Sunday, 27 June 2010

Schleswig-Holstein : Germany’s far north

Our route north to the Danish border

After a comfortable and welcoming few days staying with our friend Maggie, we left Wanna on Sunday 20th June to head north. Our goal for the next few days was Schleswig-Holstein, the northern neck of Germany that extends between Baltic and North Seas to the Danish border.

Windmills feature a lot on this coast - these are near Itzehoe

To get there we first had to cross the river Elbe, which is here so broad that the ferry from Wischhafen to Glückstadt took a good 20 minutes, swinging out wide into the current and dodging sandbanks and huge freighters before another S-shape glide brought it to the landing point on the northern shore.

Ferry across the Elbe

The landscape was not so different, and the farmhouses had changed only subtly, having lost much of the timber-framing in the gable ends but gaining more windows. After Itzehoe we passed through a pretty area of undulating countryside and frequent woods, and again another part of Norfolk – the north west - flashed through our minds. Our vocabulary for describing flat, familiarish north European landscapes has been shaped by the lands either side of the Wash.

Local wildlife  - Stork near Kiel Canal

We decided to seek out a stellplatz by the Kiel Canal, as shown in our Reisemobil Stellplatz guide, but when we arrived at the designated co-ordinates (always pronounced “company-ordinates” by Garmintrude which provokes Rob to bemoan the poor level of testing by the IT team who developed the program), there was no sight of it, bar perhaps a blocked off and weed-infested field entrance near the Satnav co-ordinates. Yet, curiously or consequently, a number of German motorhomes were parked up in unused access ways to the Kiel Canal half a kilometre away, forming an unofficial stellplatz over three separate pieces of asphalt. There was nothing else around and it didn’t take long to decide to join them. We ended up with a prime spot where we watched the big ships go gliding by (acknowledgements to Doctor Feelgood for that line) way into the evening, for the sky still sported a warm glow until midnight.

Where the big ships go gliding by

There is something transfixing about watching these huge vessels slip silently through the meadows only meters from where you sit. The Kiel Canal – proper name Nord-Ostsee Kanal, NOK for short, North Sea-Baltic Canal in English – is one of the world’s busiest ship canals, allowing ships to avoid the journey north around Denmark. Traffic continues 24 hours a day, but we noticed that larger vessels would often pass in groups of two or three, as an effective one-way system was operated for the widest, bunching them together then holding up oncoming traffic until they had passed. All the while the little Breiholz ferry, a short way from our parking place, shuttled back and forth whenever a gap presented itself, moving a few road vehicles at a time then shuttling back with more, and this too 24 hours a day. The Breiholz ferry, like all others on the canal, is free, being a replacement for local roads cut when the NOK was built in the 1890s.

Really big ships!

On the Monday we lingered by the Kiel Canal for a long time watching the ships, but eventually upped sticks, crossed at the Breiholz ferry, and drove a few km to Rendsburg. Here the canal is crossed by a novel ferry, which is shaped like all others but never touches the water, instead hovering about 2 meters above it as it is suspended on long wires from a massive iron railway bridge that crosses the canal way above it.

Gives a new meaning to all ferries suspended!

Rendsburg held no other attractions for us so we drove to Eckernförde, a pretty place on an inlet of the Baltic Sea. It had a long harbour front, used once for shipping timber but now for pleasure boats and restaurants. We stopped on one such, on a boat moored permanently on the town quayside, and had lunch of fish in rolls, one of us choosing fried fish and one smoked. I’m not sure what fish they were but they were good.

More Jugendstil details (Art Nouveau) at Eckernförde

We were in Eckernförde longer than we’d anticipated and kept running back to extend our carpark tickets. As we returned for the final time I (Rob) noticed a parking ticket tucked in the windscreen, and my alarm turned to anger when I saw that it was timed at 15:40, when we had a carpark ticket in the window that had been valid until 15:45. Now I could have ignored it but I have heard stories of unpaid fines being pursued in the home country, so I stormed up to the town hall to try and sort this apparent mistake out, but only to find that it was now closed for the day. We decided to stay somewhere locally for the night and come back in to go to the town hall the following morning. The coast around here looked very nice and that did not seem too much of a sacrifice, so we found a nice enough stellplatz in woods behind an inn a few km out of town.

