Sunday, November 13, 2011

Award-winning wine maker Peter Weis

Eventful Woman and Peter Weis with his award winning wines (All text and photos are copyright to Eventful Woman, 2011)
This is the third interview in a series of award-winning wine makers in Zell an der Mosel. 

The first interview was with Herr Albert Kallfelz and the second was with Herr Stephan Fischer. Both of these interviews required a translator.

For my third interview I tracked down Herr Peter Weis who not only makes award-winning wines, but who also speaks excellent English.  They're a talented bunch of people in Zell an der Mosel.

Interview with Herr Peter Weis
(Note: The vineyard has his father's name - Franz Josef Weis)
Shop front of Franz Josef Weis winery
Herr Peter Weis was awarded three gold and two silver medals for the five wines he submitted this year to the Rhineland Pfalz Landwirtschaft Kammer (the Chamber of Agriculture for the Rhineland Palatinate area). His awards were all for Riesling wine, which is famous in the Mosel area and, as such, there was a lot of stiff competition.

Like the other wine makers I interviewed, Herr Weis loves the Riesling grape. He describes it as very versatile as it can produce dry to very sweet wine. He loves the anticipation of the first taste of each year's vintage as it can vary so much.  In 2003, he said that he had a wine that tasted like pineapples.

The steep slopes of the FJ Weis vineyard
Clearly, no pineapples grow this far north in Germany. However, the slanted hillsides alongside of the Mosel River change the sun's angle to the land, making it more like the tropics. This means lots of sun on the area's vineyards. Herr Weis says, "If you want to become brown in summer then I tell people to come and stand on our steep slopes."

The wine's taste and aroma changes due to each season's weather conditions and also because of the minerals the soil. If there's a lot of rain the grapes pick up more minerals [from the slate on top of the soil] and that determines taste much more than sunshine.

While there are advantages with the sun's angle, there are some disadvantages with the sharp slant of the vineyards.  Mechanisation is almost impossible and a lot of manual labour is needed to tend and harvest the grapes, which raises the cost of the wine when compared with that grown in flatter areas. 

Herr Weis is the ultimate positive thinker.  He says, "For me there are no disadvantages, I love my vineyards." 
Herr Weis pruning his grapes.
(Photo from FJ Weis website)

Like other wine makers in the area, he has trained his vines onto individual wooden stakes (called Einzelpfahlerziehung) instead of the more traditional wires. This allows him and his workers to walk horizontally across the sometimes perilous slopes, making the work safer and less arduous. The stakes (instead of wires) also enable him to use a monorail trolley up and down his slopes, instead of having to carry everything by hand.

Herr Weis on the monorail trolley in his steep vineyard
(Photo from FJ Weis website)
He ensures that only the best grapes are picked at harvest time. He has hired the same workers every year for the last 25 years, and he provides good accommodation for them and great food.  He says, "They know the work and they know what to do. Over the years, they have become friends."

Here's a summary of some of the questions I asked Herr Weis:

How long have you or your family owned this vineyard?
1710. While my family have made wine since then, I am only the 3rd generation who has worked full-time in this career. I have been a winemaker all of my [adult] life.  I started to learn after - I think it is "A" level in your school system - when I was 19.  I am 45 now.

How big is your vineyard?
7 hectares and 95% of them are very steep. The main grape variety is Riesling, our area is well known for this.  I have a little bit of Rivaner (which is Müller-Thurgau) and in red grape I have Spät Burgunder (Pinot Noir) and also Dornfelder which is a German grape.

Barrels of wine in the cellar
What is the age of the vines?
The youngest is half a hectare and was only planted this year.  The oldest were planted in the 1970s so they are around 30 - 40 years old. My family has constantly replaced the vines [on a rotation basis] over the years since the 1700's. 

How many bottles of wine do you produce per year?
It depends on the weather. The Riesling is a small grape and is grown on steep hillsides so I am happy if I get around 50,000 litres [around 66,000 x 750ml bottles].

How did you learn wine making?
I learned at a [wine making] school. When I was there it was in Bullay, just 5 km from here. It is now in Bernkastel [around 25 km away].

Corks versus caps
I use both but mainly caps.  It's a very good cap with a tin sealing inside and the manufacturers promise that the wine will last 10 - 12 years.  The manufacturers have no experience on whether the caps will be effective longer term, but hopefully we will get longer storage times in future.

I use synthetic corks, but just for wines that I tell my customers to drink within 5 years. After that time, the synthetic cork becomes weak and lets oxygen into the bottle.

