Sunday, July 31, 2011

Stipshausen and Bernkastel, Germany

It's always a neat experience to meet a relative you've never met before...especially for us. For the past year, our lives have revolved around travelling and experiencing new things. Meeting a relative for the first time who happens to be German is a nice melding of our concepts of "home". Home can be in many different places.

Stipshausen is a tiny little town (population right around 1,000 people) outside of Idar-Oberstein. This area is much more hilly (being from Florida, I would call them mountains) than Bielefeld. We travelled by train here to meet Billy's cousin and his family, and Billy's uncle who was visiting from the states. We'd like to thank them for showing us amazing hospitality and a really great weekend!

The train ride down there was beautiful. For quite a long stretch between Köln and Bad Kreuznach, the tracks run right next to the Rhine River. This river is known as one of the most beautiful, romantic rivers in the world. It is also the longest and most important river in Germany. The river's importance as a trade route gave rise to the many castles that line its banks, each with its own story. Most of the castles were built during midieval times, when Germany was made up of hundreds of individual states. The royalty in these states built castles along the Rhine to tax merchant ships for the right to safe passage. More and more sprung up, and today you can still see one every few minutes, towering above the river. I will elaborate on a few of these castles when we go to visit them next month!

While we were there, we went to visit the town of Bernkastel.

This quaint little German town is built on the bank of the Moselle River, which is as beautiful as the Rhine, although lesser known. Cruise ships travel down both rivers, and stop intermittently to let passengers explore the towns. You can tell which towns the ships stop at, because everything is PERFECT.

It was like visiting Germany at Epcot. All of the houses are painted beautifully, everything looks historic, there are flowers overflowing from boxes on every windowsill, and there are grape vines forming arches over the walkways. It's hard to believe that people actually live here! There must be a lot of pressure on them to keep everything looking this way year round.

We took a ferry ride to see the area from the river. This really is the best way to see the castles, and the countryside. This region is known for wine. Lining the banks of the Moselle are grape vines, as far as the eye can see. We were blown away by how steep the cliffs are that the grapes are grown on. All of the grapes are hand-picked, which apparently is what makes the wine so expensive! What a job that must be.

Since moving here, we've seen a lot of traditional looking German houses. They're beautiful, with their painted details and dark brown beams. Much of what we have seen is not actually that old, because so much of Germany was destroyed by bombs in WWII. In some cities we've visited, as much as 95% was destroyed, and then rebuilt to look like it did before. When we were in Bernkastel, we knew that a lot of the buildings we saw were actual, old, traditional German houses. How? They were crooked. Look at the pictures!

Some of them are so crooked I can't believe the people don't roll out of bed at night! Epcot could take some pointers from this town.

Click on the picture below to see the rest of our pictures!
Stipshausen and Bernkastle

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