Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cruising to Beilstein

Beilstein gleaming in the sun (All photos copyright to Eventful Woman 2011)
The morning mist hung over the Mosel River on our boat cruise from Zell to Beilstein. Vineyards and olde-worlde houses loomed out of the mist and then quietly faded behind us on our 2-hour trip down stream.
Rapunzel tower and the castle

Suddenly, the sun broke through just as we turned a bend and it was if Camelot had materialised on the river bank, gleaming in the sunshine. This was Beilstein with its half-timbered houses and Rapunzel like turrets. The jagged ruins of its castle loomed over us as we eased into the dock.

Beilstein is a tiny village but it has a lot to see. There's probably no centimetre free of tourists in summer but in autumn there is breathing space between the waves of 'gawkers' that pour off the boats and buses.  At times, it was just TH and I stepping on its cobbled streets and peering in the windows like curious children.

Archway in the castle
It was chilly in its shady courtyards, so TH and I decided to wander up to the castle. Yes, I know I don't normally do activities like "walk up hill" but the cold motivated me to keep moving.

The original owners of "Burg Metternich" (the castle's proper name) were the aristocratic Von Braunshorns. They extracted tolls from passing river traffic and probably fired off the odd salvo from the ramparts to discourage anyone trying to sneak past without paying. It wasn't until the early to mid 1600s that the von Metternichs became the owners and stamped their name on the place.

Sadly, the French wrecked the castle in the late 1600s. However, it is still worth a visit to poke about the ruins and especially for its sweeping views of Beilstein and of the Mosel. We climbed the spiral staircase inside the 25 metre Keep and also admired the glorious autumn reds and oranges of the nearby vineyards.

Huge Catholic (Carmelite) Monastery and Church (view from the castle)

Like Camelot, Beilstein has an impressive cathedral. It's hard to imagine how such a tiny village could support the huge Catholic (Carmelite) Monastery and Church, which takes up almost half of the town's space. Most of the visitors just sat and quietly admired the baroque altar and ornamental ceilings, while others lit remembrance candles. The smoky beeswax aroma and "Ave Maria" on the sound system added a lot to the ambience.
Inside the church

I noted a display of woollen bootees and scarves which the women of the church had for sale in the vestry. They'd need to sell a lot of scarves at 11 Euros apiece to fund the upkeep of the place.

There was a large cafe and restaurant in the church's courtyard, which sold excellent meals. TH and I did our bit for the roof fund by purchasing large plates of pork schnitzel, complete with piles of potatoes and salad. In the German tradition, the cafe also had an attractive range of cakes and sweet treats to finish the meal off. The 10 cm high Black Forest Gateau (Schwarzwalder Kirsch Torte) was to die for.

Beilstein alleyway
We waddled back down to the village. The sun had warmed the stone walls and, casting off our jackets and jerseys, we explored all of the town's nooks and crannies.

Beilstein signs and lamps

Half the place is restaurants, hotels, shops and eateries. However, signs and buildings are kept as far as possible in the medieval style.

Most of the visitors were lingering at sunny tables and having walked off our huge lunch, TH and I also found a warm spot to wait for our homeward boat.

Farewell to Beilstein

Entering the lock
Onboard, we glided back to Zell in the warm afternoon sun. The mist had long dispersed and we were rewarded with a full view of the passing scenery and of how the boat was guided through a lock.

There are several locks on the Mosel River, although this is the only one between Zell and Beilstein. Apart from a crew man keeping the boat steady in the lock by periodically moving its tethering rope up onto the next rung (to match the rising of the boat as the lock filled up) the process was fully automated. We slowly rose up the slimy, dark sides of the lock and into the fresh air.  The forward gates slid down, the light turned green and the captain put on all speed.

We docked at Zell right on sunset. Our convenient "My Europe Base" apartment was less than 3 minutes walk away.

Heading for  Zell in the late afternoon
(All photos copyright to Eventful Woman 2011)

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