Germany – Land of Words We Don’t Understand

The next stop on our adventure was the Moselle region of Germany. The Moselle river is a tributary of the Rhein river. It’s in a beautiful valley and is known for Riesling. It took us about 3 and a half hours to get there. We arrived early afternoon to a beautiful day.

Villa Vinum – Cochem, Germany

I booked this hotel before we left on our trip (it’s the tall building closest to the river in the photo). Phil was very concerned about it. He cross referenced the hotel with a couple of travel websites and didn’t like some of the photos of the rooms he saw. In fact, he emailed the hotel about the photos on the website and they assured him our room would be lovely. It had such good ratings and reviews in multiple languages that we booked it and I’m so glad we did. The hotel is simply beautiful.

Our room was spacious and modern in an old world elegant building. I love the clean lines, the simple use of white duvet covers, grays with a splash of color.

Huge room, high ceilings and great windows
Not only is it very comfortable after a long day on my feet but also I don’t have to fight for my share of the comforter

The bed was super comfortable which is important after a long day of hiking/walking. The breakfast was plentiful. We’d easily be able to make sandwiches and pack a lunch here.  And if you wanted, they had a great honor bar for drinks and snacks. I would along with a ton of people on trip advisor would highly recommend this hotel.

Things to Do in Cochem

On the afternoon we arrived, we walked along the river and explored the tiny streets of the old town. It’s lovely, as if it were straight out of a fairy tale.

Beautiful streets
out of the pages of a fairy tale

Just a little history…the town was originally settled in 886. Louis XIV’s troops completely destroyed the castle in 1689 by burning it down.  It was occupied by Napoleon in 1794. It remained  under French rule until 1815. At which time it became part of Prussia. The castle was a ruin for 200 years.

The Imperial Castle dominates the landscape. It is spectacular.

Phil took this shot – it shows beautifully how the castle dominates the landsape

We took the guided tour. The tour was mostly conducted in German but the tour guide provided us with a printed guide in English (and one in Dutch for the Dutch folks and one in Spanish for the Spanish folks….) and she would periodically speak to us in English when there was something particular she wanted us to see or understand. The tour was great; one of the best we’ve been on. The castle is a magnificent.

From everywhere in the town, the castle is always visible

Here’s the background on it. The castle ruins were purchased by Louis FrĂ©deric Jacques RavenĂ© in 1866. I’m not certain who one purchases runs from; especially in this case with the non-standard changes in ownership that the castle had experienced over the prior 300 years or so. But he bought it and reconstructed the exterior of the castle according to old plans and images of the castle. He changed the inside, not the façade.  Inside it is a 19th century chateau.

The castle is so photogenic – it’s hard to refrain from showing you tons of pictures
Inside is beautiful as well

In 1942, the descendants of RavenĂ© were forced “to sell” the castle to the Reich. Since 1978 the castle has belonged to the town of Cochem. There is constant restoration work going on in the castle, in fact we got to see some of the work being done.

As with any home, you’re never done
Tedious work done by hand – you need a good eye and a strong back

The restoration company also does a little Marketing….

Brochures for tour visitors to take if they need to get their castle restored….

The weather was beautiful while we were in Cochem. In fact it has been warmer than usual. We checked in with the local tourist office to see what walking/hiking circuits were in the area. Let me tell you this isn’t France, the woman was less than helpful. She did give us a map. We asked her if the trails were well marked she didn’t know. She told us where it started and was done with us. As it turns out they are marked, in fact there are markers right in front of the tourist office. Perhaps, she’s never noticed them or maybe her English isn’t all that good….Perhaps not.

Trails were marked in the town, in the hills, all around

Well enough of that, we planned to walk up the mountain to get a good view of the river valley. There’s a chair lift, but that’s not for us, we were walking up. Thank goodness we had our poles with us. The night before we left we went back and forth, do we take our poles or not? The problem with our poles (soon not to be the problem with mine as one of the handles broke in the CĂ©vennes incident) is they don’t fit in our luggage. There are newer ones that fold up smaller than ours, but until this trip ours were in perfectly good shape and I couldn’t bring myself to spend $200 each on new poles when we had perfectly good poles. So instead I spent $50 on a new duffle bag to carry them in. The path was incredibly steep and rocky. I don’t sweat a lot usually, it drives Phil crazy, I was dripping with sweat on this trek. The views were certainly worth it.

We had packed sandwiches at breakfast and ate on a big lounge chair bench.

Rolling hills for as far as we could see

After lunch we ventured a little further, to find nothing but switchbacks going down. We knew we didn’t have time (nor would Phil’s knee make it) to go to the next site, so we would basically be going down, just to go no where, turn around and come back up. That seemed crazy; we agreed and headed back in the direction we came. At the top of the chair lift was a cafĂ©, we stopped for some refreshments before taking the lift down. This is where Phil had his first Kaffe Macchiato in Germany.

The brown building on the left is Zum Onkel Willi

Restaurant Scene: Cochem, Germany


I can’t and wouldn’t recommend the hotel. It’s a 3 star hotel and has a 2.7 rating on Google. Stay away! But for lunch it was good. We can’t complain. We ate out on the terrace overlooking the Moselle River. Phil had a bowl of soup to start. Beef soup with some knödels (dumplings). He enjoyed it. We both ordered the Salat Thunfishch. It was a huge mixed salad with tuna and it was great.   The salad was salads within a salad. It included some delicious German potato salad, a great cucumber salad (on the list and he ate most of it) and a mixed salad with lots of vegetables. The tuna was wonderful. It was an excellent choice. Phil had his first German beer of the trip and was in heaven.

