Monday, August 14, 2017

Western Europe: A hike from Burg Eltz

I didn't have much luck with my shoes in my past visits to Europe. On my first trip, the sole of my shoes were flapping and holes on the sole, which meant soggy socks and wet shoes. Not my favourite way to walk around. I was glad I brought a pair of good hiking boots this round. One of the right things I did. Ha!

As you can see from the above photo, it was a rainy day the day I went to Burg Eltz. The initial plan was to persevere and hike from Moselkern train station. I saw a girl holding a print out of how to hike to Burg Eltz from Moselkern. I saw the same webpage but obviously wasn't organised enough to have printed it out and bring along. I also saw a couple which I deduced also going to Burg Eltz as I saw pulled out pages of Rick Steves' guide book in the man's back pocket. I wasn't feeling very sociable to talk for the whole of the hike so I didn't approach any of them.

Moselkern train station, after we returned from Burg Eltz
As luck had it, it started pouring that as I reached Moselkern station. I think only four of us got off at Moselkern station. The couple with Rick Steves' guide book approached me and asked if I was heading to Burg Eltz, which I shall now refers to as Bill and Gloria. I said yes and told them that I think the girl was too. We waited till the girl (Melisha) approached us, she was at another carriage and further away from exit.

Rain got heavier and Bill proposed that we get a taxi there and hiked back. None of us had Europe phone connection, so I offered to roam my phone. My current plan allowed me to have international roaming in some countries for a fee of AUD 5 a day and it would utilise my current plan allowance. There was a phone number to taxi just outside of Moselkern station building, and I dialed the number. The man who picked up the phone spoke excellent English. Our driver came after a short 15 minutes wait, and we paid €30 for 4 pax. Bill and Gloria offered to pay €16, so Melisha and I don't have to dig up the additional €0.50 per person.

We were dropped off at the car park and we needed to walk for another maybe 10-15 minutes or so to get to the castle itself. Entrance ticket was €10 per person and this was in the form of a guided tour. Ticket also includes access to their treasury. Rain was on and off the whole day and we had some spare time before the next English tour, so we took opportunity of the time to visit the treasury.

Photography was permitted inside the treasury but not in the castle. English tour were popular and we were lucky to be included in the English tour and didn't have to wait for the next one as they limit the number of people in each guided group. This was where most people hang around to wait for the door for guided tour to be opened. The guides hold a key to the door and actually locked the door behind them once the number of visitors for the group is reached.

Burg Eltz was my favourite among the castles I visited this holiday, it was made even more enjoyable with a knowledge guide and controlled group. He was also loud enough to be heard.

Burg Eltz was first erected nearly a thousand years ago and has never been destroyed. The family and castle are named after the stream Eltzbach and has been owned by the same family since the medieval times. Over time, three separate branches of the Eltz family (Eltz-Rübenach @ Eltz of the silver lion, Eltz-Rodendort @ Eltz of the buffalo horns and Eltz-Kempenich @Eltz of the golden line) own and live together in the castle.

The Eltz-Rodendorf branch of the family ceased in 1786 and part of the castle was passed to the Kempenich family. In 1815 Count Hugo Philipp bought the Rübenach House and the Kempenich family has been the sole owner of the Eltz castle since. The castle is still a private property of the Eltz Family and Dr. Karl Graf von und zu Eltz-Kempenich is the present owner of the castle. One of the visitors in my group asked the tour if he has any children and the answer was yes. I reckon that could be a very popular question and there was a family photo in one of the rooms. Grin. It was also said that Dr Graf stays in the castle with his family when he visits.

We hiked back to Moselkern train station shortly after, luckily the sky was clear by then and it didn't rain the whole time we made our way to the train station.

Side note: Connoisseur ice-cream has got some very yummy flavours

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Western Europe: A day trip to Beilstein

This poster was taken from my airbnb host's place in Freiburg but I think it is a cool map. It was a little blur, wished I've checked the photo when I took it. I spent about 2 weeks in Germany and was only at Rheinland-Pfalz and Baden-Wurttemberg.

Beilstein is a small village along the Mosel in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz. It is said to have one of the best preserved historical appearances on Mosel. It saw that it was quoted to be the "Sleeping Beauty of the Mosel" on some of the pamplets in the Tourist Information Center (TIC) in Cochem.

I bought a day pass when I left Burg Arras as I had planned to travel to Beilstein on the same day. I had a blank moment and questioned if I could use the same ticket on the bus. I tried to reconfirm it with the lady at the TIC but she was not sure. I decided there must be a reason why I did that, instead of just getting a single ticket so I went ahead and showed the bus driver when I got on to get to Beilstein.