On the Tuesday we returned to Eckernförde to confront the authorities. I marched into the Rathaus with my tickets in my hand, and was met by pleasant and helpful people who cancelled the penalty ticket without a second glance. Must happen all the time!

We were by now close to Denmark, but decided on one further night in Germany so that we could see the marshy Wattenmeer on Schleswig-Holstein’s North Sea coast. The place we stopped at was a small stellplatz behind the sea-dyke, in an area called the Reussenkooge, between Husum and Dagebüll. It was also the starting point for a part-paved roadway out to a former island farmstead, the Hamburger Hallig, which lay some 3km beyond the dyke but these days only at the start of the ocean proper, as the land around the roadway has been gradually reclaimed and has started to dry out over the decades.

Amsink Haus Stellplatz

Koogs and halligs and watt are essential to an understanding of this coastland. The Watt is the vast expanse of mud flats and marshes that are in turn covered and exposed by the tides, and which stretch for many miles from the shore. A koog is a parcel of land reclaimed from the sea (or the watt) behind a dyke, and a hallig is a small piece of raised land in the watt, often as small as a farmstead, that becomes an island at high tide. The stellplatz lay within the Sönke-Nissen-Koog, land reclaimed in 1925 by the building of the dyke behind which we camped, and inland from that lay other koogs behind dykes from the 1790s. The original shoreline villages lay along a slight rise in the land back again from these. The floor of the koogs, like the watt, is dead flat, but is cultivated for crops. Between sea-dyke and watt proper lie salt marshes, drained by parallel ditches, and used to graze sheep (which are otherwise surprisingly rare in Germany).

Amsink Haus - Reclaimed land and drainage chanels

I cycled out across the salt marshes to the Hamburger Hallig. It consists of a huddle of farm buildings, given over now to tourism, located within a square of raised earthen dykes on slight rise, and although no longer surrounded by true watt, it feels suitably alone and vulnerable so far in front of the main coastal dyke.

Amsink Haus - Hamburger Hellig

A little further north we stopped again by the sea and on climbing the dyke found that the watt began immediately, only was here under water as it was high tide. In the shoreline mud we found samphire growing, often described as asparagus of the sea, and picked a bagfull that we ate with pepper and butter that evening. On the horizon distant buildings seemed to be standing directly on the sea, but belonged of course to the low lying islands in the wattenmeer such as Amrum and Föhr.

Hauke Haien Koog - High tide

Hauke Haien Koog - Picking samphire

Two odd things happened just as we were about to leave Germany and cross the border to Denmark. First, as we were driving along we were having a conversation about how we’d almost bought a German Pössl panel van, but then found this one in Banbury and that led to us saying we hadn’t seen any vans in Europe which were conversions of a Renault Master like ours. Suddenly, across a roundabout near Dagerbüll we saw a silver Renault Master panel van conversion parked in a car park. As we changed our angle slightly I (Lesley) noticed the flash down the side and shouted “It’s a Devon” – and it was, a twin to our van but a Devon Monaco, with a fixed bed, instead of a Devon Monte Carlo. The British couple, both Londoners now living in the Forest of Dean, had been round Scandinavia and were heading home. We had a long chat, viewed each other’s vans and they gave us tips about wild camping, with a good suggestion for Ribe as our first stop in Denmark.

