Susi and Austin's

Travelling the Rivers and

Canals of Europe


Moselling along: Senheim, Beilstein, Zell, Traben-Trarbach

Sunday 7 August 2022 5:08 AM

We are taking our time moving slowly along the beautiful Mosel Valley. It allows us to take in different places and experiences than last time.

Senheim has a yacht harbour attached to a big caravan/camping place called aptly “Holländischer Hof” (Dutch Inn) - and Dutch is all we heard. Signs and brochures, menus of the restaurants all cater for Dutch visitors who, as we were told, love the Mosel. And what is not to love?

We took a short bus trip from Senheim to Beilstein and were utterly charmed by it. This little wine village has it all: lovely old houses, a beautiful abbey church, great restaurants and a castle with amazing views over the river and wine hills. To avoid the heat, we started early and walked along narrow paths through steep vineyards towards the castle, wondering how people could harvest the 

grapes without tumbling down the hills. The castle, now a ruin, was last inhabited by Prince Metternich, Foreign Minister of the Austrian Empire and baptised under the Christian names of Klemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar. I feel a little short-changed not having been given any middle name! From the castle, we had the most amazing view over the valley. 

Back down in the village, we came across the old synagogue, now an art shop and museum of local Jewish history. The curator/owner, a former architect involved with designing Disneyland in the US, lovingly restored the building. He also told us about Prince Metternich’s love affair with Fanny Elßler, a world-renowned ballerina at the Vienna Opera at the time. Whenever she came to Beilstein, she stayed downtown with the Rabbi so as not to compromise the prince. Nothing like a bit of 300-year-old gossip! Another story we were told was that when the French under Napoleon defeated the Austrians, the Austrian commanders instead of hanging their heads low asked their conquerors including Napoleon: “But can you waltz?” “Qu’est- que ce?” replied the French. Explaining that not knowing how to waltz is a gap in their education, the French soon were taught the waltz and danced with the Austrians and their wives all night long.

There was quite a large Jewish community in Beilstein. Among them family Lipmann who survived the Nazi time. Hotel Restaurant Lipmann still exists and we had a wonderful lunch on the terrace of the 200-year-old hotel.

Back on the boat we kept the fan running and had cold deck showers while temperatures were rising into the high 30's!

Finally, in the early hours of the morning, the long-expected thunderstorm rolled in and it rained for the first time since June!

25km and one lock further we were faced with a “reserved" sign on the sport boat mooring at Zell

When I called up, we were promptly directed to an even better spot along the quay right in front of a Viking Cruiseship. A very nice gentleman helped us tie up and gave us access to the electricity box before excusing himself of having to rush back to his wine bar. Owners of local wineries Karlheinz and Christiane Weis manage the moorings for the town. They asked that next time, could we ring ahead and they will reserve us a place, no problem! We found Zell an amiable place with helpful people all around. The food was good too. With slightly cooler temperatures after the rain, we felt like some German comfort food. I chose Hirsch Goulash with red cabbage, potato dumplings and cranberry sauce, and Austin had a Jäger Schnitzel (with mushroom sauce) and wedges. Both were delicious!

A pleasant 3.5 km walk led us on a cultural trail to towers of the former town fortification, along the famous “Zeller Schwarze Katz” vineyards, to a wine-crushing stone left by the old Romans who originally introduced the wine to the Mosel. We also passed the “Schloß” which now serves as a hotel. Next to the Schloß, we stumbled onto the town’s bakery which happened to display delicious cakes right in front of our noses! How can we keep our slender physic being faced with this!?

 The cultural walk ends at the old town hall with a visit to the museum. A friendly Zeller and former vinery worker confirmed to our amazement that on the very steep hills, the wine is bound and harvested manually while machines can be employed on shallow slopes. We also learned about the origin of the iconic "Zeller Schwarze Katz” wine!

As the story goes, three wine merchants from Aachen happened to visit a local vineyard to taste the wine. The vintner took them into his cellar where three big barrels of different wines were kept. They started the tasting with the first two barrels but couldn’t agree on which one they preferred. When they decided to taste the wine from the third barrel, the vintner's black cat had positioned herself on top and wouldn’t let anyone near it to tap the wine. This went on for a good while with the cat lashing out at anyone coming near the barrel. The three men were now convinced that this barrel which the cat so ferociously defended must contain a very special drop and bought it untasted. And that is how the wine got its name.

One room of the museum is dedicated to the devastating flood of 1993. (left townhall today -right photo from Dec 1993)

Just before Christmas that year the water rose so quickly, that people were trapped in their houses with water rising to first-floor levels and beyond. Incredibly the Zeller community, being used to regular flooding, got on with the long clean-up and none of them moved away.

Traben-Trarbach, the twin town with one part on the right, and the other on the left bank of the river was our next stop. The yacht harbour lies about 3km north and we used their free bikes to cycle to town. Crossing the Mosel Bridge, the first bridge ever constructed over the river, stands on the southern end of the emblem of the town, the “Brückentor”. The Art Nouveau building is the entrance to Trarbach. It is not just a gate but contains several rooms and offices. The terrace of a café-restaurant on the bottom of the gate offers a great view over the Mosel. Traben-Trarbach used to be the 2nd biggest wine trading place in Europe. It’s overlooked by the ruin of Castle Grevenburg. Like most castles on the Mosel and Rhine, it was destroyed by the French in 1734.

After walking around town for a couple of hours, we were ready for our afternoon nap. 

Back at the yacht club, a friendly crowd had gathered to help incoming boats with mooring in a strong easterly wind. The tricky manoeuvres were quite entertaining and not without drama. We joined in, but not everyone appreciated the help, and some gave up and turned back.

The next morning the wind had died down and we woke up to the rotors of a crop-dusting helicopter moving up and down the vineyards. Without the wind mixing things up we now could see the blue algae which had formed during the current drought. 

Much more rain is needed! As a solution, I am working on Austin to perform a ritual rain dance.

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