Day 4: Monschau, a little luge, some Trier, and the Mosel

This morning we were up at 7:00, as we had a full day ahead of us.  We ate breakfast in the hotel and met up with the family by 9:00 to say our auf wiedersehens, as they were heading on to France and we weren’t done with Germany yet.

Fresh-faced from our exciting first luge experience

After filling Gretel in on our plans, we set off at 10:10 to find a town called Rohren.  This was a “must-see” to us, as rumor had it they had a sommerbobbahn (luge, bobsled type thing).  We found it quickly (thanks, Grets!) and were the first ones there.  After a brief instruction by a man who spoke little English, and paying our €2.50 each for the pleasure, Jim went shooting down the track first.  What a thrill!  It wasn’t a very long track, but it was fast and we each used our brakes a lot.  At the bottom we were each hooked up to a wire cable that dragged us backwards back up the hill (while seated on our sled), which had lovely views of the lush green countryside.  At the top, we excitedly recounted our experiences and briefly contemplated going again before deciding to get back on the road.  However, we both wholeheartedly agreed we wouldn’t pass up any more luging opportunities that might come our way.

View of countryside while going back up luge track

Next up was Trier, and the drive was going well until we hit a giant traffic jam getting into the town.  We sat in traffic (very orderly, polite traffic, nothing like you see in Chicago) for over an hour before reaching our destination, a parking garage right in the heart of it all.  The combination of having drank too much coffee and being unexpectedly delayed in traffic caused the perfect storm where our bladders were concerned, so we frantically rushed around for 15 minutes in a mad search for a bathroom.  It was only later we discovered the WC was ½ block from the parking garage.  Hmm.. maybe next time it’ll pay to look around first.

A big tourist draw in Trier, the Porta Nigra

Nonetheless, we were refreshed and ready to take on Trier.  Their big claim to fame is the Porta Nigra, a giant Roman ruin that has turned black with age.  Now is also a good time to randomly add that it was blazing hot and Trier was packed to the gills with people.  We eyeballed the Porta Nigra for a bit, then moved on in search of lunch.  We found a bakery that sold sandwiches so we each got one and sat in the main market square by a statue and took in the ambiance of… a very drunk homeless-looking man who passed out on the ground a few feet from us.  It was a bit unsavory to me, but didn’t deter Jim from scarfing down his sandwich.  After lunch we wandered over to Trier’s huge cathedral, where inside they house an un-displayed tunic of Jesus Christ (it’s only unveiled once a year) and had a treasury (€1.50 extra each to get in) where they displayed a sandal from St. Andrew and a nail that allegedly was used in the Crucifixion.  Quite a collection.

Next we headed off to a giant basilica (GIANT!  Each panel in the ceiling was 10 ft x 10 ft, and there were lots of them) that used to be an old Roman ruin and now is a Lutheran church.  How the Lutherans wrangled it from the Catholics, I’ll never know.  After the basilica (and it was only getting hotter outside), we tried to find the third sight on our list of to-dos in Trier, the house of Karl Marx.  This took a bit of doing and a lot of walking in circles, but we eventually found it.  We also found it was nothing exciting and decided against paying to actually go inside.  In your face, communism.  Instead, we double-backed to Trier’s main market square and read the bits in the Rick Steves’ guidebook about what we were looking at.

A few photos later and another stop at the WC and we were on our way again, on our way up the Mosel River to Zell.

View along the Mosel River

The drive was gorgeous, we opted to take the scenic road (the B53) that winds along the river and through all the tiny picture-perfect little towns, with every available square foot of hillside covered in vineyards.  As it was getting later in the day we decided not to stop in any of the towns, as we were a little worried about getting to Zell at a reasonable hour.  Gretel got us to our hotel (the Hotel Weinhaus Mayer), where we parked and dropped off our bags in the room.  Our room was complete with a wonderful balcony overlooking the river with a table and chairs, some wine glasses, and a corkscrew.  It just screamed “get a bottle of wine, sit on the balcony, and enjoy the river show.”

View from our balcony in Zell

We walked around Zell for a bit (small town, we could walk it in about 15 minutes) before settling on an Italian restaurant with great pizza for dinner.  We also had some wine, which is the thing to do in wine country.  After dinner, a little buzzed and in search of more wine, we realized that Zell had rolled up its sidewalks for the night.  Uh-oh, it didn’t bode well for our search for more wine.  But never fear, as the place we were staying at also sold their own brand of wine, we were able to pick up a bottle from the front desk clerk.  We brought it upstairs, changed into our sweats, and sat on the balcony with a glass of wine, where Jimmy did his “homework” of reading about the area and I wrote in the journal.  In between reading and writing we watched the river traffic (complete with swans!) go up and down the lazy river.  After a nice buzz and a lot of laughs, it was off to bed.

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