I took bus #716 from Cochem to Beilstein but return with the river boat. River boats along the Mosel are quite seasonal so I thought since I was there in the right season I would take a ride.

From afar I could see a ruined hilltop castle so made my way towards it. Burg Metternich was built in 1129 but was destroyed by French troops in 1689. There is a cafe at the bottom, or entrance to the castle. I didn't continue towards the castle as there was a small fee to get up there.

Inside Karmeliterkirche St Josef

Beilstein was the first village I visited in Germany. Cochem aside as it was where I landed and made my base. It felt surreal walking around, poking my nose to whichever turn I took. As it was a village, it really wasn't big and it didn't take too long to explore around even though I probably walked every turn.

When I was ready to head back, I got on the next ferry back to Cochem.

Someone asked me what do I do when I go on holidays by myself, I wasn't sure of his question. He then elaborated that when his wife and him went on holidays, for example, they would visit some places, walked around the park, eat in a restaurant. So I told him, I do those too, by myself. Hmm.. almost make me feel like I was doing something out of ordinary.

Side note: Need to stop buying naughty food on my grocery runs!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Western Europe: Germany - Charming Cochem

Cochem is a convenient base for travelling around Mosel. Despite being a transport hub, this town remains charming with coloured, terrace fronted restaurants along the waterfront, and complete with a castle perched on a rock, overlooking the town.

Roman dropped me off at Alf train station and I made my way to Cochem where I spent my next 3 days. I bought a day trip ticket as I have planned to visit Beilstein later of the day. I was glad that Weingut Rademacher was close to the train station. It is near the Cochem train station and the other side of the building overlooks their vineyard.

It was a short walk to the market place with very reasonable price for a room. The included breakfast served was generous, inclusive with the German fare breakfast of cheese, bread and cured meat as well as muesli. It could be a little noisy in the morning (possibly the train but I don't hear them in the evenings) and evenings when they hold wine tasting sessions but I slept like a log.

I visited the Reichsburg the evening I arrived, it can be reached by a bus shuttle or by foot. I was being silly thinking that I would buy myself more time if I got there earlier. I forgot that the whole reason of bus shuttle was probably to coincide with the scheduled tour times (about every 20 minutes) so it was probably a moot point of me trying to get there in between scheduled bus times.

The rooms and courtyards of the courtyards of the castle are only accessible with a guided tour. The guided tour I joined was in German, but free translation sheets in English. Obviously I have missed the English guided tour which was said to be at 12:00 and 15:00 on their website. I assumed the tour guide have cracked some jokes along the way as there were some laughter among those who didn't hold a translation sheet.

The castle was initially built back in the year 1000 A.D by Franconian Palatine. It was seized by a German emperor and pawned to the archbishop of Trier in some 100 years later. It was later destroyed by French soldiers in 1689. The now castle, belonged to the town of Cochem was reconstructed according to old plans by a rich merchant, Mr Louis Ravene.

I supposed when the weather is hot, it is only right to have some advantage which in this case I get long day time. I still had time to wander around the town after the castle. Ha!


I made another silly mistake of not checking out where to have dinner and randomly entered a shop which offers white asparagus which was in season. The town square was getting empty at an early hour of 7ish. If only calories can be refunded for things that didn't taste as good as expected. Despite feeling much better after the magical castle stay, my appetite had not quite return so this was my only meal in Cochem. Umm... rookie mistake.

It tasted as bad as it looked

Side note: It appears that I'm not the only one who had the perception that German trains are always punctual, it wasn't true though, at least the regional trains. Many of the trains I took were delayed. :P

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Western Europe: Germany - Burg Arras on the Mosel

I first read about Burg Arras from Paul's blog (where else) and decided that I shall treat myself to a night's stay in a castle. It doesn't matter that I was going to be there by myself. It was actually one of the first accommodation I booked. I decided on Burg Arras, the only castle in the Mosel that houses a hotel, restaurant and museum.

I don't remember coming across their official website when I was making plans for my trip, so I made my reservation via and I was requested to provide an approximate arrival time. German bahn website is excellent, I was able to let them know which train I intended to take and approximate arrival time. Roman from Burg Arras replied that he will pick me up from Alf train station. I was surprised but definitely glad to take up the offer.

As I got off the train, Roman saw me and introduced himself. I think it wasn't difficult to identify me as I suspect there weren't many Asians travelling in the Mosel region. I actually did not bump into another Asian, aside from myself.

