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.
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