Thursday, June 4, 2009



All good things must come to an end. Unfortunately our five month trip is ending. Up at 5:00, we eat breakfast at the guesthouse and have a beautiful drive to the Frankfurt airport for our 10:30 flight home. The drive is actually about 90 minutes with no problem and we have allowed plenty of time. Traffic is slow only in one place near the airport.

We fly on Lufthansa in Business Class. This is our 22nd and last flight of the trip. We take off and land on time and the flight is one of the best we have had. The staff makes sure we have plenty to eat and drink for the whole 10 hours and for once, the cabin is cool! We sail through the arrival details and finally get our luggage. We had checked it to make things as easy as possible. Even though it was marked priority it is the last to show up on the carrousel. We pick up our car in Houston and get back home about 19 hours after we started the day in Germany. Tired and craving Tex-Mex we head for our favorite little Cantina and have a great tasting dinner. Back home we crash!

It is hard to believe this journey is over! We have had a fabulous time and in some ways, are forever changed. I know for sure we will never look at the world in the same way. After spending 5 months in each other’s company almost every minute of every day our personal relation has grown too. I also know we are both looking forward to some space now that we are home.

A big thank you to family and friends who have followed along on our trip, I hope you have enjoyed the blog as much as we have enjoyed writing it. It is the best thing we did for ourselves as it has helped us remember so many of the little details. Here is a special thank you to Bill and Paula who took care of all the house, mail and business details for us while we were gone.

We will do a wrap up of what worked and what didn’t and just some final thoughts much like what we started the blog with and post it in a week or so. Meanwhile we will be busy settling back into a new routine since Dick is now retired.



The hotel is so nice that we decided to spend a second night and enjoy some more of the Rhine Valley. It is about an hour’s drive to the airport from here and much nicer than an airport motel! Breakfast is the typical German buffet spread along with scrambled eggs upon request. They have a coffee/espresso machine that is a masterpiece. You place your cup under the nozzle, press the button for the style of coffee you want and it grinds the beans, makes the coffee and even adds milk if so desired; all in about one minute. It is huge and Dick supposes that Carolyn will not allow one in the kitchen at home. More is the pity.

After some more blog work, we head out to drive the west bank of the Rhine up river toward Mainz. It is the last day of the three day weekend and the crowds in the towns are large but the traffic on the river-edge road is not too bad. We first stop to see some of the 16 remaining watch towers and St Peter's Church in Oberwesel, a quiet little village on the river below where we are staying..

We continue up river enjoying the nice river views,and stop for a visit in Bacharach another nice village where we walk around and visit the church. It was built in the mid 1200’s and is very well maintained. Some years ago, when the church was doing some work on the inside, original wall paintings were discovered.They had been covered over in the 1500’s when some interior changes were made. Right behind the church is the ruin of a cathedral. At Bingen, we take a car ferry across the river for €4.50 and head back down stream passing Ludwig's toll castle, the only one in the middle of the river. Next we climb up abovw the river to see the bend that was made famous by the Loreley.Finally we stop to see Castle Marlburghigh on a hill above Brauhach. Just as we enter the castle gate,we discover and antiquarian shop selling single pages from VERY old books. Most of their stock is from 500 hundred to 1,000 years old. The shop is liquidating a private collection that was put together in the late 1800’s. There is a complete Bible, in German, printed in the 1500’s for €3,500. We do not buy that! We do acquire four single sheets: two beautiful and colorful handwritten pages from bibles of the 1200’s, a woodcarving hand colored print of one of the German walled villages and a beautiful handwritten page from a Book of Prayer which we plan to have nicely framed and hang in our home as part of our art collection. Looking through the collection was worth the trip it was so interesting!

We do not see the castle as it is by guided tour, in German, only and will take an hour. That is too long and we reserve that for a future visit. We now head back to our hotel,take a small 10 car ferryat St Goar
Back “home” Dick takes Carolyn down to the wine cellar for another tasting round. They have some wonderful white wines. We have dinner earlier tonight since we are trying to get packed. We split a plate of schnitzel with the wonderful mushroom sauce and pan fried potatoes with a small side salad and even that was a huge amount. One last taste of apple strudel and we are done!



This morning, we get down for breakfast a little earlier than yesterday. The buffet is the same with the exception of no croissants. We both eat hearty and then set up the computer in the lounge area to access the internet and try to get some more of this blog posted.

Checkout time is 11:00AM and we meet the deadline. Dick enjoys a visit with Oliver Meyer and they talk about everything from driving in Germany vs. the US to Obama vs. Bush to women’s dislike of motorcycles. Carolyn listens to the conversation with half an ear and continues work on the blog.

