Day 1. Off to Frankfort
We left on our trip to Africa last summr with a slight diversion to Europe, resetting oue clocks in Germany before Nairobi and the main safari portion of our trip. We landed in Frankfort with our best-est travel buds, Susan and John Clarke, heading out for another amazing expedition. We’ve traveled some fantastic places with these folks…Beijing and a cruise down the Yangtze, riding horseback in the northwest wilds of Mongolia, bicycle trek/tenting through Bryce, Zion and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, skiing folowing snowmobiling to three corners of Yellowstone, trips to the Galapagos, horseback riding Peru’s Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Last year we drove Iceland’s ring road to include the obscure West Fjords.
Needless to say, these are good friends.
Our trip began with a wonderful surprise. We knew we were flying on a 747–yippee–but it turned out we were on a 747 8i, on the second half of it’s maiden flight. Our crew were on top of the world…they had special training and were very proud of themselves and Lufthansa’s new baby. Their enthusiasm was infectious…and we didn’t need much encouragement to join in their mood.
After arriving in Frankfort, we rented a car and took off for the Rhine Valley. John and Susan had lived in the area for several years and they were our guides…and interpreters for this part of the trip. We hit Germany in a sunny, hot (90 degree) spell with bright blue skies. Quite unexpected. With a bit of a haze at a distance, the Rhine River and the towns were beautiful, full of flowers and picturesque buildings.
And there were castles all along the way. The Rhine provided the major access to the area, both for commerce and invaders. The castles safeguarded the land.
We stopped to play tourist in Bacharach. An ancient town with brilliant flower gardens all along the street and flower boxes on every window. And we get our first German fass beer–on tap. It hit the spot after our long trip.
We walked up to the castle above town, stopping on the way at the ruins of a 13 th century Gothic church, Wernerkapelle.
The Bury Stahleck castle, now a tourist stop, gave us a beautiful view of the river and the surrounding vineyards. The Rhine is a powerful, swift-flowing river filled with barges carrying goods in both directions.
And I’ve forgotten to mention the vineyards…they literally are everywhere on mostly the south side of every hill along the river. Their rows mark the contours of the hillsides creating fantastic geometric patterns of green.
About 50 miles from Frankfort, we stop for lunch along the Rhine at Hotel Keutmann by the mighty Lorelei Rock. This is a slab of slate towering 145 yards above the river with a long, sordid history. The place the Rhine squeezes to its most narrow and deepest point, the waters at the turn have many treacherous reefs and rapids. Legend has it a a siren named Lorelei bewitched sailors causing them to look up at the rock then crash their boats, sinking their ships. We saw a long parade of barges go past, including some double-barges. We spent our whole lunch watching them navigate the tight turn–and kept out of the path of oncoming traffic.
The outdoor restaurant at the hotel also was interesting too– not big on catering to tourists. I ordered what I thought was a grilled bratwurst and got two gigantic boiled Oscar Meyers and some potato salad. Ugh. Lesson learned…be sure to check in with John and Susan on future choices.
Moving on, we crossed into the Mosel River Valley. Mosel is a lazy river banked by miles of vineyards as far as the eye can see. And the towns along the river are real eye candy.
Old European styling with huge flower gardens along the road and almost ever building is flanked with overflowing with multi-colored flower boxes. Statues are in the parks.
And of course, the occasional troll or two in gardens or windows. must be a long-standing European THING(?). This carries on the tradition we saw so deeply imbedded in the Icelandic culture at Europe’s most western edge and again in isolated homes in our recent trip to Switzerland.
We are now in primo Riesling wine country and we marvel at the shear number of grape vines on the surrounding hills. They form endless vertical rows straight up the sides of the mountains. Don’ t grapes need a good bit of attention, pruning and picking? A small army must descend on the area to take care of all this! We fully intend to check it out thoroughly!
To that end, we checked into rooms at the S.A. Prüm Winery and Gästehaus, our home for the next two days.
On the river terrace, we watch boats and barges silently float by.
We head to river city of Bernkastle for dinner (in case you didn’t notice, all life centers on the river).
Our meal at the Terrasse Restaurant was fantastic, accompanied by wonderful fass beer (on tap) and wine…local Reisling, of course. Walking out at dusk, we see Bern Kastle, standing tall over the town.
We plan to head up the mountain tomorrow.