Charlie waits patiently while we Devon owners swap tales

The second odd thing was finding free internet. We were worried about getting to Denmark with no kroner so decided to pop into the small village of Neukirchen just before the Danish border to shop for food with our Euros. In a corner of the Top Kauf supermarket was a free internet point, a coffee machine and a couple of tables and chairs. It wasn’t really an internet cafe, but I think it was trying very hard. They were happy for us to plug their internet cable into our laptop and we cheekily plugged into their electric and charged up at the same time, which seemed a fine way to spend our last half hour in Germany.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

A Brief Glimpse of the Rhine and then on to the North Sea

Onwards and upwards through Germany

Lesley’s bit –

On Saturday 12th June we left the Mosel, heading at first high above the river valley for some impressive views, then dropping down to our next big river, the Rhine, at Boppard, which reminded me of a cross between Brighton and Bath, albeit with massive barges sailing along in front of the elegant riverside spa hotels. It was here that we crossed the Rhine on a small ferry.
Ferry across the Rhine

We began to see a few of the famed Rhine castles after Boppard, though further south is the real area for romantic fairy tale towers. I also thought that I’d begun to find an answer to my search for internet cafes, which is becoming a minor obsession, as we passed lots of cafes which I thought were displaying a particular brand sign of Geoff net. I mentioned it to Rob as a possible place to stop, but when he looked over at one of the cafes he just laughed (rather unkindly really) because “geöffnet” in German just means “open”!

Rob’s bit -

We finished Saturday on a medium-sized stellplatz right beside the Rhine at Braubach, south of Koblenz. The village itself is another gem of fachwerk houses, strung around the base of a rocky hill which is crowned by Marksburg castle, one of the fortresses that tower above the Rhine valley. Marksburg looked in fact every bit the mediaeval fortress, with its sheer walls and soaring towers, and maintained a stark, defensive character as opposed to those castles that had acquired big windows and ornamentation reminiscent of our ‘stately homes’ in later centuries. And not to mention the string of modern reconstructions and replicas that were built by the German elites as romanticism became popular in the 19th century (the castle at Cochem for example dates only from 1874!).

We felt it was time to eat out – we’d had enough, for now, of barbecued sausage – and found a lovely olde-worlde, dark-beamed tavern in Braubach where we had a lovely meal with more local wines, and I got the chance to eat a dish I’d wanted to try for years.

Saumagen – on Mrs T’s trail

There is a reliable story that in the mid 1980s, the then West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl invited British premier Margaret Thatcher to stay with him in his home village in the Rhineland, hoping to break through her unstinting hostility by showing her that Germans were human too. A high point was to be a meal of good homely cooking in a local restaurant, to which Mrs Thatcher and her advisers and minders duly came. On the menu was Saumagen, a kind of haggis-like dish of spiced forcemeat cooked in a pig’s stomach then served in slices. While Kohl tucked into this local delicacy with relish, Mrs T was seen uneasily pushing the food around her plate until the ordeal was over. Needless to say, the Lady was not for turning. So for around 25 years I have been longing to try Saumagen and see what it was that defeated the Iron Lady, and in Braubach I got my chance. All I can say is that it was delicious, a hearty slice of clove-infused meatloaf that melted in the mouth. Good one, Helmut.

The following morning, Sunday, we lingered over breakfast, and then lunch, on our riverside stellplatz. It was on asphalt, ie. basically a carpark, but the position in the Rhine valley, between the huge river and the soaring Marksburg castle (and the main railway line along which freight trains ran all night) was very appealing. We seemed to be only feet away from the huge barges and pleasure boats that navigated the river.

Lesley’s bit –

Onwards and upwards, as they say – and our journey headed north through the middle of Germany. The Sauerland, hilly uplands to the east of Cologne, were filled with fields where huge stands of purple lupins grew. I’d never realised that this was their naturalised state and they looked stunning. Unfortunately every time we saw a particularly photogenic cluster we had another vehicle up our behind and couldn’t find a place to safely stop! We also passed the bluest cornflowers in the fields, growing alongside poppies and tall, swaying daisies.

I have to say at this point that Charlie has taken to van travel like a duck to water. He sits patiently to have his seatbelt put on and then collapses with a huge sigh to lie very ungracefully on his back with his little legs up in the air, snoring away. It’s a dog’s life isn’t it?

