Magical Mosel Valley ~ Bike & Barge Tour ITINERARY SPOTLIGHT: Cochem

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We can’t think of a more charming town to begin our 2019 Meander Through the Magical Mosel Valley bike & barge adventure than in Cochem! We encourage guests to arrive in town the day before the barge tour begins to allow for some extra exploring time on your own. Here’s the scoop on our first stop on the tour that begins on August 17, 2019.

Cochem is nestled beneath the splendid Reichsburg Castle. Built in the 12th century, trashed in the 14th century, and rebuilt in the romantic neo-Gothic style in the 19th century; the castle is open daily for tours of its impressive collections of period furniture and art. It’s situated on a 300 ft high crag above the Mosel River, and a 15 min walk up a cobblestone path will also reward you with a panoramic view of hillside vineyards and the town below. Consider a splurge for the Knight’s Dinner, a traditional medieval dining experience, on Friday evening.

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During the Cold War, the Federal Republic of Germany set up secret currency reserves around the country to guard against inflation that would have resulted if war broke out between NATO and the Warsaw Pact States.

One such hiding place was the Bundesbank Bunker, a subterranean vault in Cochem. For over two decades, the citizens of Cochem had no idea there were 15 billion Deutschmarks “in their own backyard!” Of course, as a bunker, it needed to be cleverly disguised, but, fear not, we know where it is, and can tell you exactly how to find it if you’d like to explore it on your own. 

Mustard Mill

In a country where pretzels are practically a national treasure, mustard is a most revered condiment. You’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know about it at the Historische Senfmühle, Cochem’s mustard mill, where they’ve been churning out Cochem’s favorites since 1810. Free tastings are available daily, mustards of every kind await your discriminating palate. Time your visit right and, for 2.50 Euros, you can join a guided tour and watch the miller in action as he prepares mustard according to a 200 year old family recipe.

If you arrive prior to August 17 by train, you can easily hop into a taxi for a short ride to your hotel. If you arrive on Saturday, August 17, of course you may go directly to the barge. Check-in time is 3 PM but you’re welcome to drop off your luggage before you head out to wander the medieval alleyways of the old town. Don’t worry, when you sign up for your tour, we’ll tell you exactly how to find the Quo Vadis, from Frankfurt airport, to the train, and to the dock. We can even assist with train tickets if you’d like.

Click here for a peek at our full itinerary: 2019 Meander Thru the Magical Mosel Valley

Contact us at StephanieVentures@gmail.com to inquire about a booking before this tour sells out.

Shopping for food souvenirs with purpose

Dallmayr tin soft edge.jpgI’ve had a lifelong fascination with food so naturally when I travel overseas, eating like a local is a high priority. I love getting lost in street markets, chatting up cheese mongers and butchers, grabbing a quick bite in a museum café. I even find foreign vending machines intriguing. I never go hungry when I travel. I’m a fool for food souvenirs, too. Local delicacies are ideal, especially in decorative packaging. Form meets function, so to speak. Not only do I come home with treats to enjoy or share, I can get creative and repurpose the empty containers. Who needs matching kitchen canisters when you can enlist unique souvenir tins to store stuff in and provide pleasant reminders of your travels?

Some of my most productive food souvenir hauls have been in the grand department stores in Europe. In the early 90’s I worked in The Cellar at Macy’s in Herald Square, near the end of its glorious reign as the showplace of gourmet specialty foods, so I have a place in my heart for department stores. There are many cities in Europe whose flagships are deserving of your sightseeing time. My kitchen counter hosts decorative tins that once held English tea, Scottish shortbread (from Jenner’s in Edinburgh), and more. During my first trip to Germany, I have to confess that I got a little caught up in Christmas market fever and, along with 85 stunning ornaments, I also dragged home a globe-shaped tin filled with Lebkuchen from Nuremberg and a coffee tin from Munich’s Dallmayr, depicting the 300 year old institution that touts itself as the delicatessen of kings. I also framed some beautifully illustrated chocolate bar wrappers I picked up there. They hang next to the beer coasters I “picked up” on a beer crawl in Heidelberg.

Don’t discount food halls if you are in the mood for a memorable meal. I once gathered the fixings for a Thanksgiving dinner for two after a quick zip through Harrods in London. If you find yourself in Berlin, go to Ka-De-We and proceed directly to the Gourmet floor. Sit yourself down at one of its many dining counters. You’ll get a bonus cooking lesson as lunch is prepared before your eyes and, you can engage with your fellow diners who will likely be an interesting mix of local working stiffs, little old ladies, and travelers. Chances are pretty good that they will all speak enough English so you won’t have to consult any pesky foreign phrasebooks. I can still see and smell the Gruyere bubbling on the Black Forest Ham that was so skillfully draped over my Rösti plate…mmm.

globe tinJust one final word of advice, perishable food is a no-go with US Customs so, enjoy all the fresh meats, cheese, and produce you can at their sources, but make sure your food souvenirs are vacuum packed and labelled for export. I wouldn’t want you to have to surrender your goodies to an agent whose canine just sniffed you out at the baggage carousel.