Day 2 and I'm up at eight sharp, ready to get going for the day. Breakfast is once again excellent; the Hotel Rebenhof's owner greets me and sets down my own thermos of coffee next to a plate filled with fresh rolls, meats, and cheeses. They're all mighty delicious, but of course I've been dreaming about breakfasts like this for decades; one of the things I miss most about living in Germany are the wide variety of excellent breads, not to mention the butter, honey, cheese, and pretty much everything else. Sure, I can kind of fake some of these things at Trader Joe's, but absolutely not all of the things.
Somehow, I fall into conversation with the owner, and eventually we discuss Melania Trump's stiletto heels. Alas. But I'm not surprised that the shenanigans going on in the USA are not just a bizarre entertainment for the rest of the world, but also a very real, ongoing concern for many, many reasons. And that's all I'll say about that for now.
The day's trail starts off with a quick jaunt over to another small chapel, this one at the start of a trail that heads off into a quiet woods. It's a bit overcast in the morning, which makes for an especially quiet, atmospheric walk. Fairly early on, I see the other three people I saw the daily before, so there's a very faint tinge of togetherness, which is fine. Eventually, the trail exits near the forest near what's apparently an old mill, but which just looks like a barn or something these days. It's nondescript; there's also a slight bit where you get to walk right on the opposite site of a guardrail along a busy street, but that doesn't last long. Fairly quickly, you turn right and head across lovely open fields towards the small town on Helfant. When I eventually get my pictures sorted out, there'I be a few here, including one of a truly terrible painting of Saint Florian on the side of the fire station as well as probably one of the so-called Helfant Cathedral, which is really just a pleasant small village church. I set down my pack, removed my hat, and enjoyed standing there for a bit. As I left, a woman had stopped by to tend to the flowers on the graves out front; we exchanged hellos and I continued on my way.
Eventually, the trail started to gain some altitude, but slowly. I saw some lovely upper middle class sururban holiday homes with fantastic gardens, a construction site, more grapes, and eventually I started to get hungry enough to read the guide book, which mentioned there being a lovely terraced restaurant called Moselblick that was a nice place to stop for coffee and cake, but nope, no such luck, it's now called Belle Vue and totally closed (possibly even forever; it had the look and all of the houses in the area looked like they were all uninhabited... eerie!)
Up and up a bit more and suddenly just past a wooden shelter (where i stopped for a snack) there was a large blue plastic container filled with obviously starting to ferment grapes AND a shit ton of wasps. Eww. It was the first obvious sign of harvest that I'd seen, which struck me as a little odd because harvest generally wasn't supposed to start for another few weeks. Hello, climate change.
Eventually the trail wound up in another pleasant village with a steep climb up to a cemetery (open) with a chapel (not) plus another one of those bonus-size mega benches which are obviously designed for super luxury lounging, which of course I did immediately. Not having thought to ask for a packed lunch, and not having been willing to have walked back into town from the hotel, my lunch was again 500 mL of Nuun-enhanced water and another pemmican bar, this time Fruit and Nut. Also tasty. The sun was out, the birds were singing, I had a great view over to Luxembourg, so yay. Pure awesomeness. Just as I was getting ready to leave, a couple appeared that I think I'd seen the day before and set themselves down at the smaller, less luxe bench across the way, so I invited them to steal mine, which they respectfully declined. Ah well!
From there it wasn't too much further into Nittel, and the time went by very hickory. My only regret is that I didn't quit figure out that the St. Rochus Chapel was only a few hundred meters off the trail; I had somehow thought it was in town, which it wasn't - and it was enough up the hill from town that made me not want to go there after the day's main hike was done. Sooo I headed down into town, past most of the stations of the cross that would have led up to the Rochus Chapel, through a lovely suburban area (with the only cat sighting of the trip so far, sadly not long enough for a picture!), and then down into town proper, stopping at a bench to eat the final bits of the pemmican bar and throw out my trash.
