Right on schedule, I woke up around 7 am and got to work. While the coffee was brewing, I took down all the laundry, put away the drying rack, and set about getting the apartment back in shape for the next guests, bundled all the trash in a single bin and cleaning what I could. I felt lucky that we'd been able to find such a fantastic apartment at such a reasonable price and that we'd been able to rent it for only two nights on a busy weekend; it really was an amazing deal.
Just before 8, I pinged my Dad and asked him if he'd like to sneak around the corner with me to get the morning's supplies. We met downstairs and headed over to the bakery. Pain au chocolate for the fellas, a donut just because it looked so American, and a few fresh rolls for my Mom and myself. Back at their flat, we began the day together. I cleaned out everything from the fridge and yesterday's now-stale rolls, and ate random leftovers for breakfast (chicken cold cuts and cheap cheese, not my favorite), and made sandwiches for later in the day (stale dinkel-rye rolls with enough butter to hopefully soften them up, plus prosciutto San Daniele and good German farmer's cheese), packing them in old paper bags from the bakery. After breakfast, I sent Dan upstairs to pack his trash so that I could spend more time with my family before we had to hit the road.
Eventually, the sun started peeking out a bit; looking out the windows, we could still see clouds up at the top of the cliffs, but it was a sure sign that it was time to hit the trail. We said our goodbyes - we'd see each other a few weeks later in San Diego - and I made sure that they had enough salad, bread, and meats and cheeses to keep them going for the rest of the day, and then I gave my parents one last hug before clomping downstairs with my pack.
It was a quick dash through Traben - already, there were clots of tourists clogging the streets - and then across the bridge and up a steep climb to the ruins overlooking Trarbach, which were looking pretty dang ruined in a 19th century picturesque kind of way in the moody sunlight. Plus, there was a fine looking biergarten up there... hmm. Next time! From there, the trail continued further up to the top of the ridge, and then was content to bop up and down a bit, following it along until the turnoff for something called the Zauberhuette, the Magic Hut, which sounded almost cheesy enough to be fun (let's drink a beer at the Magic Hut!), but hey, it was too early in the day for that, so we kept going to a surprise village perched up there with busloads of seniors pushing Zimmer frames from their buses to a cafe with an excellent view of the Mosel and presumably mediocre Kaffee und Kuchen. Again, too early in the day for that, so we continued, passing some kind of VW Jetta graveyard and run-down houses until disappearing back into the forest, and then back over to the ridgeline, looking down to the Mosel below, with pleasantly warm sunlight guiding us all the while.
If memory serves, it was right about then when we saw the first sign with a piece of music on it. Apparently, this next bit was some kind of sing-a-song-along-the-Mosel trail, with truly awful songs posted along the way for you to sing. One of them went something like this: O Mosella, o Mosella, you're not going to drink all the wine yourself, are you? And another one had some lyric about how the Mosel girls are super hot, but then he went to Sweden because he heard their girls were even hotter, but then he realized that no, the Mosel girls are actually way hotter, so suck it, Sweden, it's Mosel girls for him. Yuck.
And right about then a table and benches appeared with a fantastic view, so what else could we do but sit down and enjoy our lunch? A categorical imperative, of course. The butter had softened up the stale bread, so it worked well enough, and there was of course the additional satisfaction of not having wasted anything. Delicious. And then back on the trail, packs slightly lighter, singing terrible songs along the Mosel all the way to the upcoming gentle descent down into a small village surrounded by grapevines and families walking their dogs.
In town, a road construction project had torn up the main street, so following the Moselsteig meant clambering down into a construction site. Fun! I decided to go off trail a bit and go look at the Protestant church, which had a World War I memorial with an awkward -II addendum attached to it, and there I noticed a flyer for a local winery that had decided to open for two final weekends in September. Score! It was right around the corner, totally filled with partygoers, so we dropped our packs outside, bought two glasses of wine, one of which was from a ten year old bottle, hooray!, and found a place to sit... which as it turned out was on a city bench across from the primary school playground, which gave the whole day-drinking thing an extra-louche aspect that I found amusing.
Once the wine was done, we returned the glasses to the friendly staff, suited up, and continued. The trail wound it way along a beautiful stream with apple trees down to the lower village, and then slowly headed back up towards the vineyards, past more wineries filled with families enjoying the sun along with huge plates of what one must assume would have been pork. Then, bam, nothing but vineyards, and to get back up to the ridge, the trail saucily decided it would just head straight uphill between two rows of vines, so gee I hope you have decent hiking poles, good knees, and no problems with a kilometer or so of right up the hill, thanks!
