Our first stop...and castle du jour...was the enchanting Burg Eltz...tucked away in a hidden valley formed by a small tributary (the Eltz) of the Mosel River near the town of Moselkern. Burg Eltz is an iconic castle painted white and red, perched on a gray rocky formation in the center of the forested valley. The Eltz family began building on the site over 1000 years ago, and the family still owns and occupies the castle as they have for over 33 generations.
The castle was constructed beginning in 1157, and is actually three adjoining homes within the castle walls. The structures seem to climb on top of each other...one room connecting to another like a 3-D jigsaw puzzle. Another all-German tour, and lot of fellow tourists...so the interiors felt cramped. Still, the well-preserved features and several-hundred-year old furnishings make this is a gem...and worth the twisting, often confusing drive and the steep walk from the parking lot. (With a hungry Keegan and heavy Mia in tow...we elected to pay for a return shuttle.)
After all the walking, lunch was an urgent must, lest we have a Keegan meltdown on our hands. We headed for the quintessential medieval town of Cochem on the Mosel River, a central point for visitors to the Mosel Valley. We unknowingly entered enticing Zom Stueffje right at 2pm and had to rush to order before the kitchen shut down. Wonderful schnitzels for all.
After lunch, we wandered through the twisting streets and spotted swans along the Mosel. Keegan spotted a riverside playground to burn off a burst of excess lunchtime energy.
By 4pm, it was time to start the winding road home. We passed through several scenic towns, and stopped for a quick walk through the tiny gem of Beilstein, with ubiquitous grapevine-covered buildings and simple church perched with a sweeping view of the Valley.
The drive home was fairly uneventful with a few missed turns and a construction-caused stau. As pilot and navigator, Julie and Jeff ribbed each other in true sister-and-brother fashion with each bump or u-turn. At one point, Keegan trumped the comical banter with the deadpan "Momma, how about you just pay attention to driving." Quite the sarcastic zinger from a five-year-old. :)
Brother-in-law Adam was finally able to join us for dinner tonight at one of their favorites...an Argentinian steakhouse (Maredo) in central Mainz. We walked off grilled meats and apfelstrudel with nighttime views of the huge cathedral...Dom su Mainz...and peeks into the dimly lit windows of the Guttenberg Museum.