Thursday, March 5, 2009

Positive Moments in Recent Germany Trip

In my recent trip to Germany, in February, I had a completely different experience from the first time I went there. First off, it was February, compared to September; the countryside was barren, the color of brown dominating, compared to the lush green leafiness of the early fall. Second, I was on a Rudi Wiest company trip, as opposed to a customer trip - I can't put my finger on the difference, really - it was not that I was not pampered or something on this trip; it was just a different feel.

Third, it was also my second time there, not the first, so very little was new, per se... I already knew the Mosel was gorgeous and enchanting, I knew that castles dotted the landscape, I knew that beautiful old buildings along the Mosel houses wineries with ancient cellars that houses wines older that I that aged better that I...

So much of the magic and mystery was not present on this trip, which should not take me as by surprise, as this has happened with other places I have been - the first time I laid eyes on Hawaii, the island of Oahu, I could not really believe there was such a place as stunningly beautiful as that on earth..... by the third time to Hawaii, the turquoise ocean and the lush island were old hat.

Same with Paris - of course, the first time was magical, the second and third and fourth time there I found the city overcrowded with tourists, boring, overhyped, and no longer a fascinating place.

Funny thing is, back when I was younger and had not been to these places before, I used to hate it when people would say these thing about the places I longed to visit - I felt like they were being snobby.... funny that 20 years later I would say the very same things.

But I digress. Germany this time around was a different experience. Things didn't have that magical grasp on me that they did the first time around, when I actually fell in love with the place and wanted to work there - right there in Germany. This time, the countryside was asleep, beer gardens by the river closed for the winter, wineries taking a little breather while their wines slept. The cold weather threatened often to snow, so people stayed inside as much as possible.

So, not every moment I spent in Germany this time around was infused with magic. But there were still moments I enjoyed very much, and infused me with a love for the place. These are some of them:

1. Staying at Steinheuer in Heppingen, Ahr

Steinheuer is a luxury inn and restaurant in the Ahr Valley, in the town of Heppingen. Funny that I should list staying in a hotel as one of my high points, but it was. This was such a lovely treat. First off, the establishment is a 2 star Michelin restaurant. Now, my restaurant experience was just okay, again because it was my second time there - I had been there on my first Germany trip. But we had not stayed in the hotel.

The hotel has everything I would want in a hotel - modern amenities and comfortable furniture, all done in such a way that I actually thought "I could live here!" The attention to detail made me wish that I had such attention to detail in my own home. Everything was perfect, down to the walk-in shower in a room almost separate from the bathroom, a glass vanity, soft lighting, fresh flowers, a desk, magazines, fresh fruit and cutlery. The room wasn't huge, but every bit of space was well utilized to provide comfort. I could have stayed in this hotel all through the trip! And best of all, it was upstairs from the 2 star dining room, so after dinner I could just stagger upstairs, which is a little thing I love about these places in Europe!

Rudi Wiest had already warned us it would be a great place to stay, and my expectations were exceeded!

Oh, and aside from the dinner we had at Steinheuer (which was excellent, but a bit rich for me for that evening), we had a sumptuous breakfast the next day, where they cook your eggs to order and have such a spread....... like I said, if only I could have spent 10 days staying at this hotel! When my husband and I go to Germany on a trip, we will definitely stay and eat at Steinheuer!

Info: Gabrielle and Hans Stefan Steinheuer (proprietors - she is the front of the house manager, and he is the chef)

Phone: (0 26 41) 9 48 60

Note: the photo above is a photo I took of the Steinheuer sign in front of the hotel and restaurant when I was there in September of 2007. Note the lush green hill in the background. I didn't have a photo from this winter...... it was not green in the background.

2. Vineyard walk in Bodenheim

In the town of Bodenheim at the end of our trip, we didn't stay at a nice hotel. It was "just okay." Which is perfectly fine, really, after all, I am very appreciative that on these trips we all get our own room and don't have to share, because I really love my personal time! Anyway, Bodenheim is a town near Nackenheim, and for some reason on this trip, we were not able to stay in Nackenheim a few steps away from the Gunderloch winery, but instead we stayed in the next town over. Bodenheim is also a wine town, but nowhere that I had heard of, so I am assuming it doesn't have any international renown.

At any rate, this was towards the end of our trip, and I had been doing a lot of sitting and eating. My body had been aching for a walk, and though I had taken a small couple of walks in the Mosel, they were not nearly enough. So one morning, I got up relatively early, and decided to take off into town.

Town was not that attractive, not super quaint, though it was old. That's why I was so happy to find that I had reached the edge of town rather quickly, and, after looking this way and that, to make sure it was okay for me to walk into the vineyard, I started trekking up. And up and up! The ground was a bit frozen but was defrosting in the rising sun. Bits of snow were still left over from the previous night's light dusting. The vines were bare, quiet, knobby. A few people were working on them still, pruning them more it seemed.

I kept walking and walking, up the hillside, feeling the blood returning to my dormant legs. The sun kept rising, and the image of that sunrise over the mist, bathing the brown vineyard and the town below, with its church steeple the highest point among the buildings - it made Bodenheim so much more attractive to me than initially. No longer was this just another poor wine village with no particular fame that serves substandard bar food that gives German food a bad name. It was now a pretty jumble of rooftops nestled in the hills like something out of a movie.

I don't know if it was the endorphins from a bit of physical activity, or what, but that put me in a good mood for a while.

3. Walking through Mainz in the cold evening

It seems like all my really positive memories came near the end of my trip! Perhaps I was starting to feel happy that I would be home soon.

Mainz is where I believe all Rudi Wiest trips end - after all the work is done, the work of visiting all 26 plus estates in 9 or so days, there is one day left to relax and go shopping in the old town of Mainz. I don't know that much of Mainz other than the man Gutenberg was born here, and he was responsible for inventing the printing press. If you wish to know more, please Google!

My experience with Mainz is a positive one, probably also because I get to walk. On this trip, it happened to be a miserable rainy, almost snowy evening when we went to Mainz, so the others in my group retired to a bar, while I decided to take to the streets, in spite of the rain and cold. I ended up taking some cool pictures of the buildings in the night. I didn't really buy anything but I enjoyed being out there. It made me feel adventurous.

Also nice about this town and this shopping area is the furry of activity - there are people walking through this shopping area on their way home from work and and school. So it is a town that is old but very much alive, and I always like that about places, such as London, where things seem so old but all the old buildings are used for something. Same with places in Belgium such as Brussels and Gent.

Love that! I didn't capture a lot of people on film here because it was kind of miserable out, but here are a couple of pics.


Samantha Dugan said...

Beautiful pictures there lady!

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