Cochem (Nathan)

Trip Start Sep 03, 2010
Trip End Oct 27, 2010

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Flag of Germany  , Rhineland-Palatinate,
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cochem was a fun little town. We started our day by getting the hotel's complimentary breakfast... apparently Herman had forgotten to tell the hostess there about the people in room six, because she was totally unprepared for us and didn't realize we were even staying there. But she soon got everything together anyway and served us some tea, slices of ham (and one of some kind of jellied thing with meat bits suspended in it), soft-boiled eggs and bread with butter and jam. It was all right, but we were still kind of hungry when we headed out to wander the town, and when I saw a stall selling currywurst, I couldn't resist getting some. Mark had told me about currywurst several times and I had read that Germany even has a currywurst museum somewhere, so I had to see what the big deal was. Currywurst is basically a sausage sliced and covered in a kind of curry-ketchup sauce, served with a roll. It was delicious, and though I only had it once, I'd like to get it again when we return to Germany. I've had a few chances already, but always at awful train station sausage shops (their bockwurst tasted like sawdust), so I skipped them.

The obvious attraction in Cochem is the castle, of course, so we made our way up through the narrow, winding streets towards it. I was severely uphill, and we were out of breath when we got to the top- luckily there was a little shop right there. Glennica had a Hello Kitty ice cream bar and I had a small Monster Slush, which is basically an Icee with a blob-creature mascot instead of a polar bear. If you've noticed that it seems like we ate a lot that morning, you're right- we ate way too much in Cochem in general! Everything was so good, and the first reasonably-priced food we'd seen on the entire trip.

Reichsburg castle was surrounded by beautiful, lush forest and had a commanding view of the town. The castle had been built centuries ago, but had lay in ruins for a long time until a wealthy Berlin merchant, Louis Fréderic Jacques Ravené, had bought it in 1866. He had rebuilt it as a home rather than a fortification, so it was kind of a combination of castle and mansion. I admired the view while Glennica bought tickets, and noted an interesting statue looking out over the town- it was a little hard to tell what it was at first, but eventually I realized it was a lion, sitting on its hindquarters and wearing a knight's helmet, and a crown on top of that. It was a truly bizarre symbol for the castle, but at the same time, it looked surprisingly regal and dignified. I also noticed a distant tower on a faraway hill, some other castle or ruins of one. I was able to find the name of it on the map we had, but I didn't get any more information about it before we left, and now the map and name are both gone.

Our tour began almost immediately after we arrived, led by a deep-voiced guide speaking German- although he occasionally added a few things in English, most of the tour was in German and we had to depend on the information sheet he handed us to figure out the significance of what we were seeing. It was raining as we started, but by the time we walked past a couple courtyards and into a room, it had already stopped. The first room we stopped in was the dining room, which had a beautiful pokerwork ceiling, in which patterns had been burnt, then painted. It also had a massive china cabinet with two doors to either side of it. He said he was going to open the one on the right and the group had only four seconds to take a picture of what was on the other side- of course, we'd already read the info sheet, so it wasn't a surprise when it opened onto nothing more than a blank wall. It was a false door that had been installed for no other reason than to preserve the symmetry of the room. We proceeded through its more functional twin and into the Gothic room, named for its arched ceiling. Speaking of ceilings, these rooms were very small and the elderly group we were with seemed utterly oblivious to anyone trying to use a camera near them, so often the ceiling or things high up on the walls were the only things I was able to get pictures of. I did manage to snap a shot of the ivory-inlaid table in the center, though, which was the highlight of the room.

The next room was the Roman room, named for the temple-like doorways and painted ceiling. This room had two secret passages, one of which our guide opened for us, revealing a stairway that used to lead down to the monastery below the castle. There was also a pretty green tiled stove in the room, which he didn't say much about, but which seemed pretty interesting to me. The next room was sort of a passageway, with windows on either side and a mermaid lamp hanging from the ceiling, which he said was a protective charm. It was also very low-hanging, and I had to duck when I went by it. Descending a short spiral staircase, we arrived in the hunting room, which was full of antlers and stuffed animals, the most notable of which was a gigantic boar head. A table by a stained glass window contained immense steins, some so big that they would be impossible to lift if filled with liquid (they had spigots!). Our guide said that one of them contained the amount of wine a monk was allowed to drink in one day.

After that came the Knights' Room, the finest room in the castle, supported by carved wooden pillars and filled with expensive paintings, sculptures and furniture. I noticed those helmeted lions on either corner of the fireplace, and in the corner was a bust of Louis Ravené himself, who, in addition to restoring the castle, seemed to be kind of a town hero- I'd noticed a restaurant and other businesses named after him even before we knew who he was, and there was another bust of him in town that we saw on our way to the hotel that evening. The last room of the tour had suits of armor in it, including one with all the parts labeled and another that was just massive, apparently worn by a giant of a man. The guide said something about him, but I missed most of it- aside from him being very tall! The room opened onto a balcony overlooking the town, and then we went back down to another courtyard below the main tower (which we never did get to see, I guess it's not open to the public), which had the castle's well, a 150-foot-deep pit with water glistening at the very bottom. That was the end of the tour, and it was a lot of fun seeing the castle from the inside. It was beautiful, and the view from it even better.

We made a quick stop back at the hotel so Glennica could pay for the wine and the room, then we went to the chairlift- it was the string of lights we'd seen going up the mountain the previous night (though, oddly, it's not open at night), and we'd briefly seen it while wandering. Now it was open, and we bought tickets to go to the top, where there was a lot of nice wilderness for hiking. The ride had a wonderful view, and when we got to the top we took a long hike through the woods, which actually reminded me a lot of Boulder. We were totally alone in the woods, never passing another person, for possibly the first time since we left Colorado, and it was a nice chance to escape all the people and appreciate nature. We actually went quite some distance, and I was starting to hope we were getting near that mysterious tower I'd seen earlier. Unfortunately, we had to go back before the chairlift closed and night fell, so we turned back before we could find out exactly where we'd ended up.

The rest of the day was spent wandering and shopping, which we'd already done for much of the afternoon, not to mentioned the previous day. Cochem has a lot of cute little shops, and we must have passed through the central market square with its fountain five or six times without meaning to, always passing back through the same area on our way back towards the hotel. Glennica got totally entranced by some cute touristy cartoon sheep postcards and bought way too many. We wanted to get bratwurst for dinner, but the stall that had sold the currywurst was already closed, so we scoured the town for another that was still open. It's surprisingly difficult to get bratwurst in Germany, especially at night, but we finally found a place that was about to close, and the friendly, helpful owner seemed overjoyed to cook us up three bratwurst to go. We took them back along with some cake and tarts we'd purchased at an awesome little bakery and had it all for dinner with white wine while watching Futurama in German in the hotel's kitchen. After that we went to bed early out of necessity- unfortunately, the train we needed only left at around six in the morning!
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