Charlie the travelling dog

Rob again -

Sunday night’s stopping place was rather an improvised affair. Heading into the Sauerland from the town of Olpe we arrived at the Biggesee reservoir, where only a few stellplätze were shown but we suspected there might be other chances of wild overnighting. However, after much driving through ideal, deserted waterside carparks we realised that everywhere worthwhile was designated ‘No motor homes’, and so we set our sights a little further afield and drove to a stellplatz shown in the village of Niederhelden in the Repe valley (Repetal). It was attached to a hotel, and we arrived at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night to find the whole road dug up, the hotel closed and no sign of said stellplatz. But necessity breeds invention, and we found a secluded car park between another hotel and a golf course, and decided that this would be the place. We did our best to be inconspicuous and quiet, but need not have worried for we had an undisturbed sleep. The few golfers who turned up from 8:30 on the Monday morning either ignored us, or gave us a friendly nod.

We continued on our way north. We left the Sauerland and by Paderborn were approaching the flat north. We detoured to the small town of Lemgo which has a well preserved core of 16th to 19th century buildings. There were many more fachwerk houses, but more regular in shape and the pattern of the beams than they had been further south. The flat, broad straight streets reminded us strongly of Flanders or Zeeland. The town hall had an ornately decorated stone facade, in the so-called ‘Weser Renaissance’ style, named after the river that flows from this region up to the north sea, and whose route we would be following.

We ended the day at the town of Nienburg, which lies in the middle Weser valley where we had stopped for the night on a car park which was an overspill for the stellplatz right on the river bank (and much nicer than the stellplatz!)


Lesley –

On Tuesday morning we explored the town of Nienburg. There were many more impressive example here of the Weser Renaissance style, and 16th century timber framed houses in a very open, square style, with brick infill and sometimes with rather Dutch looking gables. The town hall was in this style, but with stone vaulting on the ground floor.

The landscape from here on was very flat. You could have been driving through the Fens or Norfolk if you took away the architecture, with lots of drainage channels leading into larger canals and the fertile land in between mostly given over to arable farming, with a few milk herds dotted here and there on the fields.

The architecture of the farmsteads in the area between the mouths of the rivers Weser and Elbe is quite striking, being a sort of version of the longhouse, where humans live under the same roof as their animals. The farmhouses are timber-framed, with large steep roofs, and occupy quite an area. The family quarters seem to have lots of square paned windows on the ground floor and generally have some sort of religious quote carved on a lintel at the front of the house. The barn section has an arched central door large enough for carts, with symmetrically placed doors either side and a larger overhang on the roof. Many have been converted into stunning residences these days now that they are no longer needed as farms, but many continue to be working farms.

Wanna Farmhouse

We arrived at our friend Maggie’s house in Wanna, near Cuxhaven on the north coast at about 7:30 p.m. and it was great to catch up, slipping easily into conversation after nearly twenty years (which was partly down to Maggie’s absolutely excellent English). Charlie dog made himself particularly cute for the whole of our stay in Wanna and was consequently a great hit, particularly with Maggie’s mother, who fed him titbits and talked to him lovingly in German.

There is something very relaxed and comfortable about German home cooking and we had some wonderful meals prepared by Maggie and her mother, but German breakfasts have always been a highlight for us, so much so that Rob and I long ago adopted them as our preferred style for weekend brunch. German breakfasts are particularly suited to sharing with guests - fresh rolls with interesting seeds, copious amounts of hams, salamis, tee-wurst, cheeses, sometimes with boiled eggs, ending with jams and honey and always with lots and lots of coffee – eaten during the course of an hour or more, with lots of great conversation. Needless to say that for the whole of our stay in Wanna we never managed to do anything much before midday!


On Thursday we went to Otterndorf on the coast – a very attractive town with more timber framed houses, though in a noticeably different style to further south, having a ground floor which covered quite a wide area, with lots of windows, and steep roofs. The town is slightly inland from the sea and separated by a huge dyke. On the town side of the dyke an artificial lake and sandy beach have been created to give everyone a chance to swim and relax. We could see why when we got to the top of the dyke and were accosted by the blast of wind from the North Sea and saw its very unappealing murky waves. Anyone who really wanted to sit there and watch the sea for any length of time could really only do so by hiring a Strandkorb or ‘beach basket’ - double basket chairs, kind of hybrid beach houses cum sun-loungers – reminiscent of rickshaws without any wheels. We saw a very strange warning sign beside the sea which had us speculating as to its meaning. We came up with “do not attempt to leave ships by surfing large waves” – feel free to suggest other interpretations – answers on a postcard please!

