There's something magic to me about waking up after a good night's sleep in a quiet country town with nothing particular to do on the day save to walk to the next night's bed. As weak, watery light slipped through the windows, I packed everything up again for my last solo day on the Moselsteig, feeling both excited that I was going to see my partner in a few short hours and yet also a little bit sad that my time to myself would soon be coming to end. I haven't traveled on my own since a week or two in the summer of 2007, and a few weeks in August-September 2001, and I'd forgotten the pleasures of being on your own. Unlike virtually every other part of my life, it's freeing to do pretty much whatever the heck you're want to do on your own schedule without taking anyone else's feelings into account. Oh, you want to just sit here and stare at the river for a while? Cool. You want to wander around the supermarket without any real intent of getting out of their any time soon? No problem. But of course there'a also some kind of satisfaction that I get from just walking with Dan, looking at stuff together, being the recipient of random plantsplaining, and it's also kind of cool to do my best to translate and interpret a lot of the oddball specifically German stuff that's going on. I figure that it's probably interesting to an outsider as to what's going here a lot of the time... well, I hope. If not, uh, sorry, Dan!
Breakfast was way above par for a small country guesthouse; I was especially impressed by the first appearance of scrambled eggs and bacon, which I hadn't seen previously. There didn't seem to be any English guests, so who knows why that was there, but even so: delicious. Add some peach-passion fruit yogurt, strong coffee with that funny condensed "coffee milk" that I secretly kind of like, and fresh rolls with butter and honey and I was very, very well prepared for what was looking to be a pretty dang soggy walk.
All of the winegrowers' fears seemed to be coming true: low temperatures, minimal to zero sunshine, and ongoing drizzle moving to rain and back for a few days. This is of course pretty dang deadly if you're trying to grow healthy, ripe grapes: the last thing you need is a bunch of grapes that don't have enough sugar to ferment into anything approaching saleable wine, and which are now covered in all kinds of gross molds and mildews that are going to make it taste bad or kill a lot of the fruit. Not good. So I suited up for rain, paid my bill, then changed into my dirty boots at the front door and got going.
Right from the start it was lightly rainy, but not too bad. I wandered down into the village to see if i could peek into the church, but nope, shut. I passed a decent looking grocery store, but I'd remembered to move the Landjaeger into my pack from the room's fridge. I passed the Moselsteig-Hotel, which looked comfy, and then the village pretty much gave out into vineyards, although there one or two interesting looking buildings semi-out of town, like a spectacular house that had an enormous dining room with huge glass windows on both sides, giving an uninterrupted view down to the Mosel on one side and back to the Eifel mountains on the other. There was also some odd office building that frankly resembled that Jerry Lewis set from the 1950s - Bellboy, I think? - in seeming to be designed to parody the very thing it actually was, with full frontal views into each and every drone's cubicle workspace. To be honest, I'd kind of dig working there.
Monzel had also set up a wine education path, so it was amusing to read their excuses for Rivaner (prop tip: there aren't any), and then continue through the supposedly famous Kaetzchen vineyard and on up the hill. This is about when I decided that my Dad's coffee mug was obviously designed to describe the weather here as well. My Dad lives in London, and he found this garish, terrible, entirely awesome coffee mug years back with a map of Britain on it with weather descriptions such as "increasingly shitty" and "briskly shitty". Right here, up on top of the cliffs in the open vineyards, the weather was decidedly moving to insouciantly shitty. As it started to rain even more, the trail moved into a forest for a little bit and then popped out at a BBQ party hut where I stood for a few minutes, texted Dan, who'd landed at Frankfurt airport and had made it to the Flibco bus stop, and then decided what the hell, my clothing is fine, this weather isn't going to get any better, and I should just suck it up. After all, if you're walking through shitty weather, the best thing to do is to keep walking: you'll keep yourself warm, and you'll obviously improve the chances of happening across a nice, warm Konditorei where you could stop in, warm up, and have a bit to eat. The trail then started making its way down to a bridge across the river, the shit-o-meter moved slightly to the right in terms of intensity and pissing-down-ness, and then I was at the bridge, which given its totally exposed location represented a new level of annoyance: it was windy af AND there were huge trucks barreling across, sending up plumes of spray. Oh, joy. But as always, the best thing to do is to just keep moving, which i did, holding on to my hat and my rain kilt and just hoping to cross as quickly as possible without losing anything.
On the other side of the river, there was another town with nothing particularly interesting to stare at other than repeated murals of zeppelins (something to do with their local claim-to-fame vineyard, Graf Zeppelin). In theory, there would also be somewhere to stop and get a coffee, but noooope, the one cafe wasn't open except for the third Tuesday of the month at thirty minutes either side of high tide in Pattaya, or something, so fuck you, hikers, nothing for you here. Alas.