I use natural cork for wines I want to store for a long time. I spend a lot of money for these corks in the hope they are good and I put them on wines which should keep for 10, 20 or even 30 years.

If you like to age a wine then it should be a sweet Riesling.  When the dry ones become old nobody likes them. If it is sweet the wine becomes more and more like a liqueur, which is very nice in tiny sips.

Aim for quality, not quantity. Think long term, not just one year. Share your knowledge with younger growers and that way everyone can learn more.

While I want to pass the vineyard onto the next generation, I will never be a pensioner.  I love what I do.

Advice for new wine makers:
You need passion and to love your work because the work is rather hard.  When the result is perfect ... everything is perfect. 

Note of thanks:
I am very grateful to Herr Peter Weis who took time out of his busy harvest schedule to talk to me and answer my questions.
The interview in action
Thanks also to my husband, TH, for taking the great photos. (Note: two of the photos were from the F J Weis website

All of TH's photos and text are copyright to Eventful Woman, 2011

Find out more about:
  • Zell an der Mosel and the area (click on the Union Jack flag to get the page into English).
  • Peter Weis wines (trading as F J Weis) Note: The website is only available in German but "Google Translate" is easy to use for a quick translation
  • Interview with the first two wine makers in this series, Herr Albert Kallfelz and  Herr Stephan Fischer
  • My Europe Base, an ideal place to stay to explore Zell an der Mosel. It is only a few minutes walk from the Franz Josef Weis vineyard and has studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartments available for either a couple of days or longer term.  
Herr Peter Weis is one of the few winemakers in Zell an der Mosel who speaks fluent English (as well as German, of course)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"Gidday Trev" to Trier

Roman Porta Nigra (180 AD) and icon of Trier (All text and photographs copyright to Eventful Woman, 2011)
"You'll like this place. It's so old you'll feel positively youthful," TH said confidently.  Yeah, right and thanks Sweetheart.  Everyone in Germany is 'a babe in arms' when compared with Trier, as it is the country's oldest town. Its history stretches back into the mists of time, supposedly as far as 2000 BC.

Trier's recorded history starts when the Romans conquered Celtic Treveri around 53 BC.  Its strategic location was recognised by Emperor Augustus and he founded a city there around 16 BC, calling it Augusta Treverorum (The city of the Emperor Augustus in the land of the Treveri).

Kaiserthermen (Imperial Baths) early 4th Century
The Romans introduced new kinds of buildings and lifestyles - hot spring baths, amphitheatres, villas, temples and wine making. They planted the first grapes along the Mosel's steep riversides, although the mighty Riesling grape that has made Mosel wines famous, didn't arrive until the early 1400's.

Roman amphitheatre, dating from around 100 AD
Over many centuries and the waning of the Roman Empire, the city's name shortened from Augusta Treverorum to Trier.  It was lucky it didn't become Trevor. As such, its citizens are spared the indignity of hordes of New Zealanders calling out "Gidday Trev" when they arrive.

However, other hordes have made their mark on the city over last two millennia: Franks, Suebs (a Germanic tribe), Huns, Vandals, Normans, French, Spanish and Prussians, many of whom destroyed vast chunks of the place. With that and the bombing in World War 2 it is remarkable that there's anything historic left.

The Porta Nigra
Fortunately, the Roman legacy lives on including in the iconic emblem of the city, The Porta Nigra (The Black Gate). There are also magnificent monuments, art, statues and churches, some of which date back to when Christianity overtook Paganism under Constantine the Great (in the 4th Century).

While there might be bigger and more impressive historic Roman sites in Italy, Greece and Turkey, what is fascinating in Trier is the juxtaposition of different cultures. For instance, in Turkey you won't find whole streets of quaint half-timbered houses side-by-side with Roman archaeological remains along with Gothic and Rococo buildings.
The Rococo-styled Electoral Palais (begun in the 17th C) with the Roman Constantine Basilica (early 4th C) behind it
The State Museum (Rheinisches Landesmuseum) is now one of Germany's important archaeological museums, with 7,000 square metres of exhibition rooms. If that's too big a place for the time you have available, I recommend the compact Municipal Museum Simeonstift (located by the Porta Nigra) as an alternative. For just a few Euros you can see several of the city's smaller treasures on display (rather than the copies located in the town's squares) and listen to the excellent historical commentary via the audio guide (which is available in many different languages).