Tonight's lodgings would be at a small family owned winery and guesthouse, the Pension Heinz Dostert. Now, a word on how I found most of these places to stay: every guidebook I read had a perfunctory list of places with no descriptions, so those weren't helpful. I had originally started using Booking.com to find places, but eventually wondered if I couldn't find better ways of getting rooms booked for this trip. Finally, I realized that pretty much every town was the member of some kind of regional tourist agency, usually that would cover multiple towns with some kind of branding applied. In the case of Nittel, I think I'd used their local tourist board's online booking system to find this place; my usual strategy went like this:
Is it directly on or near the trail? If so, great. Does it have excellent reviews? Is it especially keenly priced? (After all, I'm here to walk, not to enjoy luxury toiletries or extra towels, and even the most basic German breakfast is more than adequate.)
In this case, it wasn't too far off the trail, it was very well priced, and it had the best reviews in town. Compared to the booking.com options, it cost about a third less and was obviously, well, a family-run place with a few rooms and not a large hotel with the full cadre of management and so on. As it turns out, it was AWESOME. The room was absolutely humongous, with access to a balcony with table, chairs, and a fantastic view out to the north towards the Mosel, complete with Nittel's cliffs and plenty of grapevines. Pretty dang idyllic. The bathroom was excellent, the bed huge and comfortable, and most importantly, the innkeeper was incredibly warm and friendly.
I unpacked my stuff, took a shower, and hung out on the balcony with a bottle of sparkling water from the guest honor fridge. (Dang, I love those.) Eventually, I decided it was time to go explore town a bit, so I changed into town clothes (I have one shirt and an extra pair of very lightweight shoes on hand so that I'll always have something clean and dry for heading into town) and left... for the wine explainer trail that I could see from my room. It was a gentle walk up and through the vineyards on the north side of town with helpful signboards explaining the different grapes they grow, and what the different seasons mean here. Lovely. It started to rain a bit, hmm, I get it now, late afternoon rains are a thing, check. I didn't have a raincoat with me so I just pretended like I still lived in Seattle and dealt with it, no worries. As usual, there wasn't anyone around save for a senior walking her dog.
Heading back into town, I walked down the main drag towards the Weingut Apel, which my landlady had pointed out to me as one of the two places open on Monday nights. The town has a charming stream that flows next to the main drag, complete with a separate footpath and lots of "no dog poop, please" signs - pretty dang bucolic.
Meanwhile, at the Weingut, things were happening. It had started to rain a fair bit, but they'd set up tents all along the side of the winery so that guests could still sit outside and enjoy their wine. Half a dozen tables of senior citizens (on a bus tour, I'm guessing) were happily drinking and playing cards; other tables had random couples smoking, reading magazines, and slurping Pinot noir rose. Pretty cool.
I had a glass of Elbling (good, not as good as the Jeger from Palzem) and a pork steak with chanterelles (not great; the pork was fried like schnitzel and there wasn't a sauce at all, just some mushrooms on it, yawn). Oh, and one of those mystery German salads swimming in dressing that tastes like it's got an artificial sweetener banned in the USA since the 1970s... kind of like if Tab had made salad dressing. Weird. Anyhow, the meal was still fine, and I finished up with a glass of their Cuvée Philippe, which was a pretty good mix of Pinot noir and Regent, which is one of those weird-ass German grapes you never see in the States. It was rich, full, and maybe even slightly oaky... I dunno. It struck me as trashy on some level, but I was happy to drink it. If it were an American wine, it would be The Prisoner, I think.
And that was that. After dinner, I walked over to the bakery to see if I could get something for the morning (no dice, they had completely sold out of everything), and then headed down to the train station and back just say I'd seen all of the town. I stopped by the Sparkasse on the way back to the hotel, armed myself with cash because I'm old enough to remember when you could never pay with cards in Germany (apparently no longer the case; I've seen folks using credit cards to buy stuff at ALDI and pretty much everywhere, oddly), and then headed back to the room,, where I hemmed and hawed over whether or not I should buy a bottle of wine or not. Eventually, I gave in and bought a Pinot noir that was okay, not amazing, slightly too sweet in a possibly-chaptalized kind of way, drank a glass, and decided to fill up my 500 mL Nalgene bottle with the rest of it for tomorrow. Feeling tired, pleasantly buzzed, and certainly overhiked for the day, I turned in and had a fantastic night's sleep.