We wandered down to breakfast together and found... no one. Hm. Apparently fancy hotels are different than standard hotels in that no one is around to help you get your breakfast at the otherwise standard German breakfast time of 8 A.M. I poked around, found a surprised cleaning lady, who then yelled into the kitchen for the restaurant lady to come help us. Tables were missing glasses, there wasn't any coffee yet, but she brought out a thermos of coffee and we set upon the buffet, which was frankly pretty good (especially the fresh scrambled eggs). Dan even decided that yes, we absolutely needed a glass of Rotkaeppchen extra dry sparkling wine, so woooo, might as well. We're on vacation! Throw in some fresh bread, good butter, and honey just-dripped from an ostentatiously large honeycomb, and I was satisfied.
The weather report looked poor: rain, rain, and more rain, and we had a ways to walk, so I figured we had best just get on with it and get going. We packed our sacks, got dressed in ALL the rain gear, and went downstairs to check out... and were told by the cleaning lady that no, this was impossible, the check-out lady didn't get there for at least another twenty minutes. The fuck? After weeks of staying at small family-run guesthouses where the same person is making your breakfast and taking your money, it was annoying to run into German bureaucracy like that. Thankfully, the restaurant lady took pity upon us and telephoned the check-out lady so that she'd get to work just a bit earlier to get us out of there. We hit the trail just before 9, walking out into a light rain that wasn't too bad. The trail immediately set about heading uphil; this was the same path as the Bernkasteler Baerensteig for the first bit. The rain quickly intensified into just enough to remove all chances of seeing any kind of vistas, but it still wasn't bad enough to seep into boots or packs, so we kept going. My stated goal was just to get to the Kloster Machern brewery restaurant, where I figured I could dry out and get a fine lunch to distract from being cold and soaking wet.
Eventually the trail struggled its way up to the top of the plateau, where the rain intensified still further. Somewhere along the way, there was a huge wall of freshly-moved gravel or something off to the right, so we detoured from the trail to explore. This was quite clearly a new highway under construction that we correctly assumed would connect with the giant bridge they're building over by Uerzig. Wild.
From here, there were still about ninety minutes to go until the brewery. As I got colder and wetter, I figured that there wasn't really anything to do except to keep walking: as long as you're walking, you're warm enough, and as long as you keep walking, you're closer to the warm, cozy restaurant, so... keep walking. Finally, the trail started to wind back down towards the river, past an abandoned Jewish graveyard and an annoying bit with demonstration trees and a bunch of small latched gates for no apparent reason other than to look real cute. Finally, we were in town, striding past Germans in cars eating lunch with their Diesel engines running to keep warm. The rain suddenly ratcheted all the way up to seriously annoying levels just as we crossed a long bridge over to the other side of the river, so I went into full power walking mode just to get there as quickly as possible, making the mistake of getting off the trail in hopes of getting to the brewery faster - I had forgotten if the trial went right by the brewery or not, so just followed the pedestrian signage to the brewery.
By the time we arrived, it was raining so hard that it was difficult to see much of anything, even right in front of you. At the brewery, all I could see was a restaurant, a beer shop, and something labeled as the parsonage or something. Hm. And the restaurant was small, cold, with an open door, and all of one table of people, which seemed weird given the dozens of cars in the parking lot. We somehow got all the wet clothing off and sat down at a table, hoping to warm up, but that was simply not going to happen. We ordered beer and schnitzel and then watched as potential customers came in, sat down, closed the door, and then were yelled at by the waitress who insisted the door stay open because it would smell funny in there otherwise. Huh. A cheeky bird kept flying in and pooping on the tables, the waitress chased it out, and eventually showed up with two plates of food that seriously could have come from the frozen food section of ALDI - it was bad. Really bad. And the beer wasn't good either. Finally, another customer came in, had the standard argument about the temperature, and then a friend of theirs came by and said hey, there's a proper restaurant over there, there's no reason to freeze our butts off here.
