Day 12: Roaming The Rhine To Eltz

Friday July 8, 2016 – Frankfurt and Burg Eltz, Germany – The Mormon Tabernacle Choir European Tour ~

Today’s two working titles were “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” and “Just Get Lost! [You’ll Have A Great Adventure!]” 🙂

Our first adventure started at 07:00 when we decided to take a morning run to the Park. It should have been an easy, straight shot. Even though we hadn’t been to the park yet, we got a map and instructions from the bellhop. No problem! Except, somehow we missed the street we should have turned on, and ended up in a completely different part of the city.

The good news is that getting lost was how we saw the Alte Oper – Frankfurt’s Grand Opera House. It is so incredibly beautiful. It appears to have been built during the high Renaissance. I wondered how in the world it survived all the bombings of WWII! Turns out, it didn’t. It was built and dedicated in 1880. But, during an air raid in 1944 it was completely destroyed. Then, from 1969-1980 it was painstakingly rebuilt brick by brick to its original glory. It re-opened in 1981.

I only wished I was in town long enough to go inside and attend an Opera or a concert. Wouldn’t it have been cool if the Choir & Orchestra could have performed here?

Meanwhile, because I have a great inner compass, I am never really lost. #humblebrag So, I was able to get Mr. Mo and me back to the park we had intended to see. We had a very nice walk/run in a beautiful little park where we discovered there is an outdoor summer Shakespeare theater!! Oh, how fun! I wish we could have gone, but the dates and times didn’t match up. I wonder if they perform their Shakespeare in English, or German? I assume German. Wouldn’t that be interesting?


We got back just in time to shower and hop on a bus for our second [pre-paid optional] excursion. Other tour members chose to go to Heidelberg or stay in Frankfurt. There was no time for breakfast, but since we anticipated food available at our destination we ate some cheese and crackers to hold us over. We were headed to see another castle, yippee! Burg Eltz is located near the famous Rhine River, so our estimated 2 hour drive to the castle provided us with a second excursion.

CRUISING THE RHINE

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Leaving Frankfurt toward the Rhine River

For many years Mr. Mo and I have received catalogs to our home advertising “Rhine River cruises” and now here we were actually seeing those very same cruise boats gliding along! It made us smile. This is definitely a fantastic travel destination!

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A river cruise boat on the Rhine

At every bend in the river there is a new castle rising on the hilltop. Most are old ruins today, but some of them have been restored and renovated into homes, museums, or castle hotels. Wouldn’t it be so fun to stay in one of them? I wished there was time to stop and explore each one of them!

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A castle ruin seen above the Rhine River

Unfortunately,  photos taken from the window of a moving bus simply don’t do justice to this gorgeous spot on God’s earth.

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Here is a really quick and fun Rick Steve’s video all about our journey today which provides some cool history – and very beautiful video of what we saw today!

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

Eventually, our big Double-Decker tour bus [we had seats on top!] left the larger highway and started travelling down some darling little streets with 16th Century homes and ancient rock walls. We passed by a gorgeous old mansion converted into a restaurant, and our street continue to narrow. We attempted to turn a corner… and then…

…our bus GOT STUCK in between the buildings. Ohmigosh!!

We were a giant bus pretzel.

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Time to turn around – good luck

Our driver started to inch backward, but he had to jostle forward and back in tiny increments to avoid hitting anything. Meanwhile,  a couple of village children and a stern woman whose house we were about to take out gathered below. If the glass of my window had not been there, I could have easily reached out and touched the side of her house!! We were THAT CLOSE!

And from the look of things, we weren’t the first rodeo! When you have to put reflectors on the second floor of your house, you know you’re living on the wrong street… just sayin’.

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Close Encounter of the Third…or 4th or 5th kind…

This was all slightly terrifying but tremendously entertaining.

Our bus captain Barry leaped out and ran around to the back of the vehicle to help direct traffic. Eventually, we drove all the way back the way we came – in reverse!- while little cars swerved onto the sidewalk and Barry jogged along clearing the way. When Barry jumped back on, he picked up the microphone and announced with his typical droll humor;

“Hey folks, we meant to do that!”

Yeah! 🙂

So, the bus heads down another street and up a new mountain road. Very lovely. But, just a few minutes later, we can feel the bus driver pressing on his brakes. Then we see Barry leaping out of the bus AGAIN to stop traffic while our poor bus driver makes his 5 point turn-around. This time, we had a much larger audience witnessing our shame.

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Hey folks, don’t mind us!

I can just imagine them cursing out those “stupid Americans.”

But, while we were “lost” I did get to see some beautiful scenery. I was admiring how they plant their vineyards on such steep terraces! I wondered how they harvested the grapes, and then I actually saw some people climbing the terraces, and placing the grapes into little carts that are attached to metal tracks that slide down the hill. Very ingenious!

