Trier: Driving down to Trier takes about 90 minutes passing right by Spangdahlem, a convenient place to stop and fill up with gas going in and out. The Spang gas station takes gas coupons and the Burger King can be a nice stop with kids on the way home from a long day.
Trier is the oldest city in Germany. It got its start as a Roman city and still boasts plenty of evidence of its past with an impressive Roman gate (Porta Negra) and Roman baths. There is enough in Trier alone to keep you busy for the day, (map) but located right along the Mosel River with some of Germany’s most beautiful wine country, it’s an easy jumping off point for a longer trip.
Parking: Check the (map) for parking places. I like to park at the top of the map in front of the Porta Negra where it says schule. If you program your GPS to Porta Negra, then look for parking, you’ll be sure to find it. It will take you to an underground lot, but when you come out of it, you’re standing right across the street from the impressive Roman gate. From there, walk through the gate towards the market square and you’re on your way to enjoying the town.
Food: The market is lined with cafes and yes, a McDonald’s. We ate at one cafe on a corner. The food was great for everyone, but me. I ordered carpaccio not knowing what it was and the meat was, well, raw, and not what my stomach wanted to handle. Trier also has a lot of ice cream shops – mostly gelato.
The Mosel: If you look at a map of the Mosel and think, oh, that doesn’t look very far, think again. The Mosel river is windy – like a slithering snake tightly winding back and forth, making for a beautiful scenic drive and an excruciatingly slow one. For example, the drive from Trier to Burg Eltz via autobahn will take about 45 minutes, but via the river route, will take closer to three hours.
Still, if you’re not going that far, or you have the time to spend, the drive is fantastic!
It’s narrower than the Columbia, yet still quite impressive in parts. Along both sides most of the way are extremely steep hills covered in precisely placed grape vines. The Mosel wine country is amazing. The hills that these grapes are grown seem too steep to ski down, yet people have to tend the grapes constantly. Small stairs are built in to some hills and on others rickety metal chairs ride up and down narrow metal tracks – a chair lift of sorts – bringing people safely to the grapes. Every few kilometers you’ll find yourself in another quaint town. Some are bigger than others, but they all have style. Narrow cobbled streets, tall tightly packed old houses – and everything neat, tidy, and very clean. Every once in a while you’ll look up and see a castle or a ruin up on a hill overlooking the river. It’s all very storybook perfect.
Up on the plateau above the river, hidden in a valley full of trees, you’ll find Burg Eltz. Using signs, maps, or your GPS, you’ll end up at the parking lot with a short hike until you see the castle.
This castle is storybook in its setting with a small ruin up above and below, a majestic castle, resting in the middle of this valley, perfectly framed by trees and the little creek flowing around it. The path down is steep with a few switchbacks and every few meters there’s a stone carving set into the side of the cliff that depicts a scene from the life of Christ. The hike takes about 10 minutes to get down, but it’s not bad and young kids can do it with help.
Inside the castle you can go down to see a small museum or up to enter the courtyard where the tour begins. The tour is offered in English is there is a large group or you can follow a German tour and read along using the English handout they give you. Looking around is interesting. One room is completely painted – all walls and the ceiling – with a simple but beautiful floral pattern. The bathrooms are simply little pots sitting in a closet – and so tiny. The steep stone stairs wound in very narrow enclosed passageways. Of course the tapestries and furniture are beautiful, but what struck me most was that above each fireplace is a tapestry hung around the mantel like a one would hang bed skirt. Would I hang a tapestry near open flames? Not likely.
There are two small eateries outside just above and just below the gift shop and ticket booth. And, if you have time to wander, there are stairs leading down to the creek where you can walk around and enjoy the view.
Burg Pyrmont and a the Pyrmonter Muhle (a B&B/restaurant worth going to):
Nestled almost invisibly in the summer and fall, hidden amongst the trees under Burg Pyrmont, hides the Pyrmonter Muhle, a fabulous B&B worth breaking my “never twice in Europe” rule. I’ve stayed there twice and will stay again next time I’m anywhere in the Mosel area.
