Side trip to Burg Eltz
14 Sep 2012
|Woke up this morning and had a nice breakfast of cold cuts and cheese on bread. It was quite a contrast to the lovely meal last night, but I probably didn't need to put anymore food in my mouth anyway. We packed up the room soon after breakfast, and elected to take our own bags down to the car. The hard bit was bringing them up, so taking them down the steep driveway wasn't too bad.
Ali elected to drive to our first stop for the day. I had previously suggested we use today to take a short (30-40min) drive to Koblenz, and check into the hotel to relax, however Ali wanted to shuffle some things around a bit and go see Burg Eltz today. So, we jumped in the car and drove back down the mountain, and then cut inland to the Mosel valley.
The road was fairly small, and we took it easy, which is another contrast with the German drivers. They wanted to get where they were going quickly. We spent 15 minutes or so driving through some lovely little hills which were covered in vineyards. This is Riesling country after all! The vintners use the hills to position out the rows and rows of vines to catch as much of the sun as possible. I wouldn't like to have to drive a tractor along them, as some of them are steep.
We then turned on to a freeway, which took us northwards, towards Koblenz. Of course, we were turning off before Koblenz, as we were heading west. When we got off the motorway, we had to double back a short distance, and went through the small town of Pfaffenheck. The drive for the next 10 minutes or so was pretty boring. It was largely flat and basically all fields. However, after we crossed the area of the fields, we had a short but windy drive down the hills. Because it was windy, we couldn't go very quickly. This was a bonus for us however, as as we were driving down, we passed a brightly brown squirrel. It wasn't very big, and was scared off into the woods by the car, but it looked cute.
As we started to get closer to the bottom of the valley, we could see another big castle-hotel called Burg Thurant standing high on a hill to the east. When we got to the bottom of the hill, we were just south of of the town Alkener. There was a rare bridge there to cross the Mosel river, which took us along the river in the town of Lof. We wanted to come back to Koblenz this way, as the drive was really pretty. I tried to take some photos, but as I was on the right hand side of the car, I didn't really have a clear view of the river. It was amazing though.
We kept driving a short distance to the river side town of Hatzenport, before we turned right and headed up the hills on the other side of the valley to which we entered. Again we were driving through farmland when we got to the top. We traveled through Metternich and then Munstermaifeld, the latter of which was a pretty town. We drove past the local school on the way through, before we turned off for Burg Eltz.
We had one more small town to drive through - Wierschem, before we were heading into a heavily wooded area. We were close to the castle, when we had a small break in the trees and were driving through a small farm area. I noticed as we crossed it, that there were 2 small deer walking across the field. Ali pulled the car up so we could go back to see them. Unfortunately it's a small road, and right after we stopped a car came over the hill behind us, so we had to keep driving.
The car park was just around the corner, and as usual the parking attendant flirted with the driver. We drove as close to the entrance to the castle (or what we thought was the entrance) as possible, then got out to go see it. Unfortunately for one person who had a dodgy ankle, the walk to the gate, was just the walk to the top of the hill, which you descend to get to the castle. The gate - we would find out later - was for the shuttle bus\van which took you down the hill to the castle. We were walking down the hill when we saw it pass us. It was just a normal passenger van you would drive around the suburbs in.
I appreciated the walk down the hill, it was good to get some exercise, and we came across a lookout which the bus didn't stop at. The lookout enabled a great view of the castle, which was very beautiful. I had seen pictures of it in a travel book, and they didn't do it justice. The castle wasn't very big however it did look amazing standing in the middle of the valley below us.
We continued to walk down the long hill, and passed several carvings or ceramic markers in the road. Opposite us we could start to make out clearer the detail in the castle. It had lots of small towers, which were capped with burgundy and cream painted dwellings, and capped by steep black\navy blue tiles. It looked like the roof of all of the buildings in the castle had been made extra step to prevent snow from building up on them, kind of like the houses in the black forest.
It's interesting to note that Burg Eltz is actually under private ownership. You can come and walk around the outside of the castle for free. But you can't go inside the castle without paying an entrance fee, which includes the treasury from memory. It supposedly attracts a lot of tourists, but as we were here out of school holiday season, it wasn't too bad.
We'd spent a large part of the morning navigating to here, and walking around. We decided to stop and get a light lunch, and sit on the terrace of the castle and soak in the sites. The canteen (yes, it's nothing more than that) was full of people given it was now early afternoon. We went in the door closest to the stairs up to the terrace, and went in to order.
We asked for a bratwurst and a curried bratwurst, with some fries. The woman behind the counter was not very polite though. Ali placed the order, and moved slightly towards the cash register, so more people could get in to order. The woman who was serving got confused, and put the food on the counter then realised we'd moved. She said to her friend that Ali was a stupid english woman, in German. Ali could understand what she said, and wasn't very happy (understandably so). She didn't say anything though, and only told me what had happened when we walked out and sat down at one of the bench tables. If I'd known I'd have said something, grrrr. That was rude.
After lunch we went walking around the castle grounds, which really didn't take very long. There was a short slippery ramp to walk up from the terrace where we had lunch. This took you through a small undercover section, which allowed you to enter the chapel and the treasury. I took a look through the window and noticed it was a lot of plates etc, and Ali said she'd prefer to sit outside, so we both passed on going in.
We walked a bit further along the "tunnel" and into a courtyard. The courtyard wasn't particularly big. There was a split level in it, but it would have been less than 25m long, and the same width wise. I found out that the castle is considered a Ganerbenburg. That means it is actually shared by three families, each of which was a descendant of the original owner. This happened due to an old law that was part of the holy roman empire in the German nation, requiring the land to be split between the successors of the owner. He's lucky he didn't have 12 kids! It is still in the ownership of the family that built it in the 22th century. Apparently that's 33 generations!
It was built close to the Elzbach river, which is a tributary to the Mosel, and well before its time, was part of a Roman trade route. We when walked through the courtyard, we took a walk out to a small balcony or terrace which looked along the valley. We could see the river, and noticed some steps which lead down to the valley where you could then walk along the river. We weren't interested in doing that however.
Standing on that little terrace we noticed it was incredibly windy. The gusts were quite strong, and although we weren't any great distance above the bottom (it's about 70m up from the river level), it wasn't fun standing near the handrails. We turned back and walked through the courtyard, and then down the ramp to the canteen terrace. We then walked back down the stairs to the level we entered on. We had crossed a long bridge to get from the hills edge to the castle entrance. Unfortunately now there was an ice cream truck parked in the way. Boo, it was going to ruin any pictures!
Ali went go wash her hands from lunch, and I took a walk down a quite steep road, to see where it went. It lead to a private drive I think, which would go outside the castle grounds. I wasn't going to walk down there, so I doubled back and waited for Ali to finish up. As I sat there, 2 fighter jets from the Ramstein air base flew overhead. The sound was horrendous. I managed to grab some pictures, however they only appear like small black dots unless you zoom in.
Ali came out and we then went into the souvenir shop. It was fairly crappy to be honest. There was nothing which stood out to buy. I've been collecting miniatures of European land marks\famous buildings, and noticed one of Burg Eltz. It didn't look like Burg Eltz at all. As a matter of fact, it looked almost identical to the one I'd gotten from Segovia of their Alcazar. Even the colours weren't right. It seemed like a lazy attempt to get some euros.
We walked back out across the bridge and past the ice cream truck afterwards, then waited for the transit van. It took us back up the hill after a bit of a wait - as the previous bus had filled up as we got there. When we got back up the hill, I jumped in the drivers side and we left, hoping to see the deer in the fields. They weren't there anymore.