Trier Cathedral (Dom) started as Roman (in the 4th C) but was rebuilt in newer styles over the centuries. The early Gothic (1235 - 1260) Church of Our Lady (Liebfrauenkirche) is next door (on the right)
The really big historic sites (such as the churches, the Roman Bridge, amphitheatre and bath houses) are not in a compact area.  You'll need a fit pair of legs to see them all or you could take a bus tour. Also check out the TrierCard, which costs 9 Euros, but allows you to use the inner city's bus transport for free and also gives discounts on various tourist sites and activities.

The Hauptmarkt

In the Hauptmarkt
Don't forget to take some time out to sit in the Hauptmarkt (the historic main market square) to absorb the surroundings and enjoy a coffee with at least one slice of Germany's many fabulous cakes (kuchen).

Important Tip: Avoid visiting Trier on a Monday, when several museums are closed.

(More of TH's photos are further below)

Find out more
Getting to Trier from Zell an der Mosel:
  • Drive: meander on the lovely, winding road by the Mosel River.
  • Bus: Zell's tourism information office can arrange a bus tour from Zell for 18 Euros per person, which includes a tour (only in German) when you get to Trier.  The bus ride is up to 2 hours each way, depending on how many stops it has to make to let other tourists on and off the bus. However, it you don't have a car it is a good way to travel the road by the Mosel River.
  • Train: Catch the train from Bullay, which is a much shorter journey than by road because it has more of a straight-line route through many tunnels. It will only take around 30 minutes to get to Trier, and will cost 23 Euros for 2 people.  Then, you can buy tickets for an English-speaking bus tour of Trier (usually around 12 noon) at the Trier Information Office. The bus tour in English will cost around 7 Euros per person.
Reminder: Avoid visiting Trier on a Monday, when several museums are closed.

Want a base in Europe where you explore the Mosel River area? Want to explore further afield and have a place to dump heavy luggage or come and go as required?

Eventful Woman recommends "My Europe Base", which has studio, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom apartments.  Stay for a couple of days or for a few weeks or more. Click here to check it out.

More of TH's photos of Trier: (All text and photographs are copyright to Eventful Woman, 2011)

Ceiling in the Trier Cathedral (Dom)

Wonderful sign for the Spielzeug (Toy) Museum

I wasn't the only cute Kiwi in the toy museum

One of Eventful Woman's favourite animals (as well as the gorgeous pigs)

Friday, November 04, 2011

Master Wine Maker - Stephan Fischer

Herr Stephan Fischer in his vineyard (All photos and text copyright to Eventful Woman, 2011)
I have interviewed three award-winning wine makers while I have been in Zell an der Mosel. I will write more about them when I am back home in New Zealand, but because each wine maker was so amazing I am releasing an early 'sneak preview' for readers of my website.

The first interview was with Herr Albert Kallfelz.

Here's the second interview in the series:

Herr Stephan Fischer

Stephan Fischer's specialty is Mosel Riesling Sekt (Sekt is known in New Zealand as méthode traditionnelle or méthode champenoise or sparkling wine) for which he has won several gold medals.  He has also been awarded the overall prize for the best Riesling Sekt for Rhineland Pfalz (Rhineland Palatinate province) three times in the last 10 years.

In addition, he makes exceptionally good dry (trocken) and sweet Riesling wine. While his vineyard has made Riesling wine for several generations, he has only been making sparkling wine since 1984. 

Herr Fischer's steep vineyards
He grows mainly Riesling grapes followed by white, red and blue burgundy grapes. Like other vineyards in Zell an der Mosel, his grapevines grow on steep hills. The Mosel is in the north of the globe and this means that land is usually at a low angle to the sun.  However, the steep sides of the vineyards in Zell an der Mosel changes the land's angle [to the sun] to match what it is in the tropics.

Examining the grapes prior to harvest
As well as the dizzying steepness of his vineyard, hard work, the need to keep a close eye on the weather and the condition of the grapes, Herr Fischer also attributes his success to the small chunks of slate that are scattered across his land. 

This slate is up to 240 million years old and has two big advantages for wine makers:
  • It absorbs heat from the sun during the day, which it then releases overnight to warm the vines and reduce the impact of frost.
  • It contains minerals such as magnesium and potassium. These leach out of the slate when it rains, which enriches the ground.
Here's a summary of some of the questions I asked Herr Fischer:

Interview in action
How long have you or your family owned this vineyard?
I am the 10th generation owner of this vineyard.