We leave Cochem about 11:30AM and make the 70KM drive to Oberwesel by way of back roads over the hills, Boppard, St Goar and no major highways. The first view of the Rhine is not a spectacular as the one of the Mosel at Boppard, but pretty just the same. It is Sunday and the bikers are out in force but everybody is considerate and they allow us to putter along at less than the speed limit while we enjoy the beautiful spring countryside. Once down along the Rhine, we try to stop at Boppard but have to settle for driving through, as there is no parking. It does seem like a nice village though. We do find parking in St. Goar, walk its crowed streets from one end to the other, and back again.Carolyn does a little more Christmas shopping along the way, unfortunately, many shops are closed for the holiday which is really hard to believe with the hoards of people milling around on the streets.
The Rhine River drive is once again very nice and there seems to be more castles,and the villages seem bigger. The GPS leads us to our hotel, Gasthaus Stahl with no problem and Peter Stahl, greets us at the door. The hotel ismall and located in a small hamlet on the ridge line above Oberwesel. Peter is waiting tables as the lunch crowd is still there even though it is 3:30PM. He leads us to our room at the back of the restuarant with a view of the gargen and the vineyards in the distance from the patio, says dinner is from 5:00PM until 9:00PM and leaves us to unpack.About 4:00PM, Dick goes looking for Peter, the owner, but cannot find him. No one in the hotel will admit to speaking any English except one guest who tries. Peter’s mother is very friendly and insists that Dick and the guest who is trying his English on Dick’s German go down to the cellar and taste the wines. Down they go into a brick lined cellar, built in 1859, containing several rooms. One room has twelve casks of wine along with open bottles sitting on top of each cask and a rack of small wine glasses.

The German guest dives right in, hands Dick a glass and starts pouring. All but one of the wines are white and one of the Rieslings is a masterpiece. Its label reads: JOHANN STAHL – 2006 – OBERWESELER – SAINT MARTINSBURG – RIESLING AUSLESE. Another wine that we found to be very good was: JOHANN STAHL – MITTLERHINE 2007. This Restaurant – Hotel is a family operation, farm and vineyard that has been going strong since 1858. By the way all the language problems soon disappear in the wine cellar!

After thirty minutes of nonstop wine tasting with the German pouring half glasses, Dick calls it quits and goes to find the owner. He finally determines that he is gone but will be back at 5:00PM. Sure enough, upon Peter’s return, he provides the access code to complimentary internet access and some ice for our evening libation.

After a peaceful, relaxing evening and deciding that we will spend two nights instead of just one, we head to dinner about 8:30PM. The fare is truly German country home cooking. The size of the servings are fit for a farmer circa 1870! Again it is white asparaguses with sides of potatoes and some kind of meat as the daily special, but there are plenty of other things on the menu to choose from. Dick has the white asparaguses with schnitzel and Carolyn has a chicken dish with a good mushroom sauce and mashed potatoes. We have a bottle of their excellent white wine. It is one of the ones Dick tasted earlier. We are stuffed, too full for dessert so we head back to the room and bed.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


SATURDAY, MAY 30, 2009 – 142/3 – COCHEM, GERMANY

Today is a down day for us and we need it! The room was comfortable last night and we both sleep well. Dick is up and working on the Blog…we are way behind…by 8:00AM. Carolyn sleeps in until after 9:00AM. It is nice not to have to pack up!

The hotel provides a very nice spread for breakfast and we are one of the last guests into the dining room. It turns out that we have an assigned table for our stay with our name as “FAMALIE NEAL” written on a ceramic place card. We find that a nice, classy touch. The buffet offerings include fried and scrambled eggs, croissants, hard rolls, several kinds of yogurt, bacon, jams, a tea caddie, coffee, etc. They also have riesemilch or, as we call it at home, sweet rice or sticky rice.

We talk to one of the owners, Oliver Meyer, about things to do. We take the hotel car down to the center of Cochem and explore there. As we have said, this is a three-day weekend in Germany. It is actually a Catholic Church holiday but nobody seems to know just what it is when asked about it. The town of Cochem is a German tourist destination at the best of times and this weekend, it is crawling with people. Every parking place is full and the motorcycle crowd is pulling in by the tens. There must be several hundred motorcycles parked in the areas through which we walk. While quaint and pretty, the village is given over to the tourist trade and offers nothing that we have not seen too much of already. Again there are no shops with the nice handmade things we have found in Germany in the past but we do treat ourselves to some delious chocolate candy and some pastries! We cannot seem to catch a taxi on the street, so we go to the information office and they call one for us. There is an antique car show in the parking lotso we check that out while we wait for the taxi to come. €8 later, we arrive back at our hotel. We spend the afternoon, reading, working on the blog and enjoying our balcony view of Cochem and the Mosel River Valley. About 5:00PM we go for a short drive up river toward Trier. We had thought we would rent some bikes this afternoon, but that did not happen. All the restaurants are full or people and we are glad we are not looking for a place to eat. The river drive is very nice this time of day. Dinner is included in today’s room cost and we go down about 8:30PM. The sun is still up and it seems like 6:00PM in Texas in the middle of the summer. While good and well presented, the food does not compare to what we had last night but we enjoy a quiet meal and share a bottle of local Gewürztraminer. We had pre-ordered a pastry wrapped salmon dish, however we are not fans of turnips and they were on the plate as a vegetable and the leaves were in the salmon wrap. It seems to us that most German meals are white! White asparagus, white potatoes, white turnips, white sauce and almost white pastry wrapped salmon. This all white type of plate has been the standard for several meals.