What does this mean?

Every now and then as we drove around we passed villages which were holding a Schützenfest – literally a shooting festival, which still generally include shooting competitions, but are also general village fetes. These villages were often decorated and the houses of those chosen as having special carnival roles such as kinderkönig or children’s king were treated to garlands of flowers in large heart shapes or long bowers. It seems that these village traditions are still kept very much alive in Germany, and we saw evidence of this in the many maypoles in village centres. These were generally tall pines stripped of all branches except for the very top where a Christmas tree is left, and they have a circular garland further down the bare trunk, along with strips of ribbon which float about in the wind.


Rob -                                              

We visited Cuxhaven too. I (Rob) cycled there twice to sort out some replacements and repairs at bike shops, and one day Lesley and I went in there together to visit the place known as Old Love. Well, it’s actually Alte Liebe, but sounds just as peculiar in German. Alte Liebe is a double-decked wooden promenade situated on a jetty at the tip of Cuxhaven harbour, that was built in stages from the 18th century, when in an effort to halt coastal erosion, a life-expired ship called ‘die Liebe’ (‘Love’) was filled with stones and sunk at the harbour’s edge. This then formed the foundation for much further expansion and strengthening of the harbour wall up to the present day.  Hence the jetty is indeed built on the old ‘Love’.

Cuxhaven - Alte Liebe

Cuxhaven is otherwise a functional town, and is unexceptional except for the quality and range of fresh and smoked fish for sale in its old fishing warehouses by another branch of harbour. The matjes (pickled) herring and salmon steaks from here provided two good meals during our stay.

Beyond Cuxhaven on the North Sea coast lies the Watt, extensive mud-flats and marshes that are exposed at low tide, and which can be seen in smaller form off the North Norfolk coast around Stiffkey and Cley. Along the German North Sea coast they are so extensive that there are many islands in the shallow Wattenmeer, cut off at high tide but reachable on foot or horse cart at low tide. I only saw the island of Neuwerk against a grey sky and greyer, choppy sea, but in the mornings guided walks across the mud-flats to Neuwerk were on offer.

Beach baskets on the coast near Cuxhaven

One other interesting point about this area was a DNA survey done a few years back that revealed beyond doubt the shared lineage of the Saxons of this area and their descendents with the Anglo-Saxons in what became England. The area around Otterndorf was chosen for the German DNA samples as the population was believed to be descended directly from the ancient Saxons whose neighbours had crossed the North Sea in around 500 AD, unlike the areas to either side which had since been settled by another Germanic people, the Frisians.  The DNA survey backed up and strengthened archaeological and place-name evidence, and I read that pottery samples have been found around Otterndorf and in Norfolk that appear to have been  made by the same man, presumably before and after migration.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Meandering Along the Mosel with some British Motorhomers

Up through France and along the German Mosel
Lesley’s bit –

In about April 2009, as part of our very early preparations for this trip, I joined a motorhome web-site called Motorhome Facts. It has a large membership and there always seems to be someone who can answer questions of the “what does this switch do” variety, or at the very least voice an opinion on any subject you care to post about, so it is well worth the £10 annual subscription. I’d noticed, before we left England, that they were planning an informal meet to meander along the Mosel and Rhine valleys some time in June and, as luck would have it, their dates coincided with the week we were planning to start heading north through Germany, so we decided to tag along and began to head north from the Chablis area on Saturday 5th June.

