Part one: Berlin to the Upper Moselle (via Weimar)
I googled ‘What is Germany famous for?”, and right at the top of the list were “cars and the autobahn” and “castles” (beer, pretzels and law & order also featured, in case you were wondering!). Which was great to be reassured of, as I was about to leave Berlin for a long weekend staycation where I’d be embarking on a 7-hour road trip (one-way!)
Road trips have a nostalgic place in my heart, as, when I was little, my brother and I would get bundled into the car before sunrise, the back seats full with snacks and suitcases, and we’d set off on an adventure. We’d listen to the radio, audiobooks, tell stories and gaze out the window, occasionally stopping to explore a historic town or check out some nature.
So I was incredibly excited to be taking my first proper German road trip. I’d put my out of office on for the first time in 1.5 years, packed a bag full of snacks, and another full of clothes for hiking and clothes for drinking wine (though in hindsight you can easily drink wine in hiking clothes…), and went to pick up the car (a huge thanks to Hertz for providing a car for the trip).
Nothing beats the feeling of waking up early knowing you’re about to go on an adventure; for some reason, it’s so much easier to roll out of bed.
Bags packed and car collected, we began to drive out of the city, passing the Brandenburger Tor and Victory Column (Siegessäule). It’s with this holiday mindset that you see things through rose-tinted glasses: Berlin is a special city.
Our journey took us along the autobahn, past Leipzig and towards Erfurt. We talked about our current stresses, work goals and our future plans; perhaps it’s the fact you aren’t sat face to face that means these conversations are much easier to have - your mind roams freely as the landscape whizzes past, and you can express yourself in a way that isn’t possible at the dinner table. Deep conversations are an integral part of a long road trip, wouldn’t you agree!?
After some thought-provoking conversation, it seemed only appropriate to stop in a city that is full of high-level thought: Weimar, a UNESCO-listed site. This picture-book perfect city is the historical epicentre of Germany's 18th-century Enlightenment movement, making it an essential stop for anyone with a passion for the country's history and culture.
Goethe, Schiller, Bach, Nietzsche and Gropius are just some of the intellectual and creative minds who lived and worked here.
As much was closed (COVID..), we simply took a stroll to take in the scenery and impressive architecture, visiting Goethe and Schiller houses, as well taking a leisurely stroll through Park an der Ilm, a vast green space that was landscaped in the 1700s, before getting back in the car for the second stretch of the journey.
Time whizzed by, perhaps thanks to the podcasts we listened to (see below), perhaps thanks to the landscape that was rich with trees and meadows, or perhaps thanks to the company and conversation, and before I knew it, we were twisting down winding roads that lined the Moselle valley towards our first destination.
Mosel Chalets - three oh-so-romantic, minimalist cabins - jumped out at us thanks to their stunning floor-to-ceiling glass windows that offer an unspoilt look over the vineyards that start on the other side of the street. We were greeted by Gabi, sister of owner Holger, who showed us around and got us settled in. She explained to us that the three cabins had wooden frames and were pre-made using sustainable materials, and then, once delivered, simply had to be assembled on site.
The concept was simple: let the outside in and show off the beauty of the region. We stayed in “Chalet Mosel”, and I loved the open-plan living space with a large kitchen island, meaning whether I was cooking, chilling or eating, I had an unspoilt view over the valley.
On our first evening, we curled up with a bottle of white wine from Weingut Ewald Zenzen and watched as the sky turned from blue to pink to black. We could already feel the stress of city life begin to slip off, and soon fell sound asleep in the upstairs bedroom.
“Guess the time”, my partner asked as he brought me coffee in bed. “9.30?” I replied. I was impressively wrong: it was only 7.30, but the darkness and quietness had allowed me to sleep so deeply I woke up early feeling refreshed and energised, ready to explore the area.
We spent several hours walking through the incredible landscape of the Upper Moselle, hiking along the Eltz Castle Panorama Dream Trail ("Der Traumpfad Eltzer Burgpanorama"), and I must say, it really was a pretty dreamy walk with lots of panoramic views!
The trail is 12.6 km with lots of ups and downs (as a woman used to the gentle inclines in Brandenburg, I certainly got a workout!), and it took us around 5 hours with several stops for snacks! You pass through meadows, alongside babbling mountain streams, through dense forests and into steep valleys. Start in Wierschem, as then at around the halfway point you’re treated to the most incredible view of Burg Eltz, a castle that looks as if it was painted onto the landscape.
Even my partner, who is much more of a nature person, was wowed by the castle’s design and position atop a hill, protected by steep slopes and a small river below.
More details, including the route, can be found here.
After the hike, we were both pretty tired, so retreated to Mosel Chalets to curl up with a book and daydream as we gazed over the Mosel river and vineyards. We, of course, enjoyed another glass of crisp white wine (this time from Weingut Leo Fuchs) and cooked a simple but delicious dinner: mushroom cream sauce with a steak (him) and halloumi (me) accompanied by roasted green asparagus.
Before retreating to bed, we poured ourselves a Wegwein and took a stroll through Pommern (a village that’s over 1300 years old). Gabi had told us that the village had just 300 inhabitants, but 14 different Weingut! We weaved back to the cabin along the river, with a quick detour through the vineyards (there’s a public walking path that starts in front of the house).
By this point, Berlin felt like a million miles away and that holiday feeling had kicked in.
#1: Weingut Leo Fuchs
What we tired:
2016 Vom Grauen Schiefer | Riesling Sekt b. A. | brut
2020 Sinfonie | weiße Burgunder-Cuvée | feinherb
#2: Weingut Ewald Zenzen
What we tried:
Weißer Burgunder Trocken 2019er Pommerner Sonnenuhr
#3: Weingut Staffelter Hof
What we tried:
Staffelter Hof Orange Utan Riesling & Muskateller 2018
#1: On Being | Ocean Vuong — A Life Worthy of Our Breath
A beautiful discussion between Krista Tippett and Ocean Vuong. They speak eloquently about the world we have come to inhabit: it's heartbreak, its poetry, and its possibilities of both destroying and saving.
#2: Jon Ronson | The Butterfly Effect
It's sort of about p0rn, but it's about a lot of other things. It's sad, funny and moving, plus it isn’t judgmental or salacious. It's human and sweet and strange and lovely. It's a mystery story, an adventure.
#3: Philosophize This! | The Frankfurt School - Erich Fromm on Love
An intelligent summary of Eric Fromm’s famous work The Art of Loving, both the theory and how we can apply this to our lives and how we love today.
Vietnamese-style summer rolls, full of crunchy veggies, flavoursome tofu and creamy peanut sauce, are - in our opinion - the best car snack as they’re easy to make and full of flavour.
Veggies: thinly slice carrot, cucumber and pepper.
Tofu: press the water out of a block of tofu, then slice before coating in seasoning (salt, pepper, sriracha, soy sauce and honey). Bake for 15 minutes.
Peanut sauce: mix peanut butter with sriracha, honey, lime juice, crushed garlic and water.
Assemble: soak Vietnamese rice paper in warm water, and then place a bit of everything into the centre before rolling up and putting them in a box for the car!
The Staycation Collection was provided with a car from Hertz Germany from the My Hertz Weekend range for this trip; this is not an advert or paid partnership, just a recommendation as we were very happy with the service and quality of the car provided.