Aha. So: pro tip: if you go the Kloster Machern brewery-restaurant, the thing that is labeled the restaurant is not the restaurant. I'm guessing that business was so good at the brewery restaurant that they found a tenant to open yet another restaurant in the courtyard of the actual restaurant, and that said tenant is not any good at all at restauranting. Alas. But hey, they can't all be winners. I quickly headed back to the Moselsteig to pick up the section I missed by taking the stairs from the bridge to the brewery, and had a quick look around the rest of the complex: the beer shop was unattended and sad, with only four types of beer on offer; the main restaurant was huge, crowded, warm, and I didn't care to see if the food looked any good because why would I? Dan paid; we left, and just as we turned uphill to rejoin the Moselsteig a few feet from the fake restaurant, the weather kicked over from after-storm showers to actual sunshine, which was delightful. It stayed sunny as we walked back up to the ridge line through vineyards that looked fairly decent as well as multiple huge advertising installations for the brewery, and we could also now see the enormous parking lot on the other side of the brewery, realizing that most customers would come in from there and would therefore never even know that there was a crappy afterthought of a frozen-food restaurant at the back. Ah well.
Up and up we went, eventually arriving at a gazebo with a sign up announcing a detour due to the Moselhochuebergang, the massive bridge across the river at the level of the upper cliffs, not down by the river itself. I'd first seen the bridge from the Landshut castle above Bernkastel; and now it was lurking overhead like a prop from 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY. The trail zagged uphill to the left to avoid one of the big concrete support columns and then eventually disappeared into the woods, where we encountered the fun of huge concrete mixers thankfully slowing down around the blind corners to avoid running over hikers. Leaving the road, the trail then wandered through slick, muddy forest trails, up and down, before arriving at a water treatment plant (small version) and then ducking back down again, oozing down a steep, muddy slope to a small wooden bridge. Trying to avoid a broken plank, I slipped, but caught myself by hugging one of the railings, leaving an amusing stain on my raincoat. A few more steps downwards and then bam, Dan'a GPS piped up and announced that we should turn right and head into town. A few more feet and the dirt track turned into a paved road, complete with sad, decrepit houses... but those quickly turned into well maintained vacation houses, so here we were in Uerzig. The only surprise was MIAU MAIU MAIU coming from somewhere... yes, insanely loud cat noises. Eventually we found the cat responsible, who was obviously upset, hungry, and suffering from some kind of injury to its neck. Couldn't do much about that, alas, so we kept on, headed down to the charming town center, and rang the bell at the Weingut Gaestehaus Derkum. Whoops, looks like they'd expanded next door as well, so I heard someone coming up the stairs from the next door down, and walked down the steps to meet here. She was a charming older woman, likely in her 70s, i'm guessing, and I quickly apologized that although I'd made a reservation for a single room, we were now two people, so did she have anything that would work? She consulted with her daughter-in-law and agreed that sure, they did, now let's just walk over to the elevator and head up there.
An elevator! Amazing! And so was the room: bright and airy and warm and a welcome relief. I asked if she had a newspaper I could put our boots on; she said no, don't make me go back downstairs again (smiling, because she was cool like that), so we agreed just to leave the muddy boots at the front of the room to minimize the necessary clean-up. I thanked her, she went back downstairs, and then we went about cleaning up after the storm and mud, getting everything drying. After a shower and a redress, we then set out to explore town, which was fairly small, devastatingly quaint, and super busy getting ready for the three day annual wine festival which was to start the next day. The sun was out, geese were enjoying the delicious grass along the riverbanks, the Dutch were out in full force with their RVs, sunning themselves in heavy jackets, ashtrays overflowing, and people were happy. Oh, and we were hungry for a good meal after frozen garbage lunch, so we headed back to the winery restaurant at 6, and whoa: BUSY. Most popular place in town by the look of it, and for good reason: Dan fetched the menus, the owner took our order, and she appeared with a bottle of their best Riesling (truly delicious, probably better in 20 years IMO), fresh salads, and a magnificent farmers omelet and a plate of vegetarian spaetzle for me. Yum yum yum. We had two glasses of the best Federweisser I've ever had for dessert, and then called it a night, warm, dry, and happy.