It was a lovely day when I was in Burg Arras. Upon arriving at the castle, there were some people relaxing and having a drink at the front of the castle. I only had a night there so I decided to wander a bit despite my sleepiness.
I was in the room named Albero, it was the first room on the left on this corridor
The interior of the castle was amazing and plenty of spaces for lounging on rainy days.

As it is also a museum, there are exhibits on the ground floor and a door leading to the top.

To the  top!
I followed the steps to check out the view at the top, or if you prefer there is also a lovely garden on the ground level. Entrance to the garden was just next to the donkey from the first photo.

It's the perfect place to just sit and enjoy the view (while nibbling and eating would be even better). If I could help it, I would've slot this nearer to the end of my holidays, ideal as a holiday in a holiday but it was as amazing to kick start my stay in Germany.

I was told that dinner is served a little earlier as they have limited staff working in the kitchen. I would've love to sit down for a dinner but all I could think of was to sleep off the fever. I had the best sleep at Burg Aras and woke up with no fever, chills, cough or runny nose. It was almost like a magic castle, really. Haha.

Anyway, here are a couple of photos of a short random walk around the castle.

Spot the insect...
Oh and the breakfast was generous and good too.

After checked out, Roman dropped me off to the train station. It was an excellent first night in Germany. :)

Side note: Got to stop nibbling the whole day, every day... 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Western Europe: Short stop in Luxembourg

I bought my train ticket from Gent to Luxembourg online before departing Melbourne. According to the train  itinerary when I bought the ticket, I only need to do one change of train in Brussels and I would be on my way. When I checked which tram I need to take to get to Gent-St-Pieters, I realised all the trains needed at least 2 transfers including one bus ride.

I took tram #1 towards Gent Flanders Expo earlier so that I have time to re-check the train itinerary at the train station. Ticket machine in Gent unfortunately only take coins and cost €3 for a single ticket. I didn't have enough coins when we first reached Gent and I had to run over to a cafe to change a note into coins. They were really nice about it though. ^^

The Sunday I left Gent was the Pentecost Sunday, a holiday what I was not aware of until then. Pentecost is observed 55 days after Easter and 10 days after Ascension. This day commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit in the form of flames to the Apostles, as recorded in the New Testament in Acts, 2.

Among the days I wasn't feeling well, I was probably most sick on this long travel day. I started on a coughing marathon when I was in the middle of a conversation with the lady in the train station. Poor lady, she probably thought she was going to contract TB the way I coughed. Lol. I bought a waffle, my last one before I left Belgium as breakfast. As the day passed, when the drugs were losing its effect, I started to increase the layer of my clothes and ended up 2 layers of jackets, a scarf and a beanie while the next guy who walked passed me was in shorts.

I supposed, like Australia, track works are usually scheduled during long weekends. So there was a track work in progress from Gent to Luxembourg. So I had to take a train from Gent-St-Pieters to Liege-Guillemins. Changed to another train to Troisvierges, followed by a bus to Ettelbruck. After that, switched back to a train to Luxembourg.

I was indecisive between Luxembourg or Trier but went with Luxembourg because... I would need a change of train in Luxembourg anyway and it is a different country. Um.. there is no smart logic, in fact now it sounds very shallow.

I had very limited time in Luxembourg, so I could probably only do one thing, at max two. The shortlisted two items were Bock Casemates and The Grund. As I wasn't feeling very well and being cheapskate, so I decided to go with walking around The Grund. Grund is a quarter in central Luxembourg city, it is within walking distance from the train station or you could take a public transport. I was recommended to just walk, so that was what I did.

On the way there one will passed the Notre Dame Cathedral of Luxembourg.

I was quite surprised to see how popular it was with China tour groups.

One could take as much time or as little time to explore the Grund. There are many routes to wander but I only did the most obvious one. As you can see in the photo above, someone was walking on another route, below where I was.

I walked back to the train station with some time to spare so that I could grab a bite and of course, being paranoid of missing my train as I have informed the hotel the time I would arrived.

I saw a Oberweis outlet inside the train station and thought I could grab a sandwich, though I admit the sweets definitely looked more tempting.

I haven't had any thing since the waffle in Gent, I thought I should eat something despite the lack of appetite. So I got myself a ham, cheese, tomato and egg sandwich. It was ok, though I was still unwell so probably not the best judge of any food.

I did feel the little pinch in terms of affordability after the couple of days in Belgium. Despite my usual habit of getting a fridge magnet for my collection, I decided to forgo one from Luxembourg due to the price and nothing jumped out to me that I really wanted. So instead of a physical magnet, I took a photo of them. After going through the whole trip, I have come to terms that Switzerland wins hands down, the most expensive of them all. Haha.

Side note: Masterchef Australia grand final tomorrow.. lol..