Up at sunrise, a bit of writing, then it's time to read the map and fire up the Rother app to see about the day's walk ahead. It's a short sage, no big deal, so there's obviously no hurry to jump up and leave. We wander across the street to the winery and main guesthouse around breakfast time, and then realize that we have absolutely no idea where breakfast actually is. I try an upstairs door - no, that looks like it's a private apartment - and then wander around downstairs for a bit until a tall, friendly German appears and shows us the way up to their breakfast room. His wife takes it from there, showing us to our table and asking us if coffee is okay (it's perfect, and the coffee here is excellent) and if we'd like eggs... scrambled, maybe? (Oh, yes. Absolutely yes.) Dan learns a new word, Ruehrei, and then they arrive, farm fresh scrambled eggs, a generous serving, so Mr. Marmot is momentarily lost in breakfast-bliss as he enjoys the first scrambled eggs of trip. Me, I'm thrilled to find organic honey from a local producer in a jar on the table, which is absolutely a rare treat for me: fresh bread with good farm butter and local honey is one of the great pleasures in life for me. Even better: there is muesli and yoghurt, so I fire up my standard breakfast that I have almost every day at home and bliss out. Delicious.
After breakfast, Dan heads back across the street to pack up and I attempt to pay the bill and check out, but hey, it's a winery, and it's one with an absolutely fascinating price list, so of course checking out turns into a complicated thing because I want to buy some wine (the orange wine, alas, is not only not bottled yet, but it's already sold out - the Danes have bought the entire lot, apparently as they're now the center of the known trendy restaurant universe and this will be a hit at Noma and the like). Given that I can't ship anything home, I have to carry everything in my pack, so I can't try everything that looks good, like a unsulfited pet nat or a wine that takes four years to ferment. I go with the Vade Retro, which is a fully oxidized Riesling with no SO2, organic grapes, all the mod. cons., and something which sounds like they've left Riesling in a barrel until the fermentation stuck, then added spirits of some kind to produce something vaguely like Port. That one was just bottled, so there aren't any labels, so some hilarity ensues, and I am absolutely delighted that they play by the German labeling rule book and create an on the spot label that will prevent them from getting busted and allow me to take the bottle along with me. We also chat about this and that, I promise I'll come back sometime to do a proper tasting, and then whoa, there's a cool T-shirt I absolutely have to buy as well (first souvenir of the trip!), and then it turns out I'm two euros short. Awesome people that they are, they insist that I not worry about it, so I give them a US $1 bill as emergency cash / a token of my gratitude and head back across the street to pack everything up. The T-shirt doesn't fit (it's organic cotton and the sizing is definitely American Apparel small and then some), so I swap it out for an XL and surreptitiously leave a 10 euro note under the dollar bill just because no innkeeper/winemaker, no matter how amazing, deserves to be stiffed two euros by smelly Californian hikers. Ever.
The weather once again can only be charitably described as good in that it is not actively pissing down rain. It's grey, overcast, and definitely threatening the occasionally cloud-sploosh, but hey. Could be worse. So it's past the train station - you can see the Kanonenbahn curving along the Mosel along a viaduct before it disappears into a tunnel headed for Bullay - but we're once again headed uphilll, towards the ridgeline, through soggy vineyards. At the top of the hill, there's a nondescript chapel and a series of Stations of the Cross in which Jesus looks vaguely like Der Golem from the old silent movie. Huh. And just beyond there, in the forest, there's a whole bunch of ripped-up pieces of paper with things written on them. I suspect some kind of dopey affirmation type project; one that escaped the shredding says "Do more to express my inner artistic creativity!" Confidential to Ulrike: Writing stupid shit on a piece of paper and leaving it in the forest isn't being artistically creative. It's littering. Grow the fuck up.
The forest is cool and dripping with rain, and I decide against the detour to a castle for Kaffee und Kuchen because who even knows if they're actually open. Instead, we arrive at post-WWII graveyard that has an uneasy feeling of post-1945 Nazism in its design, somehow. Just beyond that there's a tall, square tower promising panoramic views; we drop our packs and head on up. At the top, I take pictures to a couple, they seem to like them, and then we squint around and see what we can. It's not exactly raining, and visibility is okay, so I declare it a success. We can see the Mosel on either side of the "peninsula" - we're in the middle of a crazy meander - and off in the distance a mysterious slate blue Kaaba like thing - odd. We take pictures, and then it's back down to the base, on with the packs, and then the trail leads to a bunch of angry, passive-aggressive, Christian exhibits on why you need to treat your children better. There's a set of bent wind chimes (they sound terrible) that churchsplains that children all have unique names BECAUSE CHILDREN ARE UNIQUE. Do you think of your child as a specific person? Do you? OR IS IT JUST A CHILD TO YOU??? Talk about weird and creepy... I guess someone really didn't luck out in the loving parents department and decided to leak out their pain in this public way. Alas.
Next up, some kind of large building that could've been a hotel, maybe a restaurant, not sure. It looked like there was a charming, warm, breakfast-room or dining hall in there, but there was also an ugly sign (probably written in MS WordPad) that said THIS IS NOT A THROUGHWAY with some bitching about HOUSE GUESTS ONLY. I don't get it. I mean, if you're running a business on a long distance hiking trail, why not put up a sign that says Come in, coffee and cake six euros, warm up for a bit! Ah, Germany. You're mostly excellent, but sometimes you're inscrutable.