How big is your vineyard?
3.5 hectares.

What is the age of the vines?
The oldest are 60 years old.

How many bottles of wine do you produce per year?
Between 15,000 to 25,000 bottles per year (depending on nature and the weather). 
In the cellars and wine making area

Corks versus caps?
I have used aluminium caps for last 15 years, but I still use corks for sweet and red wine. The price of corks went up by 10% per year, every year (due to increasing demand) but the quality went down by 10% per year. So I had to make a decision to change but it wasn't hard. Aluminium caps are brilliant - clean, hygienic, no oxygen can get through and there's no spoilage.

In Germany, Riesling is the Queen of the white wine. The King of the red is spätburgunder (pinot noir). For me, Riesling is:
  • tradition
  • passion
  • my number one.

Advice for new wine makers:
You need to accept that nature guides the wine process. The aromas are built in the vineyard not in the cellar. You can't build aromas in the cellar; they must be in the grape to start with.

Stephan Fischer wines tasted:
  • 2009 Mosel Riesling Sekt, gold medal. This is the best have ever tasted AND better than most champagnes that I have tasted.
  • 2010 Riesling Trocken (dry) - citrus, gooseberry, very fresh 
  • 2010 Riesling Halbtrocken (medium dry) - more peachy, less citrus, smooth, clean, fresh 
  • 2009 Riesling (Sweet) - very sweet but not sickly-sweet. Very smooth, almost liqueur-like.
Stephan Fischer and his award-winnng bottles of Riesling
All photos and text copyright to Eventful Woman, 2011
Find out more about:
  • Zell an der Mosel and the area (click on the Union Jack flag to get the page into English).
  • Stephan Fischer wines (Note: The website is only available in German but "Google Translate" is easy to use for a quick translation
  • Interview with the first wine maker in this series, Herr Albert Kallfelz
  • My Europe Base, where I have been very comfortable for the last 4 weeks in Zell an der Mosel. Studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartments available for either a couple of days or longer term. 
This interview required a translator.  I am very grateful and appreciative to Jürgen Richter for his work as my translator and also to Zell an der Mosel's mayor (Herr Hans Schwarz) and the town council who arranged my interview with Herr Fischer. 

Thanks to my husband, TH, for taking great photos and also helping me with the translation as I was writing this piece up. 

Last, but certainly not least, my thanks to Stephan Fischer who took time out of his busy harvest schedule to talk to me and to answer my questions.

All photos and text copyright to Eventful Woman, 2011

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Eventful Burg Arras

The entrance to Burg Arras (All text and photos copyright to Eventful Woman)
The tourist pamphlet said all the right things to get the attention of any Eventful Person: The eventful history of Arras Castle (Burg Arras) is closely linked with the eventful German history from the beginning Roman period up to the end of the Middle Ages.

View of castle from car park
(after the mist cleared in the afternoon)
Burg Arras is perched on a steep, rocky hill above Alf and around 10 km from Zell an der Mosel. Fortunately, we had the use of a friend's car, so walking up hill was limited to just the distance from the castle's car park. Of course, for those who like to walk a lot, Burg Arras is on the walking trail from Alf to Reil and via the Marienburg and Prinzenkopf viewing points.

The hill was fortified by the Romans around 350 AD and its name harks back to this time (Latin: arrha = fortified mountain).

The castle was built between 900 and 950 AD to protect the area from the invading Normans. Like so many others in the Mosel Valley, the castle was wrecked by the French (under the orders of Louis XIV (The Sun King) in the late 1600s.

One of the many display items
For awhile, the Castle was derelict, but the Keep with its 4 metre thick walls stood firm. Around 1900, a wealthy director of a mining-company restored the castle and made the castle liveable once more.

The onsite museum provides some fascinating insights into the history of the Castle and of the Mosel Valley. There is a large collection of lithographs, graphic prints, ceramics and paintings showing the buildings, people and places along the river. In addition, there's the usual of suits of armour and medieval weapons for those who like things that stab, kill or go bang.

The memorial room to the former President of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany), Heinrich Lübke, – a relative of today´s owners - is definitely worth a look.  Some of the gifts he received while in office (1959 - 1969) are on display such as the exquisite Japanese and Korean screens and a wall-hanging/tapestry from Madam Pompadour´s property, which was presented by the President of the French Republic.  For those who like political history, check out the photos on the walls of President Lübke with several of his contemporaries, such as President Lyndon Johnson and President Charles de Gaulle.
Korean screen

Detail in the Korean screen
There's supposedly a splendid view from the top of the castle. I even walked up hill to see for myself but the morning mist had still not cleared.