Planning by looking at maps can be dicey. Places are not always what you imagine they might be. We’d seen some large lakes north-east of Troyes on our map. Great – they would be bound to have lots of countryside aires around there. It’d be a perfect area to stop for the night on our way to Germany. However, the lakes turned out to be massive reservoirs which formed part of an extensive flood protection scheme controlling the flow of the Seine, and the few campsites around the area were equally large and geared to family holidays. In the end we stopped for the night on a much smaller campsite beside the river Aube at the village of Lesmont. It was a pleasant, friendly spot, with little to comment on other than a remarkable “halle” or market hall, a tall open-sided vault of wooden beams spanning the road, through which we drove to reach the campsite, but couldn’t drive back through the next day due to the whole village being seated there at trestle tables for an outdoor Sunday lunch.
Large "halle" at Lesmont

We were back on the Luxemburg stretch of the Moselle for Sunday evening, at the same car park spot in Ehnen, having filled up on cheap Luxemburg diesel at the stretch of petrol stations catering to clientele from many different parts of Europe – such is the attraction of fuel at 1€ a litre. At the village bar there appeared to be a small “do”, with locals dancing to tunes rendered only half familiar to us by being played by a band with their organ set to accordion.

We visited Trier on Monday, a city Rob had been looking forward to seeing and I, in my very geographically challenged way, had never even heard of. Rob said it would be interesting and attractive and we were not disappointed. Although the centre has been largely rebuilt after the extensive wartime ravages, it has managed to preserve some of the best Roman architectural remains in northern Europe. The basilica of Constantine was built to impress, with walls whose only function was to tower above the heads of visitors to what was essentially an audience chamber and throne room. The very informative display showed the many reincarnations of the building - at various times a ruin, an imperial palace of Charlemagne and a Protestant church complete with wooden panelled stalls for the pews, rare in this Catholic area. The firestorm bombings of 1944 left it gutted and its subsequent restoration has taken it back to something which gives the feel of the Constantine throne room, but keeps it as a very plain and open Protestant church.
The Hauptmarkt, Trier

In contrast, the Dom, the city’s Romanesque cathedral, and the large gothic church butting up to it (two churches in one spot seemed a bit excessive really) were much more ornate. Although the Dom’s exterior was a pleasingly plain early Romanesque style (think Norman arches), its interior was decked out to the glory of a Catholic God with furniture and fittings that make you hope he has a penchant for the baroque. The crypt harked back to the cathedral’s earlier origins, but the cloisters were magnificently gothic, complete with gargoyles.

The Dom, Trier

Rob’s bit –

For me Trier’s most outstanding monument was the blackened Roman city gate known as the Porta Nigra, on account of the grime it has accumulated on its stonework over 1800 years.  It stands three massive storeys tall and dominates the northern entrance to the old town, where the (now pedestrianised) road still runs through its enormous arches.  Once part of a ring of defensive walls and gates, it survived in part by being converted into the Christian church of St Simeon in the 12th century, the church being built right up into the central space of the gate, and a vaulted roof and ceiling closing in the top.   The church survived into the 19th century, and I don’t know why it was ripped down, but it must have made quite a sight.  It has left behind it a series of reliefs of bishops and ecclesiastical inscriptions in Latin on the inner walls of the Roman gateway, where they once formed the upper galleries of the church.
The Porta Nigra, Trier

Lesley’s bit –

Mosel meet – We found the stellplatz at Klϋsserath with no help from Garmintrude who wanted to send us up the road, over the river and back to the stellplatz via an imaginary bridge, when we could plainly see the sea of white vans through the opening of an underpass. This was our first experience of a stellplatz and they really are set up solely for motorhomes. We’d not seen so many vans together since the Peterborough show and the variety of styles was about the same, with some seriously huge ones which could swallow ours whole and still have a good 4m to spare. Some were towing Smart cars on trailers, with one where the whole caboodle was painted to match the motorhome. The sight of all the motorhomes put me in mind of a wild west wagon train, but they made Rob reassess the size of our van and he now realises that it is not a large van by comparision. Meeting up with the other MHF people at Klüsserath after a month with barely a Brit to talk to was good, especially as it gave us a chance to exchange information with other like-minded people, though seeing so many GB registrations in one go was quite a culture shock and we had to resist keeping on shouting out “British van”!  As this was a pretty informal meet we sort of ambled up to people and chatted for most of the evening, drawing all our various camping chairs into a large circle and clinking our wine glasses until the sun went down, motorhomers being the opposite of vampires in that they go indoors at sunset.
Meeting at Klüsserath on the Mosel