Turns out it wasn't much of a problem - I feel like I must be healthier than I've ever been at this point - and we lap some younger fellas with day packs who are not enjoying the incessant ascent. From there, at the top of the vineyards, the trail once again returned to lazily weaving in and out of the forests at the top of the hills, past what appeared to be a dowsing lesson, and eventually a small, nondescript Marian chapel behind a lawn full of dog shit. The pack of day packers lapped us, we returned the favor, and as we marched on, watching clouds turn dark, it started raining, so we ducked into a convenient gazebo and threw on all the rain gear, which took long enough for the day packers to completely leave us in the dust for the rest of the day. Ah well.
At the gazebo, there was a detour posted, nothing major, so we continued. It stopped raining fairly quickly, leading to a fun round of should I take off all of this stuff now, or keep going in case the rains return? Eventually, at the other end of the detour, I opted to stow all the rain gear and just enjoy the final serpentine descent to the bridge to Reil, our destination for the day. The sun stayed out, we stayed dry, and Reil was looking pretty dang good, except for the ridiculous placed called Saloon complete with kinda racist Indian head statues that looked like a great example of Germans' weird fascination with the American Wild West. See also: Karl May.
A quick left and just a few more blocks and we were at the Melsheimer winery. I rang the bell, one of the owners appeared, and she led us to our room in the guesthouse across the street, a recently renovated farmhouse so old that none of the doorways would accommodate my height and that there were permanent shims attached to the bed to level it given the wildly uneven floors. I loved it. Even funnier, I had apparently emailed months and months ago that we would be there around 15h30, and we were bang on time - I had forgotten, but I guess I really do plan things tightly. Heh. I asked about restaurant recommendations, she suggested two places in town, and then we set about unpacking a bit, showering, and changing into city clothes more suitable to dinner in a restaurant. i checked out the menus on the two restaurants' websites, decided on the Villa Melsheimer hotel down the road - I think she said it was owned by her husband's cousin? - and kicked back with a bottle of Melsheimer Riesling spaetlese from the vineyards across the river we'd just walked through to pass the time until supper. The wine was excellent, and I would absolutely love to revisit it in 15 years to see where it goes: I don't mind sweet Riesling when it's young, but when it's old, it's a different world for me.
We walked down to the river, watching the day's final light bathe the vineyards in golden light or whatever the cliche is - frankly, it was stunning - and then asked for a table at the restaurant. We were lucky, and the waitress (who was incidentally absolutely stunning, looking like the butch love child of Annalee Newitz and Gwendolyn Christie) found us a table with with a view out over the river. A bottle of sparkling water, a bottle of Melsheimer Molun Riesling (dry, phenomenal length, wonderfully savory), and, well, why not just go for it and do the four course menu? I hadn't yet eaten at a capital R restaurant (think Michelin stars) on this trip, and this seemed like a fine place to do it. Having attentive waitstaff refill glasses etc. is always a little bit funny to me - there's a skill to it, yup, and it's cool and all but frankly I'd rather just DIY - but they knew what they were doing and then some. The first course arrived; I was expecting a simple salad with some fish, but they had announced that they'd changed it to Jakobsmuscheln, which I had forgotten were scallops until the dish arrived. Simple? Noooo. Grilled scallops with orange caviar, plus dabs of avocado and horseradish surrounding an incredible salad complete with edible flowers... very over the top and incredibly delicious. There was also an amuse bouche, not on the menu, of stuffed courgette with bulgur and other things, fantastic, then an incredibly savory chanterelle cream soup, venison stew with Brussels sprouts, bacon, and dumplings, and then finally a dessert that was allegedly creme brûlée, but which was surrounded by all kinds of other random deliciousness on a seriously large, entirely over the top plate. I mean, hell, there was some kind of swan-shaped thing sticking out of a bit of Valrhona chocolate that tasted like perfect shortbread... it was cuckoo-bananas in all the right ways. Right, and we also had small glasses of red wine to go with the venison stew: a 2008 Merlot from across the river, and a 2013 Pinot noir from up the river at Osann-Monzel, and they were both so dang good you'd never have guessed they were Mosel wines. Yeah, it was a great meal, even from a cost perspective - I think it was maybe $100 per person including a tip, and you'd be hard pressed to find a meal that good for that amount of money anywhere outside of Mexico City, I reckon. Yum yum yum.
All we had to after that was make it back to the hotel, get into bed without hitting my head on any door jambs, rafters, ceilings, or light fixtures, and I somehow managed to do that, and slept incredibly well, wrapped in a fluffy down comforter in an old country house in a village on the Mosel. I was happy.