Basing ourselves at a winery/guesthouse in Cochem, we took a couple of day-trips to explore other small towns along the lovely Mosel Valley. On this day we visited two of the most picturesque towns south of Cochem, the wine-producing communities of Bernkastel-Kues and Traben-Trarbach.
Yet another charming medieval town along the Mosel Valley, Bernkastel is an enclave of half-timber houses, cobblestone alleys and medieval market squares. Most visitors to Germany probably have never heard of this place, and it would have much more popular except for its inconvenience in public transport.
Getting here without a car wasn't straightforward. Bernkastel-Kues has no train station, and the ferry from Bernkastel only goes as far north as Traben-Trarbach. From Cochem we had to take a train to the local transport hub of Wittlich, then transfer to Bus #300 to arrive at Kues, just a short walk across the bridge from Bernkastel's medieval quarters.
Heading straight to the Market Square we immediately spotted Bernkastel's famous landmark, and certainly one of the most photographed sights in the entire Mosel Valley. This impossibly slanted house has already survived 6 centuries of warfare and fires, and today still guards the narrow path to its left leading up to the town's castle.
While most tourists access the castle by the hourly shuttle bus, we chose the old fashioned approach of a steep hiking trail through these timeless vineyards that were once owned by the castle. And here is the reward -- a gorgeous view of Bernkastel's medieval skyline, as well as that of its sister town across the Mosel.
As we hiked further we came face to face with these incredibly steep vineyards. One can imagine the perils of harvesting the triangular plot at the picture's top left corner -- this is the famous cultural landscape of the Mosel at its best.
After a brisk 20 minutes we reached the 1000-year-old ruins of Burg Landshut. The short but strenuous hike was well worth it -- just look at this stunning panorama of the curving Mosel, and its endless rows of vineyards as far as the eye could see.
We hiked back to Bernkastel with some time left for an ice-cream and a stroll amongst the town's numerous Weinstuben. Personally I'd rank this little gem among my three favorite towns in the Mosel Valley, probably in a tie with Beilstein and only behind the spectacular and more much conveniently located Cochem.
Our next destination of Traben-Trarbach was a 40 minute ride away on Bus #333, one of the local bus lines crisscrossing the winding shorelines of the Mosel. Our journey from Cochem to Bernkastel-Kues to Traben-Trarbach and back to Cochem would have been much more expensive without the convenient Rheinland-Pfalz-Ticket, which capped our cost at a reasonable 26 Euros for two.
Before our eyes was yet another pair of pleasant small towns surrounded by miles of lush vineyards on either side of the river, and linked together only in the past hundred years by the modern roadbridge.
While Traben wasn't quite as medieval-looking on a whole compared to Bernkastel or Cochem, there were still quite a few unique and photogenic buildings from the past couple of centuries including this old post-office. This century-old building was actually on sale during our visit, though it was sadly above our affordability at only four million Euros!
The town's most recognizable symbol was the unmissable Brückentor on the Trarbach side, dating from 1899 when one of the first bridges across this stretch of the Mosel was constructed. We took a brief walk in Trarbach, then headed back to Traben in search for a traditional place for dinner.
Here we made our favorite restaurant discovery in the Mosel Valley. Our original choice of Alte Zunftscheune was fully booked for the evening, and we were lucky to stumble upon Restaurant Moselstübchen just a couple blocks away on a little alley off Bahnstraße. What attracted us wasn't the promise of local wine on its store sign, but a little blackboard advertising "Frische Pfifferlinge," the seasonal local favorite of freshly harvested Chanterelle mushrooms.
This little eatery was as authentically local as could be -- exposed timberframes at least a couple centuries old, no English menus or English-speaking staff, and a clientele of reserved but polite neighbors naturally curious about these two foreigners with unspeakably bad German pronunciation. It was surprisingly busy even on a Tuesday evening, and we had the amusing experience of sharing a table with an older German couple.
The food didn't disappoint. My rumpsteak was already quite decent in itself, but it was the generous heap of wild Chanterelle that propelled this dish to a whole new level. I think I even felt a quiet nod of approval from the German couple as they saw my appreciation for their local food.
Just as enjoyable was my wife's zander fillet. We had somehow never seen zander before, and the flesh was so perfectly seasoned and the skin so crispily fried that I honestly thought it was a salt water fish. There was absolutely no hint of the repulsive "muddy flavor" typically found in most freshwater fish, and that's probably a testimony to the freshness of ingredients and expert preparation by the chef.
The local Federweisser wine was good, though service was a little slow as everyone was served by the one owner/server. We hurried off to the Traben train station after saying auf Wiedersehen to the German couple and paying for the meal at the cashier ... I think the owner perfectly understood as I pointed to my watch saying "Bahnhof" with a smile. We would ride the Mosel Wine train line to Bullay, then transfer to the next local train back to Cochem. This was a good day-trip.
Bill for Two Persons
|Pfifferlingen mit Rumpsteak||18.5 Euros|
|Glass Federweisser x 2||5.2 Euros|
|Bottled Water||3.2 Euros|
|TOTAL before tips||39.4 Euros (CAD$55.2)|