Starting up into the hills again through vineyards, I realized that the forest is your best friend if it's raining. It's just a lot more comfortable if the rain is mostly hitting leafy stuff above you and not making direct hits. Anyhow, I decided I had to keep power-walking out of this grey and into the forest, which I did, passing a couple who stopped to remove bunches of grapes to eat while walking (tacky! Also, gross. Those things have a lot of seeds in them and probably aren't even ripe, ya dolts.) I passed them, made it up into the forests, and started to enjoy the walk more as I could peek out of the forest and down to the light industrial complexes along the river to my left. Somewhere in there were also the offices of Mosellandtouristik GmbH, the people that developed this trail and do all of the marketing for it; at one point, I had thoughts of stopping at a supermarket in the previous town and buying them a nice box of chocolates so that I could stop in and say hello with a thank-you present, but dang it, no markets to be found, terrible weather, blah blah blah so that's a nice thing that didn't happen. Stopping to take a picture of some plainly happy cows, I saw that Dan had made it onto the bus from Frankfurt/Main airport to Morbach, which meant he was definitively on his way to Bernkastel-Kues, so yay, good news, and I was on track to reach Bernkastel at roughly the same time.
I had been seeing signs for what I assumed was a shelter for some time, and yay, eventually it popped up on the left, along with a view over to Landshut castle, albeit one that was virtually indistinguishable from watching a panel of wetly roiling grey. It was a fine spot to rest up for a bit, enjoy being out of the rain, and have a sausage and a piece of bread while waiting for the rains to ebb. The grape thieves arrived and sat staring out into the rain, mutely. Getting ready to leave, I decided to ask them if they were from around here, which as it turns out they more or less were (or at least from Rheinland-Pfalz, I gathered). They'd been on the trail this same week in September 2016 and had enjoyed it so much - the warm temperatures, the happy sun - that they came back this year. Whoops, sorry, no nice weather for you. But they'd brought their bikes and had managed to salvage their vacation in spite of everything.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll take a minute to express my relief that my German is still reasonably good. The only proof I have for this is the questions I get about where I'm from; there is a kind of continuum here, ranging from "So, what corner of Germany do you come from?" to "So when did you emigrate?". As far as I can honestly tell, I don't have a specifically American accent, and everything I'm saying is mostly grammatically okay, so I'm guessing that if you're a German speaker and you find yourself talking to me, you're probably going to realize at some point that there is something vaguely off about the way I sound, but it's also going to be subtle enough so that you will never think "oh, he must be an American." I find this amusing (and I'm also kinda proud of this). And I'll stop here, because ugh. Bragging. :)
Right. When the castle reappeared out of the murk, I knew it was time to keep going, so I did. On through the forests again and on towards the Annakapelle, a something bland yay-Mary-thanks-for-the-help number just on the other side of a short detour around a fallen rock. On the way, I passed another couple, this time ones outfitted in obvious through hiker gear, a tall bearded fella and his much smaller wife; as I was admiring the slowdown in rain night to stopping at the chapel, they arrived, we said hello, and then they had a couple of questions for me. One: What the heck is THAT? (pointing to my rain kilt). I explained that I was American, that it came from Salt Lake City, and then explained how it worked (Velcro closures, lightweight, keeps the rain out). They were impressed, because they were sweaty and gross under their rain pants. If I see them again, I mean to give them ULA's URL. Next question: So, are you a pilgrim? Nope, so I asked them if they were doing the Moselkamino, but also no - we were all just hiking the entire Moselsteig, turns out, but I was in a hurry to see all of the Stations of the Cross while the rain had stopped, so I said goodbye for now, I'm sure we'll see each other again, and they continued on to the castle.
Disappointed in bland, unoriginal Stations, I continued along as well, happy that it wasn't too far to the castle, known for its warm, inviting, modern cafe inside that Oh good God turns out was closed on Wednesday. I swear, this is really starting to be a thing on this trail. Over and over again, the books tell you about such-and-so awesome place to eat and it is never, ever open when you're there. Alas. It was however windy as hell up at the castle, so fearing the rain kilt would turn into a rain spinnaker and decide to fuck off to Belgium without me, I got out of there quickly and headed down into town, passing a sign about a cafe halfway down the mountain that apparently actually was open - WHAT - so decided to stop there if it was, which it was.
