A bunch of us took a couple of days after the end of Photokina to drive around the Rhein valley area of Germany and take a bunch of pictures. There were actually 12 of us and we rented 3 cars and split into groups of 4. We left Cologne on Monday and headed down to Boppard, a small town on the Rhein river just south of Koblenz. Once we all checked in to the hotel, we had lunch together to figure out where we would go next. We decided that each car would head off in their own direction because each group was looking for something a little different.
David (the Poo), Rob and Lara were in my car and we decided to drive down along the Rhein to the town of Bingen because we read about a tower called the Mouse Tower. Apparently, many years ago the archbishop of Mayence, who was a pretty evil guy, escaped to this tower and was there devoured alive by mice.
Along the way, we saw many castles and at first we would stop and take pictures of each one. After about 10 or so, it started to lose its novelty and we would just call out "castle!" whenever we saw one. We made it down to Bingen and found the Mouse Tower and we took many pictures of it. The sun was getting ready to set so we waited a while to see if the light got better but it never really did. Across from the Mouse Tower is a large vineyard growing Reisling grapes. Not surprisingly, we took a lot of pictures of that as well.
On our way back, we took a random turn towards the town of Bacharach. No idea why we decided to turn here, but we were glad we did. Bacharach is a beautiful little town with lots of little alleys and walkways that go to interesting shops and restaurants. Up on the hill above a church is the ruins of the Werner chapel (Wernerkapelle) and the town is also surrounded by vineyards. We found a little restaurant along a raised walk that seemed to be hidden down a back alley. I have no idea how one would ordinarily find this place but it looked pretty good and we could sit outside and watch the river (and trains) go by so we gave it a try. We ordered 4 dishes and passed them around. The highlight was a wild boar dish that was fantastic, though the pork chop with bacon was also really good. The only dish that was so-so was the salmon and that is probably because we are pretty used to good salmon in Seattle.
We walked around a bit more after dinner, with Rob trying to take some night shots of the town square, then we headed back up to Boppard for the night.
On Tuesday, we decided to drive down along the Mosel river. Again there were many cute small towns and vineyards where we stopped to take pictures. One of the highlights was lunch in Klotten. There was an Italian Restaurant called Pizzeria de Giovanni mentioned on a sign and since that sounded pretty good, we headed that way. The pizza was really good -- authentic Italian pizza like I had in Rome a couple of years ago. The best part, though, was the fly. David ordered a latte and when he finished it, a fly landed on the edge of the cup and started drinking. Shortly afterwards, it started running around the edge of the cup really quickly. The caffeine was kicking in. Then it just sat there drinking more foam. We even moved the cup around to get a better picture of the fly but it would not leave the foam alone. Giovanni came by and shooed the fly away and at that point it started landing on us and not wanting to fly away. I'm pretty sure it knew we were from Washington and it was asking us to take him home with us so he could go hang out at the numerous coffee shops in Seattle. He was really quite insistant but alas we left him behind and headed south towards Cochem.
Cochem is somewhat larger than Klotten. The main thing that made us stop there was the Reichsburg castle high on the hill above the city. The castle was built in the twelfth century and was blown up in the 17th century but was rebuilt from the original plans in the 19th century and is now owned by the city of Cochem. We walked up the back way to the castle, past more vineyards and up to the castle gate. We took the tour, which was in German though they gave us a sheet of paper in English which explained pretty much what the tour guide would say about each room. Not surprisingly, we took a lot of pictures including panoramas of the Mosel river from the castle itself.
After the tour, we walked around the town for a while and did a bit of shopping. While we seriously considered heading over to Belgium for dinner and dessert in Luxembourg, we instead headed back up to Boppard where the groups all met for dinner and relayed stories of our trips.
This kind of trip is the best way to see Germany. We could go where we wanted to on our own schedule and there are so many interesting things to photograph. I could definitely see doing a much longer trip like this in the future, perhaps heading further south to Munich and into Switzerland. I was surprised at how easy it was to get around and to communicate with people even though we had heard it was harder to find English speakers outside of the big cities. The fact is, though, that we could figure enough German out to order food and go shopping and the roads and towns are well enough marked that it wasn't hard to figure out where we were.
This was definitely a highlight of the Photokina trip. I wonder where we'll go in 2006 :)