It seems that nearly everyone has been involved with Burg Arras at some point - the Celts, Romans, Normans, French, Prussians and Germans, including some famous names like Bruno II of Berg, who was the Archbishop of Cologne, and who consecrated the on-site chapel.  The knights of Arras made the castle their home in the early Middle Ages. Emperor Maximilian I stopped for the night in March 1512.  While Napoleon may not have been here (there's no record of it) he clearly knew of the castle, as there are two letters signed by him on display.

Napoleon's letters (click on the photo to enlarge)
You too can also stay or eat at Burg Arras. The former imperial part of the castle is now a hotel and a restaurant, which they claim is the only hotel in a castle along the Mosel River. The rooms have canopies, turrets and look very appropriate, but they also have all of the mod cons such as spa baths. 

Window in the castle
There is also an onsite cosmetic laser institute. How bizarre!  However, perhaps it's just the thing to remove wrinkles after drinking too much good Mosel wine. The rather scary information provided in English says that the institute "implements permanent makeup. Experience the special atmosphere of a medieval knight."  I suspect something got lost in the translation.

Speaking of scary, make sure you also take the old stairs down to the horror chamber dungeons beneath the castle.

Find out more:
 (All text and photos copyright to Eventful Woman)
Eventful Woman (in red) exploring Burg Arras' Keep

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Master Wine Maker - Albert Kallfelz

The steep vineyards overlooking Zell an der Mosel (All photos and text copyright to Eventful Woman, 2011)
Zell an der Mosel is famous for its Riesling wines. The grapes grow on incredibly steep hillsides - inclines of around 60%. As well as being fit as mountain goats the winemakers must be very talented, too.  I was told that this part of the Mosel wins more awards for its Riesling than any other in the Rhineland Pfalz Landwirtschaft Kammer.  (The Chamber of Agriculture for the Rhineland Palatinate area.)

Some of Herr Kallfelz's gold and silver medals
I was also told that only 3% of the wines produced in all of Germany receive a medal (whether gold, silver or bronze).  Of interest, to ensure the result is not subjective, a machine tests and analyses the wine, instead of people.

The steep vineyards are both an advantage and a disadvantage. It is difficult to use machinery on the hills and most tasks have to be done manually, which is very time consuming.  However, the advantage of the sharp inclines is that they change the land's angle to the sun, making the sun's rays similar to the angle they are in the tropics. With plenty of warm sunshine it's no wonder the Mosel produces fabulous wines, even though it is so far north on the globe [in the northern hemisphere].

It has been a pleasure and an honour to interview three award-winning wine makers in Zell an der Mosel. Of course, I was forced to try the BEST Riesling that I've ever tasted as part of these interviews. It's a hard job being a writer and journalist - but someone has to do it!

While I will be writing more about these wine makers for an article when I'm back home in New Zealand, I can't wait that long to tell you something about them.  Here's a 'sneak preview' of the first in a series of three:
Master wine maker, Herr Albert Kallfelz
Herr Albert Kallfelz is the highest decorated Riesling producer for the whole of Germany.

How long have you or your family owned this vineyard?
104 years.

How big is your vineyard?
I started with 1 hectare and today I have 65 hectares; 25 belong to me, 25 are leased from others and I also buy grape juice from growers with another 15 hectares.

What is the age of the vines?
The oldest are 90 years. I replace and replant new vines every year [on a rotation basis]

How many bottles of wine do you produce per year?
Between 600,000 and 750,000 bottles per year.  These are mainly sold within Germany.

How did you learn wine making?
I didn't do an apprenticeship. I taught myself winemaking and how to market my wine.

Corks versus caps?
I stopped using corks 7 years ago.  I use plastic corks, but not aluminium caps.

My philosophy on wine is the same as what I think about:
  • Liebe (Love) 
  • Freundschaft (Friendship)
  • Fussball spielen (Playing football (or soccer, as it is called in New Zealand))
That is, you can't just study it; you have to learn it for yourself.  You have to get a feel for it. You've got to go with the "feeling in the belly" (gut instinct). 

I want to convince others to produce only high-class, quality Mosel wine, rather than rely on mass production.