A great salad – all the vegetables tasted as if they were picked that morning
View from the terrace of the Burg-Hotel

Zum Onkel Willi

Our hotel recommended this restaurant. They made reservations for us at eight. Germans tend to eat a little earlier than the French so by eight you’d expect to see the place full with people. On the walk over we passed a Mexican restaurant that was just hoppin, so we expected to see the same thing here. When we arrived, it wasn’t all that crowded I have to admit I was concerned; I was also hungry.

The server gave us our menus and proceeded to tell us that he only spoke German and Italian. He also made it pretty clear he wasn’t speaking Italian to the Americans. The menu was completely in German. I do recognize that we are in Germany and if a German were in the US they would have a snowball’s chance in hades to find a German menu, so there is no value judgment here at all.  We could sort of kind of figure out big sections, like Pork (Schweine), Beef (Rumpsteak), and Fish (Fisch) but any deeper than that it was all Greek, no German to us. We also are familiar with the word schnitzel.   The server was no help. We ordered our aperitifs – a beer and a kir and got to work with google translate. I am not kidding you, it took us 30 minutes to decipher what we wanted to eat. At this point, we’re not sure or what we are ordering in a restaurant that is practically empty and we’re using our data on the French phone. It’s so comical thinking back on it, it wasn’t at the time.

30 intensive minutes of work and we we’re totally certain of what we had ordered

We both started with soup. I had cream of white asparagus soup. It Asparagus Season: Spargelzeit and spargel menus are everywhere. My soup was great. I also didn’t need any help to translate this one – “Spargelcremesuppe”. It was terrific. I was pleased with my choice and thinking the hotel hadn’t steered us wrong.

So far so good….

Phil had a vegetable soup. It was pureed. It was good too.

It’s hard to believe that it took us 30 minutes for Phil to decide to have a steak with mushroom gravy, frites, and green beans. It came with a side green salad. His meal was terrific.

I had pork schnitzel, with potatoes (looked like McDonald’s hash browns) in a mushroom cream sauce. I didn’t come close to finishing it, but it was really good. No dessert tonight. We were stuffed. It was very good.

Huge portions…Hearty food

Neos Restaurant | Weinbar

We decided to do a little research on our restaurant the second night. Phil found Neos, it had good google and trip advisor ratings. We asked the hotel to make reservations and they told us it was new and they had heard very good things about it. Works for us. Turns out they also had cards for the restaurant on their counter.

While we were walking around we scouted out the restaurant. Phil snapped a photograph of the menu they were displaying and spent at least 45 minutes in the afternoon translating.

We arrived at 8PM and were greeted by our server who spoke remarkable English. We sat on the patio. The weather was warm. The sun was still high in the sky. The view of the river was great. The server brought us English menus. I’m still not sure if Phil was happy (he’d be sure he knew what he was eating or angry to have wasted all that time where he could have been playing his guitar). Beer and peach aperitif to start with some fresh out of the oven bread with garlic cream.

Hot out of the oven
Peach liquor from Cochem – I don’t think we will find this in California

Phil started with cream of asparagus soup. After last night and all that food, I opted out of an appetizer. I tasted his soup. These Germans can really make good Spargelcremesuppe!

I was the carnivore tonight. A filet with boiled potatoes and you guessed it white asparagus topped with hollandaise sauce. As I am writing this we are about 20 minutes from going to dinner and I’d love to be transported back to this meal. The steak was perfectly medium rare. The asparagus were tender and the hollandaise was light and wonderful. I’m sure the potatoes were good, they just weren’t the star of the meal.


Phil was feeling like a little Italian tonight. Pasta with shellfish in a light wine sauce. I heard no complaints from the other side of the table.

All Phil’s favorites – pasta and shellfish

It was getting cool so we moved inside for an espresso. Our server shared with us that he learned English in school.  The game changer for him was a few years back an English couple spent a ton of time at the restaurant and bolstered his confidence.  Often, confidence is the key to fluency.  He no longer worried about making mistakes, he just spoke.  On our way back to the hotel we stopped for gelato at Gelateria Fratelli Bortolot. Their website is giving a 404 error so here’s their address Moselpromenade 1. It was delicious and reasonable priced. We were predictable, Phil had chocolate and I had coffee.

Gelateria Fratelli Bortolot. Moselpromenade 1

We spent two nights in Cochem. It was long enough. We could have stayed longer and done more hiking. It would have been beautiful, but we were off to Heidelberg to catch up with more good friends and meet their new son.

Here are a few more photos that I just love…

The frog is really a lion in armor
Louis Fréderic Jacques Ravené and his family
View of the other side of the river
View from the castle
Us at the castle
An unexpected good thing – Spargel Season in Germany


2 thoughts on “Germany – Land of Words We Don’t Understand

    1. White asparagus is everywhere – and it is soooo tasty! Phil isn’t a huge aspargus fan and he admitted this stuff is pretty good! Heidelburg is next….stay tuned!

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