I know I don’t normally discuss the touristy stuff here on Living the American Dream in Europe, but it is at times a part of the experience, just like being silly and obsessed with things from my home culture, so here we are. Over the weekend my husband had a birthday and to counter the evils or fun of the night of (depending on how you look at it), we spent Sunday exploring a very small area of the Eifel region near Trier Germany. My husband found Berg Ramstein near a small village and thought it looked easy enough to trek to and around in less than one day, so off we went. We took the train to Kordel, where we were told that nothing happens in the village and it is hard to get to other places from there if we were staying longer than a day. Lucky for us I guess we were not. My husband has a knack I think for finding hole-in-the-wall places that more often than not turn out being pretty great!
Before we started our trek, we stopped at the ever kitchy looking local pub in the bahnhof and my husband fell instantly in love when we walked in. It seemed to be a restaurant too and perhaps on the weekends hold events outside as it had an extensive patio and covered area, perhaps for bands.
We ordered a coffee, drank it and went but my husband said he wants to come back sooner than later to drink a proper beer in that establishment, so you already know we must return. From there we walked along the narrow roadway back to the Berg. Along the way we discovered a shrine to the Virgin Mary up in the hillside among a large rock overhang, which required stopping, climbing and looking about simply because we very easily could have missed it and at least I had never seen anything like this before. I thought it was a nice use of nature and spiritual mixed with the holy.
As we walked along further, I kept being impressed by the size of the hill we were walking next to. I’d say it was a proper mountain and it had some beautiful trees in. Remember, I am from Oregon, so I am somewhat partial and well, to be honest my husband and I haven’t really escaped to nature in quite a while, we’ve always remained rather close to the cities. This is partly because the two of us have chosen not to drive in Europe. It is far too easy to fall into the convenient, but expensive trap that is car ownership. Yes, it allows for a great sort of freedom, but binds its owners to another type of bondage and while it was somewhat necessary for our lives in Portland, at least to have one car we don’t yet feel the need to have one here. On the downside though, that means that we cannot simply go away for a weekend camping like we used to. These are the choices we have made though, and so far are okay with them.
My husband, a biologist by training was explaining the rock formations to me as I said that their ‘flatness’ and ‘layered-cake’ look are maybe because of volcanic activity as the Eifel region is known for its mainly (but not entirely) extinct volcanoes. While we walked he stated that the Eifel once long ago rivaled the Alps in size, except that this region has been beaten down essentially by glaciers forming and then melting. I imagine the once constant volcanic activity didn’t help, but I am no geologist. He corrected me by explaining that the rocks in this area look rather ‘flat’ because they are sedimentary rock formations:
So, we walked to the base of the hill that holds the remnants of Berg Ramstein. Many other hikers seemed to be taking a scenic route through the forest up to the Berg, but we wanted to explore it first, so off we went undisturbed up, up, up until we came to a restaurant and children playing on a play structure in a grassy garden area. We had to walk around the restaurant, which also included a hotel in its upper floors to get to the Berg.
Berg Ramstein was built by the Archbishop of Trier, beginning in 900, but wasn’t completed until 1325 by the order of the Baldwin of Luxembourg (or Trier), who was reportedly one of the most successful politicians of his time during the Holy Roman Empire and greatly impacting the development of Trier and the surrounding region. The Berg was in operation, often changing hands time and again until 1689, surviving the 30 Years War only to be blown up on two sides during the War of Spanish Succession by the French. Later in 1803 the Berg was sold to a private individual for 900o Francs, who sold it in 1826 to the family that maintains the restaurant and hotel on the current site.
As the pictures show, the Berg is surrounded by lush green forest and rolling hills. I couldn’t wait to get in there and explore! We just kept walking into the forest after exploring the Berg, which did look as though it could go on forever. After only a very short walk we came across an old Roman quarry (Römisches Bergwerk):
In German this place is called die Pützlöcher, meaning water hole and happens to be one of the oldest and largest Roman mines in Germany, originally dug for Ore, but later used as a quarry. This is likely the original water source for Berg Ramstein. Some of the stone blocks from here helped build the Porta Nigra in Trier:
Apparently, in the winter you cannot tour the inside of the mine due to it being a conserve for bats and the rest of the year tours can be arranged by appointment only, which might be an interesting adventure at some later date, when my husband and I can more clearly and easily understand the German language.
We didn’t realize it but, the path we chose to hike was actually the Archäologischer Rundwanderweg or Archeological Loop Trail, which both begins and ends near the Berg. It goes by die Pützlöcher, and apparently by the Genoveva-Höhle or Genoveva cave, which is named after the wife of the Count of Palatine Siegfried, who thought his wife Genoveva became pregnant after fooling around on him while he was away. She swore the baby was his, but he banished her and the baby to the forest (or death, her choice) where the mother and child apparently took up home in this cave surviving off berries and doe’s milk. Six years later the Count rediscovered the hunting party that banished his wife and child, had them take him to them and apologized and brought the pair home where Genoveva died shortly thereafter having grown weak after so many years in the forest living in a cave. It could happen to anyone forced to live through the bare German winters without much shelter. If you’ve been here in winter, you understand. Unfortunately, we missed this in the loop, I am a little sad now that we did considering the spot has such a rich history.
The section of trail we were on is called the romantischen Butzerbachtal or romantic Butzerbach, because of all the waterfalls and I am really glad we found them.
My husband kept saying that we should just walk all the way through the forest back to Trier as it would only be like 18 km (11.18 miles) and roughly only take about five hours, of course this is after already walking around in the forest for three hours. I said no, so we just kept exploring the forest at our own pace promising to return. When we had finished our loop we did decide to walk along the bike path to Erang, which is the last village suburb of Trier.
Right after I took this last picture my husband started singing the song, “Stand by Me“.
Toward the end of our hike, we stopped a few times to rest. Walking on the soft forest floor was pleasant whereas walking on the cement after a while was not. However, neither my husband or I complained. At one point we stopped to read, share peanuts and nice Belgian chocolate while I sat barefoot. In the end, we ended up along the River Mosel drinking beer in the late afternoon sun reflecting on the gem of a place we just found.