 Rob’s bit-

The Mosel valley between Trier and Koblenz appears as a snaking line of red stars on the stellplatz atlas, and they are so frequent on the middle stretch that virtually every village seems to have a dedicated space for motorhomes.  The river has at points wide flood-meadows, and these are used to great effect in villages such as Klüsserath and Enkirch to create generous, green summer stellplätze that easily accommodate dozens of motorhomes right by the river.
Mosel View 

The Mosel is one of Germany’s main wine-producing regions, and Mosel wine means above all Riesling.  A few pinot blancs and noirs (Weiss- and Spätburgunder in German) are produced, as well as a sweeter red grape called Dornfelder, but the Riesling grape is king, in a variety of classifications relating to sweetness, sparkle, picking and quality conditions that we found hard to master.   From dry to sweet you have trocken, halbtrocken and lieblich, but feinherb also fit somewhere in the middle.  In addition these intersect with Spätlese and Hochgewächs, which may also be Qualitätswein or Kabinett or mit Prädikat.  A few places also make a sparkling ‘Sekt’.  The origin of the wines is then identified by the particular hillside (Lage, or ‘position’) on which the vines grew, and these names are picked out in white letters on the valley sides all along the Mosel – names such as Klüsserather Bruderschaft, Graacher Himmelreich or Enkircher Steffensberg.
Mosel View

We went wine-tasting in Klüsserath with others from the group, in a rather upmarket winery that had the benefit of speaking good English and providing as much explanation as we could take in.  Over the next few days Lesley and I tried wines from each of the villages we stayed in, attempting if possible to find one from the hillside that we could see from the stellplatz.  I can’t say the quality of Klüsserath, Graach or Enkirch wines really stood apart but we drank some pleasant light stuff with our barbecues and enjoyed the experiment.
Enkirch from the vineyards

Lesley’s bit –
Between Tuesday and Thursday the wagon train moved along the Mosel at a snail’s pace, spreading themselves out among the various stellplätze. We went some 22 miles, which took us a couple of hours, including a stop at Bernkastel-Kues, a pretty painted fachwerk-filled town. It was incredibly touristy, but the attraction of the higgledy-piggledy houses nestling among the vine hills merited this attention. We had a meal in a restaurant there – one of the very few so far this trip – and I managed to render mine completely inedible by accidentally emptying the contents of the salt-cellar over it. I was very, very angry at the whole world for a bit after that! Rob returned to Bernkastel in the evening on one of his bike rides from our new stellplatz at Graach, and he felt the whole place was much improved by the departure of the tourist crowds.

Bernkastel-Kues - A Touristic Treat

Graach stellplatz was a bit car-parky – with gravel pitches and neatly lined up vans – but we could get the internet there, so we managed to get some online jobs done, which is not always as easy as we’d like it to be. We had an evening BBQ with some new motorhome friends and the heavens opened about 10 p.m., which only sent us heading back to our van after about an hour of rain.

Thursday saw us heading at our usual leisurely pace along the Mosel, passing through Traben-Trarbach, Traben on the north bank of the river and Trarbach on the south bank, which was a pleasant enough little town only really notable for a few stunning Art Nouveau - “Jugendstil” - villas built around the turn of the twentieth century, when the area enjoyed spending the wealth from its position as the second largest wine trading centre in Europe. Probably the best example is what is now the Bellevue Hotel, which was built in 1903 as the Hotel Clauss-Feist by the famous Berlin architect Bruno Möhring, but the very flowery style can be seen in many of the villas facing on to the river.

Our last stop on the Mosel was at Enkirch, a picturesque village with winding streets and timber-framed houses, where the stellplatz was on one of the wide river meadows facing the village of Kövingen, with its station, which could be reached by a small ferry for 1€. Enkirch had a very good range of shops for such a small place and we spent our usual small fortune on meat, bread and wine – what more do you need? A wander through the cobbled streets took us past the “idiot’s cell”, which was a sort of revolving cage in an alcove in a wall.