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Carts full of harvested grapes are sent down the steep hills using metal tracks.

WELCOME HOME TO ELTZ!

Eventually, we found the right road to Burg [“Castle”] Eltz We arrived safe and sound, although an hour late. This meant we would not have any time to leisurely stroll down the mountain path or explore. We just needed to take the little shuttle bus down to the castle entrance [2€ each way], and head straight to the courtyard for our tour.

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Wait Here For the Shuttle

The good news is that we soon discovered that our misadventure getting here was completely worth it!

Burg Eltz is beloved by Germans. It was the image used on the 500 Deutsche Mark.

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The castle of Eltz truly is AMAZING!!!!!

“A castle tucked away in Germany’s Mosel Valley wins my award for the best castle interior. As you approach through the gentle trees of an ancient forest — where you’d expect the Seven Dwarves or Martin Luther to be hiding out — a castle of your fantasies suddenly appears. It is Burg Eltz.” – Rick Steves

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One of my favorite photos of the day of Castle Eltz

I think Eltz looks like something straight out of Harry Potter. Mr. Mo says it looks more like the castle where Shrek and Donkey rescued Princess Fiona. Either way, it has all those romantic little towers, turrets and flags and even a “troll bridge”. It’s as if we have suddenly been transported to the Middle Ages. I would not have been surprised to see knights in shining armor riding on their horses down the hill.

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Walking toward Burg Eltz

Climbing up to the castle’s front door is the real deal – and in some places this could get really slippery when wet. “Hold to the rod!” I loved how this walkway is so worn down from over 900 years of use, and yet no one has messed with it, and it remains authentic!

It turns out that Burg Eltz has been owned by the SAME FAMILY (the Eltz family line) for the past 33 Generations. Can you believe it? 33 Generations. Ever since the 12th Century. Because of this, there were a few additions to the castle during the early centuries when the family was growing, which explains why there are so many different building materials used, and how the walls and turrets are often interconnecting in strange corners.

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There’s Barry – our Tour Manager and intrepid Bus Captain – in the upper right!

How cool would it be to not only have the same house in the family for about 1000 years, but to actually know all the names of all 33 Generations that have preceded you? To still own the same artifacts and furniture as your 8th Great Grandfather, to know the history and stories carefully recorded and handed down to you from all of those generations?

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Burg Eltz Entrance to the Inner Courtyard

Although they have had to replace the roofing and do basic maintenance and improvements over the years, the structure is exactly the same as it has always been. The same cobblestones, the same walls, the same windows, the same rooms, and so much more. It has been beautifully and lovingly preserved. In fact, the current owner even lives part of the castle part-time, so that side of the castle is not shown to tourists. But, she makes sure that fresh flower arrangements are placed in every room each day for the tour groups. The flowers add such a warm, homey and authentic feeling. I loved that.

It is very easy for me to imagine living here.

Photography is not allowed inside. I have chosen to share just a few photos from the official Burg Eltz website. You may see many more there.

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A family dining room – Photo courtesy the Burg Eltz website

It is fascinating that since the original family has kept this castle, they have also kept all of the furnishings, paintings, and decorations inside that are also original to the house. In fact, it was said that there are so many artifacts and furniture collected over the generations, one of the entire towers is used just for storage. Considering how many weeks it took me to sort and clean out our stuff after living in a home for 12 years, I can hardly imagine how much stuff has accumulated for a family living in one home for 900 years!

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A bedrooom – photo courtesy Burg Eltz Website – look how colorful and cheerful!

I fell deeply in love with this castle. I admit I loved Neuschwanstein Castle for all of it’s fairy tale glory, pomp and fame, and because there is so much to see and do in the surrounding area. But, Neuschwanstein is also a major tourist attraction – ridiculously commercialized. Complete with having to walk through a Disney-esque gift shop at the end of the tour while still inside the castle. There are hundreds of thousands of people streaming through, with extremely large tour groups beginning every 5 minutes. It’s still fantastic to see it, and I would return in a heartbeat. But…

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Burg Eltz Im Moselthale – Steel engraving, 1856 Germany

…Eltz Castle is so special.

It is much more than a castle, it is a family home  – owned and lived in by real people. There is a tremendous spirit of love and life and history here. It is a symbol of all that is and was great about Germany throughout the ages. It was spared any harm during the multiple wars this area has endured for 10 Centuries. Becuase Burg Eltz is much less known and more remote to find than Neuschwanstein, that contributes to the quieter relaxing pace here. While there is a gift shop at Eltz, it is very small and tasteful, separated from the main castle. There is also a small cafe here with outdoor seating overlooking a beautiful view on a lower level of the castle complex.

