Zell was the first famous wine town, renowned of course for Zeller Schwartze Katz. The locals made sure you knew about their famous wine with a statue in the main square. Nearby an old house with some interesting carving caught our attention. And in nearby Puenderich our guidebook helped as find the Rathaus with its Old German saying over the door, which roughly translates as "Don't enter if you can't hold your wine."
We have seen dozens of cyclists every week day, hundreds every weekend day, but few tandemers. So of course we started chatting with a couple we encountered near Zell. Jeff first learned tandeming from a blind friend, Pete Dawson, 25 years ago. Our new acquaintances were a blind stoker and his (of course) sighted captain/wife, plus two siblings of hers. They are from near Rotterdam and were out for a day ride of, we think, 60 or 70 km. Those Dutch do love their biking! We gave them our email address, in case they can ride with us in Leiden next month.
Further along we saw what we thought might be a vineyard mansion atop one hill. Our route now occasionally took short cuts at bends in the Moselle through a few vineyards.
In every town we passed places with names like Weingut Goethe, the first word meaning they were wine estates, i.e. places that made and sold their own wine. We spent a night at Hotel Weingut Dehren in the small town of Ellentz-Poltersdorf, and enjoyed one of the owner's own Rieslings along with the best restaurant meal we've had this summer. The next night we were in a Hotel Garni, meaning no dinner served, but we had the best view of the trip: of the Moselle and of the lush vineyards across the river.
Those are far from all the sights. Besides several blocks of attractive Fachwerk (half-timbered) houses, there was also this laid-back place, and then the Rathaus, or city hall. The astute among you might have already noticed the chain on the front corner, where ne'er-do-wells would be put on display as part of their punishment.
Before we leave Germany, we want to be sure to show you two road signs. The first we saw frequently, and it means that the only folks who should be going down this road are the local inhabitants and cyclists. The second sign was unique to this bridge, and says "YOU are too wide and I am too narrow. Don't do it!!! (signed) The Small Bridge." For lack of another place to slip it into the dialogue, here's another unique thing we saw not far from Trier: an elementary school with its own climbing wall!
Now any city with a genuine Roman ruin that size would be pretty happy to have it. For Trier, it's only one treasure out of many. We bought the full deal ticket at the tourist office and started the next day with the Colosseum. It once had stone steps all the way up to the cheap seats where the photo was taken, but they were -- how can we say this politely -- recycled into other structures about town. Back in the day, the main attractions were fairly gruesome events, usually involving wild animals, prisoners of war, or both. Under the main arena they had a machine known in Latin as a machina. It was pretty clever, and could lift people or scenery right up to the arena level. Thanks to the ASA 3600 setting on our camera, it doesn't look all that dark and grim down there. We kind of doubt the slaves working the machina had quite those same thoughts 1,800 years ago. Oh, yeah, another one of those Romans was hanging around here, too, and running something called "Gladiator School" for folks who look like pencil-pushers the rest of the week.
Next stop was the Imperial Baths. Diagrams in the interpretive center helped us visualize what the place was once like. There's quite a bit of it left, particularly of the lower level where those clever Romans had built hot water heating systems for their baths. Kids loved the maze of long dark passageways.
Then there's Constantine's Throne Room. Are you impressed? Good, that was the plan. Intimidated and cowering were also acceptable reactions. This was the capital city of one fourth of the Roman Empire around 400 A.D., and this building represented the heart of that power. Folks in the Middle Ages didn't quite know what to do with this enormous plain box, however. Then along came Protestantism with its iconoclastic rejection of Catholic statuary and baroque exuberance. And so, today, this is now the main Protestant church in largely Catholic Trier.
Want a break from Romans and Roman Catholic bishops? Trier is also a pilgrimage site of sorts for Communists. Yup! Very popular these days, we hear, with the Chinese tourists, not so much with Polish or Russian ones. Right in town is the birthplace of Karl Marx, who lived here until he left for college. Want to spend some capital rather than read curious theories about it? They'll be happy to entertain you in cafes and restaurants at the beautiful Hauptmarkt in the center of town.
In our next entry we'll finally leave Germany for a few days in Luxembourg, followed by a short train ride through the hilly Ardennes to our next river valley, the Muse.