I decided to leave my pack outside after nearly knocking over their cute decorative ball-tree-things, and then warmed up a bit enjoying the view and eating some crappy microwaved Zwiebelkuchen and some decidedly mediocre Federweisser. I swear, sometimes you really can't go home again. These were things that I loved as a student in Tuebingen when I was 19, but sometimes luck is not on your side and you get garbage variants at outrageous prices (because view), but hey. You're stil on vacation and not in your cubicle, so whatever. Checking my phone, Dan had made the theoretically impossible bus connection from Morbach to the Bernkasteler Doctor-Brunnen bus stop, yay, which meant I need to pay up, get out, and get down the hill to his bus stop ASAP.
I paid, hoisted the pack, and started down the trail, passing two old men who were grumpy about letting me pass, and then realized whoops, no gloves. Grrr. But it wasn't far back to the cafe, and just before I got there were two friendly people holding my gloves for me. Wow! So dang nice. I said thank you, turned around, passed the now Even Grumpier Old Men again, and hightailed it down into town... which turned out to be a seething morass of Very Slowly Moving People Enjoying the Quaint As Fuck Village of Bernkastel. Ugh, slow people. Yark. And SO MUCH ENGLISH. I'm guessing that one of those dumb river cruises for old people had pulled into town as well as a Rick Steves Europe for Dummies bus. This town was packed with Americans, Dutch, and of course other random white people enjoying the stultifying quaintness. (Which means me, the only Asians I've seen so far were at the Karl Marx House in Trier. I can only assume they were Chinese...)
At the bus stop, nothing. Find My Friends suggested Dan was still a few minutes out, so I enjoyed the people watching, including the very obviously European bears being very obviously European bearish along the side of the river. Can't really explain that, but it was like they'd taken a direct Tardis from Sitges. It was amusing.
And then Dan, yay, scampering off of the bus. It was good to see the little fella again. We pushed out way upstream against the sloooow sightseers and checked in to the Maerchenhotel, or Fairy-Tale Hotel, which was twee as heck, but certainly just fine. We were shown to our "romantic room," wallpaper covered in roses with two tiny windows overlooking the old town, unpacked a bit, and then decided to take advantage of the suddenly sunny weather by going out for a glass of wine. We walked down to town the back way to avoid the crowds; I was amused to see ancient wine caves dug into the side of the hill still very much obviously in use.
Down in town, I stopped by the tourist information office for a long, awkward dance around which stamps they would give me for my stamp book, and was gently chewed out for daring to write in the numbers of the days I'd hiked the trail for which I had no stamps. Germans gonna German, right? But eventually I charmed my way into getting all of the stamps I wanted without too much fuss, that was that, and then we stepped outside into amazing full-on sun... nice. Off to the right, there was a potentially good-looking wine bar, which upon closer inspection turned out to be a potentially kick-ass wine bar, but it was closed. Sniff! But no, wait, there's a woman coming up to the locked door! She unlocked it, I asked when she opened - well, 4 p.m., but why not right now? - and so we sat down at a table outside is the sun and enjoyed two stunningly good glasses of Riesling to welcome the Marmot to his European fall adventure on the Mosel.
Of course, sun doesn't last long in these parts, so we moved indoors just before the rain completely kicked in again, and as the owner rushed back in with the rescued coasters and such from the table, we sat down in the comfy corner in the bar for two more glasses: a Pinot blanc and a Pinot noir blanc de noir, neither of which were as good as the first, but still okay. She brought over some delicious peanuts, put on a slide show of the local sights on the massive HDTV, and we enjoyed chatting a bit about what to see in the region. I also asked about the name of the bar - Tresor - and it turns out she'd opened it three years ago in the previous Sparkasse (a bank), hence the name. It was a really wonderful place to stop for a break, super comfortable and with great wines, and I was happy.
Next up was a stop at Weinhaus Porn, if only because I am obviously twelve years old and thought the name was funny. But again, surprise, it was a very finely curated wine shop with a lot of interesting bottles. I eventually wound up asking about a Fruehburgunder, which I was told was definitely Pinot, not Meunier, so I figured what the heck, might as well buy it and drink it with my Dad this weekend, so into the pack it went.
And that was it for our city sightseeing. Dinner was at 6 in the hotel, a 4 course meal that ranged from just OK to not bad and right back to just OK. Still, I have to say that sometime it doesn't matter what exactly you eat as long as it's convenient and you don't have think about it (no choices on a fixed menu). The accompanying wines were both cheap and inexpensive - only cost a few bucks more, but were mostly meh, including a crap French Syrah (vin des jardins de la France or whatever, I'm guessing), but whatever, VACATION yay and then it was upstairs and off to sleep... well, until the room turned into an oppressively hot sweat box due to a misunderstanding on my part of how the towel heating apparatus worked, but once the windows were opened everything eventually cooled off and we slept.