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“Burg Eltz at dawn” – painting by Heinrich Adolf Valentin Hoffmann (1896 Frankfurt)

There are only 20 people per tour group, that makes the experience very intimate, and personalized. Our particular tour guide was a darling young lady who is a native of the town of Eltz a few miles away. She came to America during her High School Years for a 6 month study abroad experience in the state of Alabama. Her English is excellent, with only a slight Alabaman-German accent, which we found very endearing. 🙂
She was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about Berg Eltz. She always had a LOT of answers to any difficult questions. She definitely knows and loves this castle. In fact, she knew many more details about the home and the history than she had time to tell during the tour, so she spent more time with us afterward answering any and all of our questions.

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This intricate mosaic of Mary and the Christ Child adorns the courtyard wall at Burg Eltz

The dungeon of the castle has been transformed into a “Treasury” – a museum of items from the family collection of gold, toys, antique beer steins, chinaware, clothing, weaponry, and other special items arrayed in glass cases for people to enjoy. But, one of my personal favorites was two giant paintings on canvas with the 7 generation pedigree going back from the original Eltz husband and wife who built the castle. So, that means that the current family member who is the 33rd Generation of castle owner actually knows 40 Generations back from himself! Wow. The genealogy chart includes the family crests for each ancestor painted next to their names. So cool.

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A 7 Generation Ancestral Chart at Burg Eltz, from the 1200s!

I wonder about who each of these names were. What did they look like? What were their hopes and dreams? What were their personalities like? What kind of exciting experiences and trials did they have in life? How did they die? I know they were very intelligent and innovative people. They  engineered “running water” – with pipes placed in the roof that would bring rain water down and “flush” their toilets – but of course, things only “flushed” when it rained, so I suppose they often needed to “pray for rain”. They also used pipes to bring rainwater into their 3 kitchens for washing dishes. Smart. The kitchens had ovens, fire pits and even had “cold storage” built behind the walls. These people were very resourceful. They also loved beauty and refinement and were savvy in politics and intermarrying with other tribes so that this castle was never attacked. I think this castle would have been quite a cozy to home to live in back in those ancient days. It is certainly beautiful, and not at all what I expected to see from the outside.

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Another beautiful interior room at Eltz – photo courtesy official Burg Eltz website

I especially loved all the window seats carved into each of the windows. I learned this was so they could sit near the natural light all day to use for sewing or reading. Burning candles was not only expensive, it could be dangerous. There are some priceless artwork and tapestries inside this castle. I also enjoyed going up and down the original narrow stone winding staircases. It is fascinating to see so many original items in every room, and to learn about how things were decorated and painted in the 1200s, 1300s, 1400s, 1500s, etc. They loved color! Some of the rooms have wood and artifacts that are over 800 or 900 years old. Can you imagine?

We didn’t want to leave, but our bus was on a tight schedule. Our only regret is that we didn’t have enough time to climb the mountain trail back to the parking lot. We wanted to get some really nice distance photos, not to mention more exercise. So, I am keeping Burg Eltz, and the Rhine River on my Bucket List for a return trip.

On our way back to Frankfurt we started feeling sick were so starving!!! As you may recall, because we were late getting back from our run in the morning, we didn’t have time for Breakfast. And because the bus had gotten lost for an hour, our group didn’t have any extra time to spend at the castle eating lunch. We were happy our bus was taking a “faster route” home to Frankfurt by using the Autobahn. But, our poor bus just couldn’t get a break today. A semi truck burst into flames closing down the Autobahn – what are the odds? – for an hour. So we sat and waited.

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Having missed breakfast and lunch, this soup tasted like manna from heaven!

Tomorrow is Saturday. We will have a free morning, and then it’s off for our sound check and performance in a suburb of Frankfurt! I am soooo excited to be singing again for the people!! I can’t wait to see the people of Frankfurt and feel their spirit. The Frankfurt concert has been sold out for many weeks. I hope it will be one of our very best yet. I say that every time, and every time the concert truly is amazing! – MoSop

This is part of a 3-week series sharing my experience during the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s European Tour from June 28-July 16, 2016. Due to security concerns, tour participants were not allowed to share anything on social media until we returned.

Check back each day for a new installment!

3 thoughts on “Day 12: Roaming The Rhine To Eltz

  1. I love watching travel shows. I watch Rick Steves on PBS almost every Sat. It’s a way of “traveling” to places I know I’ll never get to see in person. In a way, you are providing me with the same kind of adventures, but in a more up close and personal way. I’m really enjoying this tour.

    One thing to remember, next time – pack a lunch (lol).

    Love you, Lynne

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