Tag Archives: Europe

Top Towns to Visit on the Middle Mosel River

Ürzig and Ürziger Würtzgarten, Germany

To wrap up on the Mosel River in Germany, I thought I’d cheat and just compile a quick guide to the places worth visiting in between the major attractions of Cochem, Burg Eltz and Bernkastel-Keus. All of these places were within easy reach of each other, especially if you base camp it at Senhalser Höfe in Senhals. And since most of them have a famous wine associated with them, I thought I’d throw in some suggested riesling pairings as well.

Ürzig & the Ürziger Würtzgarten

Why go there: Only a handful of villages along the Mosel can even challenge the beauty of Ürzig. The justly famous Ürziger Würtzgarten vineyard — with its severe pitch and unusual red-clay soil — serves as a dramatic backdrop to the north of town. With the vineyard and its cozy buildings tucked together, I could have spent a full day photographing Ürzig and its surroundings.

Suggested pairing: Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Ürziger Würtzgarten Riesling 2012. Of all the wines I sampled along the Mosel, this one was the best example of minerality in a riesling. Continue reading

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A Visit to Burg Eltz, Germany

Burg Eltz, Germany

Just beyond Treis-Karden and Müden we turned at a sign indicating Burg Eltz, one of the most famous castles in the world, which was hailed by PBS’ boy wonder Rick Steeves as his “favorite castle in Europe.” Comprised of three households (four after the 1500s), the massive, eight-story castle has managed to remain intact with minimal damage from fires and wars since the 11th century. In fact, it is still owned by descendants of one of these families, some 33 generations later. Continue reading

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Bernkastel-Keus: The Prettiest Place on the Mosel River

Bernkastel Doctor, Bernkastel-Keus, Germany

Wandering the streets of Bernkastel-Keus, its hard not to feel like you are on a treasure hunt. For one, there’s the countless storefront window displays, many of them showing off wine bottles of nearby producers, their labels bedecked with Gothic script and a stodginess that paradoxically counters the happy and saccharine flavors of the Riesling inside. There’s also the half-timbered buildings, many of them leaning as though they’re about to fold over like a house of cards. And then, there are those glimpses — usually over a roofline or between two buildings — of the Bernkasteler Doctor, one of the most prized vineyards in all of Europe, stretching up the hill side like a dwarf emerald forest.

Cyclists, Bernkastel Doctor vineyard, Bernkastel-Keus, Germany

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Visiting Cochem, Germany

Cochem, Germany at dusk on Mosel River

We started our first day in Germany slowly. My daughter clearly needed to sleep in from the jet lag, and so did my wife. So my mom and I opted to cross the river to Bakerei Stenz and load up on goodies for breakfast. By 10:30am, we were alert, satiated and ready for a little exploration, and with zero hesitation, we headed north, down the river to the city of Cochem. For months, I had been trolling Flickr, seeking inspiration and locales for how to shoot the area. Images of this city — with its Imperial castle vaulting skyward, looming over a quaint city like a domineering bully — seemed to make up 50% of the search results, apparently for good reason. Continue reading

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Where to Stay on the Mosel River: Senhals, Germany

Church and vineyards, Senheim, Germany, Mosel River Valley

In early October, I was lucky enough to visit the Mosel River Valley in Germany with my mother, my wife and my daughter — the three women of my life — and savor its wine, history, architecture and seemingly unending scenic beauty.

We had modest ambitions: maybe visit the Romantic Rhein for a day, spend some time in the ancient city of Trier … we even debated on whether we should dabble our toes in Luxembourg. But visiting this serpentine river valley covered in vineyards proved to be another matter. We hardly went anywhere. We didn’t feel compelled to. Continue reading

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Varenna on Lake Como: The Little Village We Love

Varenna on Lake Como, Italy

(Click on image for a larger view)

We sat under an umbrella, our table decorated with two glasses of wine and a plate of bruschetta. It was 2005, and this was my first visit to Italy … my first journey anywhere in Europe. We had arrived in Milan that morning, boarded a train, and immediately made our way north to Lake Como and a little village Rick Steves had gushed about named Varenna.

On the brick-lined shore before us, a father was teaching his two daughters how to skip stones. The warm, hazy sun gave the colorful village the appearance of a melted watercolor, and one of us — I can’t remember who — said to the other “Varenna would be a nice name for a little girl, wouldn’t it?”

Almost five years later, Varenna Autumn Day was born. Now almost 3, she has a lightness, a sense of humor, and a sweet innocence that illuminates my every day. And despite the times people ask how to spell her name, or mix it up and pronounce it Ver-EE-na, or confuse it with Verona or Ravenna, we still feel like we knocked it out of the park with her name. This town — with its vivid colors, wizard hat campanile, hilltop castle and compact lakeside location where the buildings seem to hug one another — is officially on the highest pedestal of any place I’ve ever been. Continue reading

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Morning in La Morra, Italy

La Morra, Italy

(Click on images for a larger view)

Fresh off sunrise in the magnificent Langhe Hills, we arrived among the familiar hills of La Morra. Now that the sun was shining and we had genuine baby-blue skies to photograph, there was no question where I wanted to go for a do-over. Il Cedro del Libano.

Cedar tree and La Morra, Italy

Standing 50-feet tall atop a vine-covered mound, the Cedar of Lebanon had become the icon of La Morra for us. You see it immediately as you approach from Alba. Its stateliness demands attention; its manicured perfection belongs in a massive picture frame hung on a large wall.   Continue reading

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Morning in the Langhe Hills, Piedmont, Italy

Rodello, Piedmont, Italy

(Click on image for a larger view.)

October 16, 2012. The final of seven full days in Italy. The next day, we would be off on an early morning flight home from Malpensa Airport, back to the joys of parenthood, the travails of work, the slow and creeping descent into winter. Back to reality.

And yet both of us woke up extra sick. Sore throat, congestion … the antithesis of romance in one of the most romantic landscapes we’ve ever visited. Oh well. We couldn’t complain, because the overnight rain had done something quite remarkable: it killed the fog. Continue reading

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Obsession in Alba, Italy: White Truffles & Wine

white truffles from Alba, Italy

The white truffle. As Jeremy Clarkson called it. “Looks like a mummified testicle.”

The morning after binging at Ristorante Bovio, I started slowly, as any good hungover traveler would. I nursed a cappuccino quietly, and contemplated a nap in the muddy rows of vines at Villa Carita. But then, as a group, we mustered the energy to pack into our car and descend the hill of La Morra for a jaunt to Alba, the region’s focal-point city.

I was feeling a bit thrashed by the previous night’s experience: extreme sensory delight followed by a karmic resurgence of a nasty cough. But if we were to make the most of this October Saturday, we were to spend it at Alba’s International White Truffle Fair. Held on weekends in October, it is as much a showcase of the revered fungi as it is a profile of human obsession. Continue reading

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Staying at Villa Carita, La Morra, Italy

woman walking through vineyard, Barolo, La Morra, Italy

How important are accommodations? Depends on who you ask, but what’s not up for debate is this: when you’ve come across the perfect place, suddenly, the rest of the trip falls into place. The perfect location, an endless view, the little luxuries … they’re all facilitators of taking a vacation and turning it up a notch.

When we rolled into the gravel parking lot of Villa Carita, a four-bedroom inn perched on a hillside just outside La Morra, Italy, I was in a state of disbelief. The Langhe Hills stretched out for 270-degrees below the inn’s terrace. Beneath the terrace, two rooms enjoyed private in-the-vineyard gardens. “God, I hope those are our two rooms,” I said out loud to anyone listening. Continue reading

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