To get there, look for signs to Burg Pyrmont, then you’ll see this place sitting just below. This place is not right on the Mosel, though it’s only a few minutes from it up on the high plateau. The slightly rolling hills all around are sprinkled with green fields, a few trees, and little villages popping out from behind the squatty mounds. It might seem as if you’re lost. Trust your GPS. You’ll begin to descend slightly following the signs to Burg Pyrmont, then in a clump of trees you’ll see castle and the Gasthaus Pyrmonter Mühle.
Small, but functional. Honestly, the rooms are quite small, but the bathrooms are decent (by European standards) and everything is comfortable and clean. You’ll also find them tolerant of numbers, so though the room was small and sleeping space at a premium, we were able to squeeze our family of six into one room and the proprietors didn’t mind a bit.
Inside you’ll find an excellent restaurant, loved by locals, and full most nights, not with guests, but with people from both near and far coming for a good meal. It serves the best German food that I’ve had living here. The service is also phenomenal. I don’t remember what I ate, but I remember our entire group playfully arguing over last bit of soup and that the salad was delicious. For kids, they’ll serve a nice schnitzel with fries. My meat came with “gratinated” potatoes on the side. The potatoes are done differently here. They are sliced thin like our scalloped potatoes, but the cheese is lighter and the sauce is very buttery. It’s one of those sinful melt-in-your-mouth dishes that brings you back for more. Those are the kind of meals where you just forget about calories and take on more of a “carpe dium” attitude.
If you’re out with friends or family and want to enjoy the nice late nights, you don’t need to feel rushed out either. On one trip, we sat out on the terrace with friends until midnight. The kitchen was closed, the lights were all off, but our waitress said that she would stay until we left, so we sat in the candlelight with no reason to hurry talking, laughing, and enjoying a beautiful German night.
Included in the room prices is an all-you-can-eat German breakfast at the Inn. Here, breakfast is actually a verb. You can go breakfasting or breakfast together. A variety of fresh breads and rolls are served with sliced cheeses, meats, jams, butters, and liverwurst. They also have muesli, hard boiled eggs, orange juice and coffee.
For hikers, walkers, and outdoorsy types, you’ll be happy with the walking trail there. The sign at it’s entrance says “Burg Eltz 2.5 Std” which means it will take the average person 2.5 hours to walk from the Burg Pyrmont to the Burg Eltz (5 hours roundtrip) along the mostly flat terrain. Splitting up the group is not hard. We sent part of our group on the hike while the rest of us with the small kids, relaxed on the patio of the inn sipping coffee while the kids played on the small playground. Exactly 2.5 hours later, we met our hikers at Burg Eltz and drove them the 10 minutes back to the inn. Local hikers often park at Burg Eltz, walk to Burg Pyrmont where they stop for lunch and a beer, then walk back to Eltz to get their car.
Right next to the gasthaus, you’ll find a nice open meadow good for letting children run, playing games, throwing a frisbee, or hosting an event. It would be a perfect place for a wedding.
Only ten minutes away from Eltz, Burg Pyrmont is modest, but worth the stop. It offers a tour and a nice restaurant recommended by locals that serves beer in terracotta pots.
Just up the river from Burgs Eltz and Pyrmont is Cochem, a larger city on the river. It has a beautiful castle above it too. A nice green space lines the Mosel along Cochem with small playgrounds and outdoor chess games spread about for your enjoyment. It’s easy to stop and relax there, even splitting up a big group if a couple want a relaxing game of chess by the river and the rest of us prefer ice cream, wine, or photo-ops.
A bit touristy with it’s little shops, it still feels good to be there. Tucked away through an ally, they have a nice little market square with traditional half-timbered buildings. The wine shops are nice and the people are friendly. The Australian ice cream store provides the much needed sweet for the day with ice cream and chocolates. The ice cream is good, but not as good as some of the local gelato we have around here. The chocolates are flavorful, but not great for the price.
Links and info:
Burg Pyrmont: http://www.burg-pyrmont.de/
Burg Eltz: http://www.burg-eltz.de/e_index.html
Cochem castle: http://www.reichsburg-cochem.de/e_frame.html
PymonterMuhle Bed and Breakfast: http://www.elzbachtal.de/elzbachwasserfall.html
Gasthaus Pyrmonter Mühle
56754 Roes (for the GPS look for Burg Pyrmontfont> or the town of Roes)