we cannot quite place. We both agree they are wonderful. Dick has a seasonal garden salad and salmon. The salmon, grilled to perfection, is served over tagliatelli (SP) pasta with a sumptuous cream sauce and sautéed spinach. We share a bottle of local Riesling wine,

The service is slow as each dish is prepared when ordered but we enjoy the wine and watching the sun slowly set behind the western edge of the Mosel River valley. We pass on dessert and head for our hotel in Cochem where we finally unload, clean up, watch the sunset and crash!



Happy Birthday Dick! We sleep in and have another European breakfast: tea and coffee, ham, cheese, cold hard-boiled eggs, bread and yogurt. We are missing our eggs and bacon! Then we ask the desk clerk to call ahead to two hotels ( from our new book of Hotels) for the next 3 nights and the problems begin! Both places are booked and he tells us that it is a long holiday weekend in Germany! It is something called “Pinkton” or, it sounds like that. OK, we go to plan “B” except we do not have one! We decide the safest thing to do is to drive to Trier and go to the “big I” for some help.

By 11:00AM, we are heading down a local road and find a German tank in a little village park...Dick never passes on a history photo opt!
We are aiming for Bastogne as Dick wants to see the Mardasson Memorial and museum there. Bastogne was a road network center, held by the 101st Airborne during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.From there we head across Luxemburg on more local roads. The countryside is stunning…rolling hills with deep valleys and that beautiful new spring green of farmland. All the houses have beautiful flower gardens and, as expected, the villages are wonderfully quaint and surprisingly with no tourists. We then head through the remote Mullerthal area in western Luxemburg. This is a hilly, heavily forested area with some weird rock formations. There is evidence that it gets lots of hiking and camping use in the season, but it is cool and damp today. We then turn southward toward Trier and drive along the Saur River.

About 2:00PM, we get to Trier and head for a parking garage and the information center. They confirm that it is a long holiday weekend in Germany and give us a list of hotels in Trier to choose from along with a booklet with hotels along the Mosel Valley. We pick the Altstadt-Hotel, across from the Porta Nigra.The Porta Nigra is a huge sandstone structure that was part of the Roman wall around the city. Built in the 2nd Century AD, the white sandstone has turned a dirty black over the years giving it the name of “Black Gate” in Latin. The information center representative calls for us, confirms there is space available, and we walk over and check in. It is an old hotel, but clean and has in room WIFI, which we need to find a room for the next three nights. Dick moves the car to the hotel parking lot while Carolyn logs onto the internet. With the aid of the booklet and a booking site, we make reservations for the next three nights: two nights on the Mosel River and one night on the Rhine. That gets us through the long weekend.

It is mid afternoom and we are both hungry so we head out to explore Trier on foot. It has a nice pedestrian shopping area near the Porta Nigra which we explore and where we pick up some sandwiches to eat for a late lunch as we walk down toward the main square which is surrounded by colorful old buildings. There is a market going on in the middle of the square and the locals are buying!We then head back to the hotel by way of the Cathedral or Liebfrauenkirche. Along the way, we find an antique shop with the mother-of-pearl demitasse spoons we have been looking for. Dick now has his Birthday present!

It is again cocktail time, so we get some ice from the sister hotel bar across the street and have drinks in the room while we try to catch up on our postings. Most of the places we have stayed in Europe have not had internet so we are way behind. About 8:45PM, we head to dinner at the Strassa Dom restaurant.It is still white asparagus season in Germany, so we try their version along with a schnitzel and some apple strudel. It tastes very good. We walk back to the room by way of the Porta Nigra and observe that they roll up the sidewalks in this town early and it is time we joined them.


WEDNESDAY, MAY 27, 2009 – 139/6 - A CHANGE IN PLANS!

Today we start with a typical European buffet breakfast, check out of the hotel and drive the short distance to the site of the Battle of Waterloo. The site has changed since we were here in 1984. It has become touristy and that is not a good thing. In 1984, we drove up, got out of the car and climbed Lion Hill to view the field.
Today, the hill is behind fences and one must purchase an admission that includes, the one we buy did anyway, admission to a film, another display, the wax museum, the diorama, Lion Hill and a 40-minute tram ride around the field. If you are fleet of foot, you can walk the tram route on your own but it would take two hours and we have neither the time nor the fleetness of foot.

The tram leaves at 10:45AM, drives along ridge that was the right side of the British (Allied) position toward Chateau Hougoumont, and then down across the field where the French cavalry made their assault and on toward the area that was the French left to La Belle Alliance. La Belle Alliance is in the middle of the French line and to which Napoleon came in the late afternoon of June 18, 1815. It is also where Wellington and Blucher met after the battle. From here, the route takes us along a ridge top that contained the French right and their artillery batteriesand then circles along sunken lanes, which were there during the battle, to the farm Papelotte and then back along the ridge which contained the Allied line’s left wing.

The area is still farmed and the fields are freshly planted. As far as we know, the land is privately owned but Belgian law, to preserve the site, restricts its use to farming.In fact, as the tram rounded the bend in the path at Papelotte, a woman in green, rubber boats crossed the road carrying a hoe.

For other’s edification, the route of the tram is very rough and the carriage is poorly sprung. We wonder just how many people the ride has crippled! However, the ride does give one a view of the battlefield from all points in the two lines and we enjoy it very much. However, next time we will walk.

Our goal for today, after visiting the battlefield at Waterloo, is to drive up to Eindhoven, Netherlands the fastest way and then to try and find, without any of Dick’s history books, the route taken by the armor and paratroopers in the attempt to take the bridges at Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem. For you history challenged people, this is the WWII assault written about in the book, “A Bridge too Far.”

It is expressway all the way to Eindhoven and then we think we find the right road but it is also now an expressway. This is an area of heavy commercial activity and truck traffic. Neither of us is enjoying the ride so we change our plans while going 120 km/hr. We pick an exit and get a late lunch in a café in a nice, small village NW of Eindhoven. We have no idea the name of the village!Sitting in a Pub dating to the late 1800's, we decide to drop our trip up to Arnhem while we eat.
Carolyn is very tired of the motorways even if you can go really fast on them! Plus the quite and peaceful beauty of The Ardennes and the Rhine and Mosel valleys are calling so we head SE toward them. After several miscues, we arrive in the Ardennes. The GPS has been a blessing and a curse on this trip!

We drove through some of this area 25 years ago. It is really beautiful! Using a directory of small hotels from last night’s stay, we try two again. The first one has not opened yet for the summer but we find one about 30km down the road in Trois Ponts. Our hotel is the Le Beau Site, sitting high on a hillside, and the building dates from 1905. It is definitely vintage, but we had a great room with a nice view (the one with the open french doors)!Trois Ponts played a key role in The Battle of the Bulge as it is a choke point, or it was at the time, of small roads that must all cross a stream here. There was heavy fighting in the town in December 1944 but it is now a sleepy, beautiful, little village in a lovely valley. The most exciting thing happening now is the rail traffic that flows through on five tracks. The trains, electrically powered, are very quiet. All you hear is the sound of the wheels. We spend some time making a plan for our last days over cocktails in the room and enjoy the view from our little balcony the picture above). We then drive the short distance (5km) to the village of Coos and enjoy a wonderful rendition of trout almandine along with a bottle of Gewürztraminer wine. We leave the restaurant at 10:00PM with the sky still quite bright and people still eating in the restaurant. We WILL be back!