Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Short Walk in the Vines (Mosel River, Part 2)

When you travel with two sisters, you never lack for interesting and topical conversation. I suppose it is the shared experiences of youth coupled with shared genetics—no need to bet a dollar on nature versus nurture when both are at play—that allows sisters to talk for hours on all subjects with nuance and eloquence.

“Amaretto is almond. That drink was hazelnut, so not amaretto.”

“Right. Amaretto is almond flavored.”

“But you called it amaretto and not hazelnut.”

“Did not. You brought up amaretto, not me.”

“Did not.”

“Did too.”

And so on. Luckily we were on the Mosel, and I had the landscape to suddenly distract me from the need to weigh in on the amaretto or hazelnut debate (a debate that was tabled by agreement).

We choose the Mosel as a good place to start the non-London European leg of our trip for a number of reason. We found reasonable and affordable lodging for three. The towns looked rich with half-timbered buildings and narrow alleyways that the locals called “roads” and on which drivers still assumed they might fit their cars as if by right, notwithstanding that the village predated the internal combustion engine by some 1,000 years. And access to hiking trails.

A quick search online shows that the Mosel is popular as a bike-touring destination, with bike trails tracing the contours of the river on both banks. People ride from town to town, camping or staying in hotels along the way. [As an aside, camping on the Mosel appears to have little to do with what I think of as camping, and much to do with large RV parks on which people set up elaborate homes for the season.] Less discussed, at least in English, are the hiking trails that dissect the hills. It looked very easy to pick a town, walk until tired, then catch a train or a bus and return to your starting destination. To facilitate, we picked Cochem as a central location, a tourist town in the heart of what most people characterize as the most beautiful segment of the river.

The plan worked well, although five days was too short to really start to explore, particularly where we also needed time to visit castles and sample wines. But we hiked to Eller, up out of the river valley and through the region's agriculture, coming to rest in a biergarten where we practiced the fine German art of consuming coffee and cake and, for good measure, beer. We hiked through vineyards and across shale slopes with signs warning hikers of the need for good footwear and sure footedness. We went up steep climbs and down loose descents, which we again finished with a cup of coffee and cake on the deck of a guest house with a Mosel river view. We hiked into a winemaker's garage, and drank a glass of cold Riesling on a hot summer day, shaded by grape vines and followed by runs through an impromptu water park constructed by village kids with a faucet, a hose, and something with which to poke holes in the hose. The Mosel was everything we hoped.

Thereafter we shuttled to Frankfurt for the sole purpose of putting C's sister on a plane. Her trip through Europe came to an end a few days ago, and we miss her guidance already. Unfortunately, though, the amaretto or hazelnut debate never reached closure, and I now expect to hear about it at family get-togethers for years to come.

Some pictures from hiking on the Mosel:

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