I woke up around sunrise, peeking around the church just outside the window to see the heinous new bridge lurking like an unwanted Twitter follower who won't stop telling you how awesome they are. I checked in with my Dad; he and my Mom had made it safely to Traben-Trarbach the day before and had enjoyed supper with our very distant relative Heike, who had taken the time to drive down for the evening to say hello. I last saw Heike in 1985, when I had taken the train to Hanover to say hello, and then made an unscheduled stopoff in Bielefeld on the way back to visit my friend Bret - without telling my host family, which of course was the kind of really, really dumb thing a 16 year old kid might do for various reasons. But I digress.
Today's walk looked to be fairly easy, and the weather looked to be relatively good, certainly much calmer than the day before, so I told my Dad we'd probably show up around 12h45. Everything packed and ready to go, we headed down to the breakfast room, which was hopping with jovial vacationers enjoying a very fine spread indeed. The owner showed us to our table - and she'd even parked a bottle of their grape juice there, hooray! - and fetched coffee and made sure that we had everything we needed. It felt like being home, somehow - like she really cared that we enjoyed our breakfast, which we certainly did. The rolls were tasty, the butter delicious, and, well, it was once again the kind of amazing German breakfast that I wish I could get at home. We finished our coffee, I settled the bill, and then we took off back up the hill towards the trail.
A minute or two later, though, I realized that I couldn't find my gloves, so I looked back, and yeah, there they were on the ground. Whoops. But wait, no, it was just one, so I headed back down to the hotel, searched the room, and eventually found the missing glove down by the church - I'd wandered around a bit before taking off and it must have fallen off when I adjusted my pack. So, back up the hill, back up to the trail, this time with two gloves and rain gear at hand for whenever the rain started back up.
Once the trail reached the top of the hill, it was fairly smooth going, tracking the ridge line nicely without much to disrupt the flow. Forests and brooks, gentle ups and downs, mostly with reasonable visibility down to the Mosel, and it was just dang nice. I kept my rain gear on as it was still dribbling out here and there, but it wasn't anything much, and it was good walking. Eventually, we came to a small chapel with some very hip 1920s icons inside, and I took the rain gear apart banking on fine weather for the rest of the day. At this point, I was pretty sure we were above the Kroever Nacktarsch vineyard, so floated the possibility of taking a picture of my admittedly magnificent backside, but decided that having certain things online might not help with future job hunting should it come to that, so nixed the idea. I wound up having a bit of a conversation with an older gentleman resting with his wife about the local geography; he explained that there would be some interesting signs up ahead talking about the Devonian clay slate soils in the area, etc.; even more amusingly, at some point his wife suggested that he slow down that I could understand him, which wasn't necessary but I did appreciate her concern.
From there, past the geology signs, it was largely quick and easy, with no surprises weather or trail-wise, with fine views down to the river and fast, gentle walking. Eventually, there was a theoretical French castle ruin that I couldn't actually see (there were signs, but no signs of the ruins themselves, I guess), and then a sort-of airport with a charmingly dilapidated restaurant with a couple enjoying a glass of wine outside in the sun overlooking the runway. I said cheers and kept walking. Past the airport, the trail started making noises about heading back down to the river and the town of Traben; on the way into town, I again fell into conversation with another couple, this time a couple from Delmenhorst who had been vacationing in Traben for years and who were emphatic about how weird the weather was this year. We also discussed all of the changes they'd seen in their own garden over the years, which was now weirdly devoid of insects due to the changes brought about by global warming; even worse, apparently the changes meant that dairy farms nearby were now stickier than ever (ugh). I confessed that I was happy that I had never had children because I didn't think the world was getting much better for everyone, and on that sort-of grim note we parted company, each trying to figure out where we were in relation to our destinations. For us, it was just a few short blocks to Barfly, a cocktail bar with two holiday flats stacked above. Dan saw it first, and then I looked up and saw my Dad waving out of the upstairs window. Cool! He'd been using Find My Friends on his new iPhone to watch us walk all day and was excited to head downstairs to let us in.
It was good to see my parents again. They're both getting up there in years; I'll just say that they were both alive for at least a part of World War II, so it's great that they can still travel, in this case from London to Frankfurt-Hahn, so that we can see each other from time to time. Now, given that I had just hiked six stages back to back, my first priority was getting the laundry done to reduce the faint smell of dirty hiker from my backpack, and my second priority was to get something to eat because I was hungry. I figured I'd just lay down the law, what with it almost being my birthday, and tell them that we were staying in tonight and that I was going to go get groceries to assemble a supper for everyone. That seemed just fine with everyone, so I started a load of laundry upstairs and headed out to ALDI and Edeka to get some grub.
Traben was charming as expected, with streets thankfully less congested than Bernkastel. It wasn't too long to the old train station, so I did the shopping, picking up a lot of delicious things that I hadn't seen in years (Federweisser and Zwiebelkuchen for my parents, Buendnerfleisch, prosciutto di San Daniele, Parma ham, Bavarian blue cheese, Baerlauch cheese, and a bunch of other things as well for everyone.) Also, some shower gel as I keep forgetting that not every hotel has soap on offer, and some cheesy stuff like Miracoli and peanut flips (think German junk food) for purely nostalgic reasons. Add some fresh bread from the bakery, mineral water, and random beers (thank God for smoked Maerzen, yum) and we were well and truly set for a feast, which we enjoyed together while chatting about this and that.
And that was that!