Down a bit more past a fair number of people hiking about, stealing grapes from vineyards, and past some kind of church thing for kids that I don't know what it was, and then the trail started up the hill to the east, the last one of the day. I accidentally smacked Dan in the face with a branch - oops - but he seemed unhurt (if understandably growly) so we just kept going and going until the trail descended again into a large vineyard (as in: absolutely huge) that I assume must be where most Zeller Schwarze Katz wine comes from. Then, Dan looked over at me and said, huh. Look at this - yup, that's a broken hiking pole. His Black Diamond poles that he'd picked up towards the PCT survived the GR20, the Kumano Kodo, and a lot of other abuse, but the gentle vineyards of the Moselsteig finally did them in. Given that it was so early in the day, I suggested that we just go to the hotel and figure out how to get to Bullay for new poles, or maybe to Cochem, but first, we needed to keep walking.
There was a surprisingly busy street to cross - later, we realize that there's a large new settlement up on the hill we've been walking around, and that the blue cube is maybe a power plant, hence the busy street - and eventually it's down past 1950s buildings and churches to a pedestrian-only bridge across the river to Zell proper. At the top of the bridge, two tourists have parked their bikes, leaving very little room for anyone else to pass; even worse, they're standing in a way so that only one person might be able to squeeze by... and then one bends down and sticks his butt out, completely blocking the path, to get a better picture. Summoning my inner German, I have a microsecond to decide between grunting Arschloch or Entschuldigung whilst walking into his butt. Asshole. But I'm a reasonably polite person (secretly Canadian, maybe?) so stick with the Excuse me! Given that he didn't say anything, I have to assume that he was Dutch, which is also the likeliest: I don't think I've ever see this many Dutch tourists anywhere before, most of them on bikes, and many of them returning home with bootfuls of wine. (There's a reason so many wineries have Dutch signage on them.)
It's a short turn to the right, down a ramp, and boom, we're in Zell... and immediately on the left, there's an outdoor goods stores with hiking poles in the window. Cool! The shopkeeper is super friendly and speaks wonderful English, so Dan happily replaces his busted pole with a set of Prussian blue Lekis, with extra tips, and... well, they don't take credit cards, so it's down the street to the Volksbank, get Euros from the ATM, problem solved, ask the shopkeeper for a coffee and cake recommendation, and soon enough we're happily seated outside a cafe... until another customer comes, sits down, lights up a cigarillo that smells like someone cut a fart that was so bad that it was quarantined, incinerated, buried in concrete, and then accidentally disinterred, mixed with water, and then sprayed in our face out of spite. Jeez. So into the cafe, coffee and cake, watch a myriad of German lady tourists struggle with the toilet door, watch a mystery insect crawl around the floor, hmmm, and then back outside.
Out hotel's just a few doors over, so I ring the bell, and the Italian owner asks if we wouldn't mind moving to his other hotel instead, just a few doors over as well. No problem, works for us, he's mighty friendly, and we wind up with a 3rd floor room, twin beds, perfectly fine, nice and warm. I do some laundry - socks and a T-shirt - and get them drying on the towel rack. Marmot's feeling like a nap, so I bid him farewell and head out to see the town. It's... a pleasant German tourist town, absolutely heaving with tourists, this time even Americans with Lonely Planet guides and East Coast accents. I eventually run out of quaint town to stare at and park myself at a winery on the far south end of town, sitting outside in the warm sunshine as I enjoy a glass of Riesling. Then, again, bad luck: there's a public bench across the street and someone sits there and decides to fire up some tobacco that smells more or like the reanimated corpse of Charles Bukowski is smoking a cherry flavored Swisher Sweet out of his ass. It's staggeringly gross.
So what's going on with Germany and tobacco? I've been thinking about this for a while, and here's what I think is going on. I think Germans banned smoking indoors only about two years ago, which means that that if you're going to smoke, it has to be outdoors. This is a problem. Even more of a problem is that anywhere that is technically outdoors - like a restaurant patio, the sidewalk in front of a cafe, etc. - is fair game for smokers, even if it's really part of a restaurant. This is bad enough. I think what the real problem is, though, is something more subtle: over the last decades, the EU has passed a number of laws and such that have dramatically changed what tobacco products actually are. For example, if you had a pack of Gitanes (notoriously smelly French cigarettes) that were produced in 1985, they would be radically differently constituted than what are sold as Gitanes in 2017. There's less nicotine, less tar, less, you know, cancer... and this means that they don't taste the same, don't smoke the same, and do not get you as high as they used to. I suspect this explains why I notice the smoking so much more now than I did the previous times I was here: people are now smoking more (addicts need more to get high) and they're smoking a lot more things that aren't cigarettes but which give you more of a nicotine kick (cigarillos, cigars, etc.). It's horrible.
It's also just a theory.
Anyhow: Back to the room, which now smells almost exactly like a Turkmen diseased-foot hamam. Dan's washed all of his dirty socks in our tiny room without opening a window, so wow. Bad foot smells everywhere. Gross. I open the window and then suggest we get out there while everything dries. First up, there's a lengthy visit to the post office to get some things mailed (a Dan request), and then there's a stamp collecting visit to the tourist office, and then FINALLY we get to go eat. Because this trip is my idea, I'm largely just bossing Dan around, which is amusing and yet also highly effective as there's no time wasted when it comes to choosing a place to eat. Today's is over by the castle hotel; it's an outdoors area (strategically, we're far away from the smokers) with a friendly Belgian bearded/tattooed waiter who hooks us up with some fairly excellent wines, an all you can eat salad bar (read: all you can eat beets, so Dan's ecstatic), and two amazing plates of oven-baked spaetzle covered in Gorgonzola and spinach. It's delicious and a welcome break from porkporkpork, to be honest.
And then we're done, that's it. We've spent our dinner watching men erect a scaffolding across the street; they pack up, drive off, and we're not far behind them on foot. There's nothing really compelling in terms of dessert or one more glass of wine, so we're off to bed nice and early and have a wonderful rest.
Especially now that the foot-stench has abated.