Wednesday, February 20, 2008

17 October: Into the North

The time has come for our farewell voyage – a sentimental journey into the north of Germany. Our itinerary will take us first to the Mosel Valley, where I will finally show John one of my favorite castles (Burg Eltz), then up to Minden, where we will search for John’s forebears in the countryside, followed by two days in Hamburg, a day on the former East German island of Rügen, and a day in Lübeck, ending up with a night in a castle on the Rhine.

I spent a good part of the day shuttling the pets to their various kennels and finishing my packing. We didn’t actually leave the house until 7 pm, after John had a little “discussion” with the Dörrs about the price of our kitchen. He didn’t have much luck negotiating with them (they pulled the typically Schwäbisch “we don’t have a lot of money” argument), although he did counter that we have had to maintain our home in Michigan this entire time, so we aren’t exactly profiting off of the experience. I told John to accept their offer of 1000 Euro if it came down to that; we couldn’t very well haggle with them since we don’t have any other options for disposing of our kitchen other than leaving it out on the street, and I really didn’t want to spend our last two months in Germany on bad terms with our neighbors and landlords.

I drove the three hours to Cochem in the E-Class. We ran into quite a bit of traffic and some rain early on, but managed to make up a little time as we got further north. John called our hotel en route and told them we wouldn’t arrive until after 10 pm. We drove in the pitchest black of night down a crazy winding road into the Mosel Valley. John swears he saw an albino deer by the side of the road but I was focused on the road, so you’ll have to take his word for it. We found our hotel, the Alte Thorschenke (which means "old gate," referring to the ancient city gate that abuts the hotel), in the lively town of Cochem with no trouble (it is, after all the “most photographed” building in town). A friendly older gentleman greeted us, showed us up an incredibly rickety spiral staircase to our room on the third floor, and told us where to park our car (in a structure just down the street; he gave us a permit that cost 6 Euro per day). The hotel dates back to the 14th century and there isn’t a right angle in the place! Our room was what I would describe as “aged”, with creaky floors and the world’s springiest bed, but we were tired and just needed a place to lay our heads for the night, so it fit the bill perfectly.

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