Back in the room, Carolyn reviews pictures from the last few days until the small hours of the morning while Dick, as usual, crashes at a reasonable time.

Saturday, May 30, 2009



What with no A/C in these German hotel rooms, we sleep with the windows open and that means that we hear the trash trucks come by in the middle of the night and we hear the kitchen staffs of two hotels arrive and start their days at the top of their voices at 5:00AM. (Or you do if you don't sleep with the iPod earplugs to drown out al sorts of noise!) While we both slept fairly well, we are up early due to the noise. At least one of us is! Fortunately, it is still very cool in this part of Germany so being without A/C right now is not too bad. By the way and for the record, this is our 44th wedding anniversary.

After another typical German breakfast of hard rolls, croissants, ham, jam, yogurt, and a hard-boiled egg, we pack up but leave our luggage in the room while we explore Trier a little more. After taking some photos of the Porta Nigra, we buy tickets for €14 for a 30-minute tram ride around the historic, old city. This takes us to some places we have not seen such as the Roman baths, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We wonder why they cannot make these tram cars with a little better suspension system. Even on city streets, this one is rough and when we hit cobblestone streets, it is uncomfortable. As we drive along the street beside the baths we pass a long section of the city walls.
After the tram we walk back to the square for some pictures with the morning light. The fruit and flower market are in full swing!

We then go back to the church or Baslilka und Kurfurstliches Schloss as Dick wants a picture of the outstanding organ pipes. The bascilica was built for Emperor Constantine around 305AD, then in the 1500's part of it was incorporated into a Renaissance castle so it is rather odd looking as seen in yesterday's picture. The church has lots of beautiful marble carvings at each column and it also has a double choir nave, one at each end. One is for the altar and the other was for the Emperor! Back at the hotel, we check out and head for three more sites on Carolyn’s list. One is the Roman amphitheatre, but it is charging €16 just to walk through and we pass on it, as the one we visited in Turkey was in much better condition. The second is a bridge across the Mosel River that uses the original Roman Bridge as a base. We drive across it, but unless you are on the bicycle path along the river, you cannot see the Roman part of it. Finally, we visit the St Matthias Church and take some rather crooked photos of its simple but elegant interior. They are setting up for a program in front of the church so we can't get a picture of the colorful facade, but do take some in the garden and well tended graveyard beside the church.That does it for our second visit to Trier. We were here the first time in 1984. Our impression of the city is very positive. It is clean, easy to navigate with a good GPS and has some significant sights to see.
Now we head, by the most direct route, to Cochem on the Mosel River. The GPS takes us through more beautiful, spring-green farm country until we arrive on the ridge overlooking Cochem down on the banks of the Mosel. What a beautiful view! We wind our way down the steep sides of the river valley and find our hotel with ease. It is the Moselromantik-Hotel Kessler-Meyer. Our room is very nice
and our balcony has a view of the river and the castle. The hotel is new looking with a pool and spa and nice public areas.

We do not bother to unload after checking in, as we want to drive north to Koblenz and see the river valley on both sides of the river. Our drive takes us along the west bank of the Mosel River and then back on the east bank.We are amazed to see how steep some of the vineyards are. The valley sides are terraced in most places

but we also see rows of vines planted up and down instead of across the hillsides. Some are so steep that we wonder how they can pick the grapes and get them down to the road but then we see small tram tracks running up the hillsides and have the answer to our question. Still, if you fell while picking on some of those slopes, you would break your neck.
On the drive to and from Kolbenz there are several nice castles, but I think the prettiest one is the one at Cochem though this one is a close runner up!.In Koblenz, we go to the Deutschen Eck or German Corner where the Mosel and the Rhine merge. Across from the point is the Festung (Fortress) Ehrenbreitsteinwhich was used to house captured flyers, mostly British, during WWII. It is a formidable looking place. After a stroll through the old, pedestrian only part of the city, we head back up the Mosel Valley to Alken, on the east side of the river. Our goal is the restaurant Burg Thurant.
When we arrive at the restaurant, there is only one table left in the small front courtyard and we take it. The menu is in German, naturally, and the owner/waiter has very limited English but we manage to select a delicious meal. Carolyn has a bowl of potato soup and prawns done scampi style but with a twist that we cannot quite place. We both agree they are wonderful. Dick has a seasonal garden salad and salmon. The salmon, grilled to perfection, is served over tagliatelli (SP) pasta with a sumptuous cream sauce and sautéed spinach. We share a bottle of local Riesling wine,

The service is slow as each dish is prepared when ordered but we enjoy the wine and watching the sun slowly set behind the western edge of the Mosel River valley. We pass on dessert and head for our hotel in Cochem where we finally unload, clean up, watch the sunset and crash!