Friday, July 10, 2015

Towns along the Mosel

Faust Gallery

Bernkastel, Trier and Luxembourg were the last three places we stopped before heading into Paris. In many ways they were the same as the other towns we’d visited: a long history, relics of medieval architecture, and winding streets. In other ways they were quite different.

The earliest evidence of human habitation in Bernkastel  dates from about 3000 BC, according to archaeologists in Kues, but it is not mentioned in literature until the first half of
Clockwise from top: Bathtub Restaurant, Faces fountain,
Winery gate, Tilted house
the 11th century. Later in that century, King Rudolph I of Germany granted Berrincastel town rights. The town had been renamed Bernkastel some time prior to 1512 when it is mentioned in documentation regarding Emperor Maximilian I journey to the Imperial Diet at Trier. After the plague and other calamities in the 17
th century, Bernkastel came first under French rule, then about a hundred years later under the rule of the Prussians. Finally, in the mid-1800s it was united with other German lands. Eventually it merged with Kues to form Bernkastel-Kues and has since hosted International Boy Scout Jamborees as well as forming a partnership with Karlovy Vary to become a “climatic health resort”. There were several things we spotted that made this little town special. Of all the decorative signs advertising establishments, the one that tickled me the most was the Bathtub Restaurant. It was near a house that had been constructed with a smaller base than roof, and so was leaning. I would have thought that it was in danger of crashing down, but it has stood for at least 100 years. Bernkastel also abounds with decorative doors and beautiful fountains. All and all, it's a lovely little town.

Our visit to Bernkastel was mainly to see a winery and visit the largest tasting room in the area. We
Vino Thek wine celler
did spend some time walking around the town, learning about the buildings, the castle and the churches. There are remains of walls that date from the 1500s and houses that are almost that old. Once again, the vineyards are planted in vertical rows down the slopes of the hills with evidently no adverse erosion. At around 10:00 AM, we visited Vino Thek where there are examples of wines from all across the Mosel area, 162 varieties in all. This group had my favorite of German wines, the sweet Rieslings. We were allowed to wander through the cellar, tasting any or all of the offerings. The only exceptions were the truly expensive wines; we had to return to the tasting room and ask for samples there. My two favorites were Saint Nicolas-Hospital and Gerd Fritzen; both were sweet with a crisp finish.

Top L to R: Gargoyle, churches
Bottom L to R: Garden, Sphinx 

After our brief visit to Bernkastel, we followed the river on down to Trier (Treves in French). This city claims to be the oldest in Germany, and it may well be since there are pottery remnants from the early Neolithic period. It has been trod under the conquers’ feet many times in its long history, beginning with the Romans under Julius Caesar in 58 to 50 BC, followed by Germanic tribes, the French, 200 years of Prussian led fighting with the French and finally the reunification of Germany; in more current times it was on the front lines of World War II, enduring daily bombings. It has seen witch trials from 1581 until 1593, involving nobility along with commoners, and leading to mass executions of hundreds of people. With all this upheaval you wouldn’t expect many artifacts from those early days when the Romans were in the city, and there isn’t a great deal. However, there is still a magnificent town gate, a lovely castle and gardens (dating from the Renaissance) and some stately churches. I particularly
Top L to R: Moorish windows, Porta Nigra
Bottom L to R: White asparagus, Fountain
liked the town square with its gilded fountain and the houses with Moore-influenced windows that surround the area. The town gate, Porta Nigra (Black Gate) a multi-story structure with arches and ornamentation dating from 180 AD, is the best-preserved Roman structure in Germany. It was a part of the great wall that once surrounded Trier. The huge sandstone blocks were assembled without mortar and are held together with iron clamps. From outside the gate, the structure seems to be two arched entrances between rounded towers leading directly into the town. However, intruders soon discovered that the arches opened into an inner courtyard where they were at the mercy of the town's defenders. This courtyard now hosts a weekly market that at this time featured 'spargel' (white asparagus).

L to R: Flower market, Castle, Gold monument
Luxembourg’s recorded history began with the Romans, but isn’t considered to have established an identity until 963. This identity began with the House of Luxembourg and continued several hundred years until being taken over first by the Burgundians and then by the Habsburgs in 1477. The Netherlands, France and Germany have all called Luxembourg their own, and it didn’t achieve independence until after World War II. Since then it’s become one of the richest countries in the world due to its political stability, European integration and financial services sector. While the city itself is a mixture of the old and new, I was more interested in the areas around Luxembourg. Dotted across the countryside are small cemeteries with monuments to the soldiers who died in World War II. The largest, and most official, cemetery near Luxembourg is at Hamm. The Luxembourg American Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 5000 soldiers, along with General George S. Patton. We visited on the morning of Remembrance Day while the workers were setting up the chairs and placing flags and flowers on the graves. The services were to be attended by official representatives from the US and by Grand Duke Henri Guillaume of Luxembourg.
Top: Map of European Forces
Bottom: Markers of victims of the Battle of the Bulge

For information on What we didWhere we stayed and What we ate, go to ‘Review of the Viking Cruise from Prague to Paris’.

Egyptian goose and goslings, swan

©2015 NearNormal Design and Production Studio - All rights including copyright of photographs and designs, as well as intellectual rights, are reserved.