Germany · travel

Christmas in Europe: The Rhine

Where I Went:

Following our jaunt through the east of France, we cut over and drove up the Rhine before settling in Rudesheim am Rhine and Oberwesel. Before stopping, we killed some time by going further north, passing remnants of castles, and traveling to Koblenz.

Rudesheim am Rhine:

Rudesheim is a wine town along the Rhine River not far from the French border. We arrived quite harried after a winding ride through narrow passages in the city. Our host was nice enough to take the keys and was just about the goofiest, nicest person we had come across. He upgraded our room for free, giving us separate beds and a view of the Neiderwald Monument. Hotel Zum Baren is only about a five minute walk to the market (or, for that matter, any other part of town) so it was a perfect base for us as we traversed the city. The market itself is representative of numerous countries and has lots to offer. Polish hand-painted pottery was featured heavily along with local liqueurs, fruit vinegars, beeswax candles, wool slippers, and stones. The food was also quite good with apricot brandy, hot wine, sausages, roasted mushrooms, marzipans, meats, and cheeses at every corner. Our favorite, however, were the shaumkusse- little crisp waffle cookies with soft marshmallow swirls dipped in chocolate.

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Beef in wine and cherries with dumplings + Apple sauce and cranberries

 

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Rudesheimer Coffee with brandy and cream

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Koblenz

Koblenz is only an hour or so from Oberwesel and since we couldn’t check into our hotel, we thought we’d meander our way up the river. Many of the towns along the way are bustling in wine season but are nearly vacant during Christmas. Koblenz, like Colmar, is a bit larger but by no means massively cosmopolitan. We snaked our way through town, hastily focusing on a few particular markets (away from the promenade which was buzzing), and lucked out when a local man (very Alan Rickman-esque- I just about died) took pity on us and helped us maneuver our way through the parking meter’s prompts. “I know someone who knows someone in St. Louis,” he remarked before wishing us a nice day at the markets and a merry Christmas- nearly every German we met said something like this which is was in great contrast to the French who often said nothing at all. I would have liked to have spent more time in this town- it had striking architecture and a great spirit to it. Its markets, however, left something to be desired. Most were mass-made, imported scarves and faux fur though there was the odd traditional baker or candle maker. Many of the shops were closed but these seemed to be where the real finds were.

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Downtown Koblenz
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Oberwesel:

We lucked out and scored a fabulous deal at the Burghotel Auf Shonburg which is a remodeled circa 900s castle. Our room came complete with brandies, a bowl of fruit, and Mozart marzipans on each pillow (along with other lovelies like earplugs, really great soaps, and a completely stocked FREE minibar- local beers, mineral waters, and juices. REALLY.) We also had a secret passageway to a private table overlooking the Rhine and the best bed I have experienced in any hotel, ever. Imagine having a firm but fluffy bed plus a foot of feathers- now add whatever is the cherry on top for you and that’s Burghotel Auf Shonburg. It features a massive garden with private keys for each guest and a life-size chess board. Breakfast came fully stocked with house-made granola, fresh squeezed juices (go for the local grape and apple), pastries and cooked-to-order items on request. As I sat bleary-eyed one morning, a traditionally dressed waitress leaned over with all sincerity and sang, “I have a surprise for you!” and presented me with a potted soft-boiled egg with roasted tomatoes. It was simple and wonderful. We treated ourselves to their multi-course dinner, which they are renowned for and which is worth every penny. We drank local wine with our local foraged mushroom and game stock soup, fettucine with shaved truffles (!), slow braised venison with tart berries, roasted vegetables, and whipped potatoes, tuna tartare, house-mixed fruit tea, and poached pear with house-made ice cream and chocolate sauce. After all that, due to a delay in courses, our waitress produced tiny cakes as a thank you for our patience which we insisted was absolutely not necessary but was totally delicious. In summer, Oberwesel, boasts wine tours and tastings which can be combined with the room booking as a day-long event. There is very little else to do in the town- especially in winter- so if you’re looking for a day or so to completely unwind, pamper ridiculously, and just eat really, really well…shell out and come here.

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