Herr Kallfelz in his wine making cellar
Kallfelz Riesling wines tasted: 
  • Merler Stephansberg, Spätlese Trocken (dry), 2010
  • Merler Adler Kabinett, Feinherb (medium dry) 2010  
  • Merler Fettgarten Riesling
  • Urgestein 2007
Overall comments on the tasting: Honey-smooth, full-bodied, almost liqueur-like but fresh on the palate. The gold medal 2007 Urgestein is to die for.

This interview required a translator.  I am very grateful and appreciative to Jürgen Richter for his work as my translator and also to Zell an der Mosel's mayor (Herr Hans Schwarz) and the town council who arranged my interview with Herr Kallfelz. 

Thanks to my husband, TH, for taking great photos and also helping me with the translation as I was writing this piece up.

Last, but certainly not least, my thanks to Herr Kallfelz who took time out of his busy harvest schedule to talk to me and to answer my questions.
Eventful Woman hard at work. Standing is Albert Kallfelz and sitting is translator Jürgen Richter
 All photos and text copyright to Eventful Woman, 2011

Find out more about:
  • Zell an der Mosel and the area (click on the Union Jack flag to get the page into English).
  • Kallfelz wine (Note: The website is only available in German but "Google Translate" is easy to use for a quick translation
  • My Europe Base, where I have been very comfortable for the last 4 weeks in Zell an der Mosel. Studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartments available for either a couple of days or longer term.  

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Bernkastel-Kues: BK - It just looks better

Half-timbered houses in Bernkastel (All text and photos copyright to Eventful Woman 2011)
If you're into half-timbered houses, then Bernkastel-Kues (BK) is the place to be. While these types of houses (I'd say Elizabethan, if I was in England) are typical of a historic German town, BK seems to have more than most.

Ornate sign in Bernkastel
Stand in the centre of Bernkastel's town square and you'll be surrounded by wall-to-wall, 400-year-old, half-timbered houses that are several stories high. You can almost hear the history creaking. Unfortunately, it can also be wall-to-wall tourists.

Like most towns in the world, the council building (the Rat Haus) is usually the most magnificent and, with its classic Renaissance building style, it's no exception in Bernkastel.

Just off the town square I discovered the cute Spitzhäusen (Pointed house), a medieval, narrow-gabled house, with the upper storey hanging over the smaller bottom half.

Houses with window boxes
winding stairways
However, it's the divine cobbled streets that amble off in several directions from the square that attracted my attention and provided escape from the masses of people.   

I meandered down tiny alley ways with over-arching buildings, ornate shop signs, higgly-piggly houses with flowers tumbling over the edges of their window boxes and winding stairways that had me climbing them (yes, walking up hill, something I normally hate) because I was curious about where they led.

Now that I've been in Germany for some weeks and because I am hopeless with the language, I've learned to tune out voices.  While not exactly quiet, it has been a silent world in terms of understanding what is said to me. Imagine my surprise when I heard my own name through the 'cone of silence'.   It was one of the passengers from the ship that had docked at Zell an der Mosel the night before, when TH and I had been invited to join the welcoming party.  The ship had moved on from Zell to BK and the passengers had been let loose to explore. Several more spotted me and said hello. Two gave me a hug.  It was a small oasis of belonging after weeks of being on the outside and it gave me quite a lift.  Thanks to everyone who said hello - I really appreciated it.

Eventful Woman exploring Bernkastel
Landshut Castle
As with other places on the Mosel, a ruined castle (Landshut Castle) looms over the town. This time, however, the French and Louis XIV can't be blamed for the damage as Landshut was destroyed by fire in the late 1600s.

Bernkastel-Kues is a twin town like Traben-Trarbach.  Kues and Bernkastel (on opposite sides of the Mosel) became one town when a bridge was built across the river in the early 1900s. The area has been populated for a few millennium. An early Stone Age (4000 to 3000 BC) village was discovered in Kues, making it the oldest settlement on the Mosel.

I spent the bulk of my time on the Bernkastel side, which has the most half-timbered buildings in one small area. However, Kues has the excellent Mosel Wine Museum and the Vinotheque where you can taste and compare a huge range of wines from the Mosel and the nearby Saar and Ruwar regions.

If you want to get your fill of half-timbered houses then BK is for you.  When compared with other historic towns in Germany, it just looks better.

(All text and photos copyright to Eventful Woman 2011)

Getting there:
  • Buses, trains and boats ply the Mosel Valley in both directions, whether you are starting from up or down river.  
  • From Zell an der Mosel, take the bus to Bullay and then the train to Bernkastel-Kues.
Find out more: