Thursday, October 22, 2015

Cochem and the Moselle Valley - October 17, 2015

The Moselle Valley from the castle in Cochem
The Moselle river was a thoroughfare for traffic from France to Germany, and Cochem was ideally situated to extracted tolls or duties from those passing up the river into Germany. The fortress castle was begun about 1000 AD. This was a lovely spot, but the day was overcast and cold. We drove the 2 1/2 hours to Cochem with the Newmans and met the Jarrards and Stevens there.

Start with the Village of Cochem

Cochem is more small town than village, but it straddles the river and is "touristy." The old part of the town is a warren of narrow cobblestone streets lined with centuries old buildings -- we still gape when we see a bakery that is in a building built in the 1600's. This little place is filled with shops selling stuff for tourists. People were from various places in Germany, but there were also loads of Chinese and other nationalities. The streets were crowded, and late in the day, we realized that Oktober Fest was on. Well, people were festive and generally having a good time, and there were lots of young families with children. Other places we have been have mostly been devoid of children -- except at church. German families are smaller than the average family in the United States unless you're talking about the coming generation that doesn't seem to want children. That sounds negative, but it's just an observation based on statistics. The birth rate in Germany is way below replacement, and their population will shrink by 20-25% over the next couple of decades. It's irreversible at this point based on demographics, and the only way that will change is through emigration. You've probably been reading or hearing about Syrian refugees. Germany is welcoming large numbers of refugees, but there is no clear path to permanent residency or citizenship. Germany isn't sure they want all of these new folks who are so clearly different from them.

The pink building at the end of the square is the Rathaus or City Hall
Distorted panorama of the town square

The tower is attached to a Catholic church
Through a stone arch and down another alley

We wish the pictures gave better perspective on how narrow the streets are

We love the decoration of the old buildings

Janet and I both love the window boxes - they're a chore to water
Spielwaren = Toy Store

Beautiful mosaic - modern
Alte Thorschenke = Old Inn at the Gate
The Visit to the Castle

The tower and gate in the foreground were built in 1352
The castle sits on the crest of a hill surrounded by vineyards. The 1st level of the castle is 100 meters (more than 300 feet) above the river. In such a narrow river valley, you can see why this spot was chosen for a fortification. A small fort was constructed in about 1000 AD. It was expanded over time as it was controlled by palatinate princes (successors to rule under the Holy Roman Empire) and German kings. The French, under King Louis XIV occupied Cochem and took control of the castle in the 1680s and then burned it to the ground and blew up part of it in 1689. It remained a ruin until the 19th century. A wealthy Berlin businessman named Ravené (a descendant of French Huegenots who fled to Germany to escape persecution) bought the ruins in 1868 and began a project to build a new castle on the ruins, incorporating some of the original elements. It was completed by the purchaser's son in 1877. It has 50+ rooms and was filled with artwork and 15th to 16th century furniture at one point. Most of the artwork was lost during World War II. In 1942, during the Nazi years, Ravené was forced to sell the family castle to the Prussian Ministry of Justice, which turned it into a law school run by the Nazi government. Fascinating history.

Brrr. The chill seeps into your bones.

We wimped out and took a shuttle bus to the base of the hill, but there was still a steep climb to the entrance.
The views along the path up are gorgeous

There are splashes of fall color everywhere now.

We thought this was a frog, but it is a lion wearing armor with the face shield all the way down.
We will be sad when winter arrives and the flowers are gone.

Elder Jarrard said his wife's purchase (the scarf) from the market in town looked like a collection of dryer lint. 

The history of the owners of the castle

Love the fanciful architecture of the side residence and the bright red vines covering the walls.

The 120 ft square tower is a holdover from the Romanesque period
Dining room -- too cold to eat in here. 

Walls and ceilings are decorated by burning patterns into wood and then painting it.

Ravané loved wood carving
Ceilings were beautifully painted in the rooms we visited

Detail of the ceiling in a Romanesque room

These ceilings are all late 19th century work
Beautiful stained glass in a ladies' sitting room
If you touch the spot on the mermaid and make a wish . . . Antlers for wings? Weird.
Most valuable piece in the castle made in the late 1500s - remember, no power tools
View from the balcony not bad

Round tower at right called the Witches tower - used to test for witchcraft by tossing women out of an upper window -- assume not many passed the test.

Window of the Jagdzimmer (Hunting Room) where the men sat and told fish stories and drank large flagons of wine. The fish grew larger by the 5th liter of wine. 
The Stevens - photographing 2000 documents a day for FamilySearch in Wiesbaden

The Jarrards work in the office 2 days a week with us and work in a small ward

Late afternoon stop for a snack and a warm café

Hot chocolate with a large hot waffle, whipped cream, and cherries

Or a piece of warm apple strudel with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream
There was a brass band that was wandering from spot to spot in the old city, and they were clearly having a great time. I think I saw my brother Brad in the trumpet section. 

In the village Catholic church
One of our last stops was the Catholic church. It has an old exterior (a few hundred years, but that's common in Germany), but the interior is modern. There were spectacularly colorful Marc Chagall type stained glass windows, so the church interior was lit with primary colors from the windows. It was very cold -- I imagined that I could see my breath inside the church. I wonder how comfortable it is for parishioners during mass or in the confessional. Anyway, there was a slightly larger than life size carved wooden statue in the back of the main chapel. It wasn't labeled, but I'm reasonably sure that it is meant to be of St. Christopher. We liked the depiction and that the child is kneeling on the scriptures. What better foundation can parents offer their children than the word of God?

It was a great day in this little town on the Mosel. We love the country and the people.

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