Biographical Log of Michael Furstner - Page 28

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Tuesday May 6, 2008 (diary, travel, wine)

Within the Castle walls Today I have gained enough courage to tackle the Castle on top of the hill above Bernkastel. It looks rather daunting from below, but to my surprise I am quite up to it as it takes me only about 20 minutes to get to the top without killing myself. It is a 7th Century Castle now containing a small restaurant (yes, too with several Ofen Tafeln on the wall). I sit outside within the walls and order a Coca Cola. What a quirky combination, two most successful famous memes ("castle" and "Coke") created 1300 years apart meeting here for a brief moment in my mind.

Here is a list of the seven quality levels of wine in Germany. The Government tests every wine every year (on its purity, added sugar, etc.) and when approved for a certain quality supplies the wine grower with an official approval number. This number together with the quality is printed on each label so that the customer can be assured he purchases a wine which meets the specified quality.
The system is heavily policed and any breaking of the law is punished with the immediate cancellation of the wine maker's license. These qualities are always printed on bottles of white wine, but although they also apply to red I have not seen them on those bottles.

Peter Nelius tells me that making red wine is far more labour intensive than white and the profit on them too is less. Reds he produces only in Qualitätswein quality, while in the whites he goes right up to Auslese and Eiswein. These latter two are usually top year wines sometimes 20-30 years old and generally priced from $40 per bottle upwards.


2. Auslese

3. Spätlese

4. Kabinett

5. Qualitätswein

6. Tafelwein

7. Landwein

I must say I am most impressed with the wines so far. The trockene spätburgunder from Altenahr is a great wine and so is Peter's Milde Kabinett Riesling, which is the complimentary welcomes drink the Restaurant serves with every meal. No acidity in any of the white wines whatsoever.

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Wednesday May 7, 2008 (diary, travel)

The Hunsrück I have booked a bus tour to Idar-Oberstein for today. Wivica studied there, as well as our previous two diamond setters, Henny Everts and Harry Harberts. Also all the signet ring stones of our family were cut and engraved here.
The most spectacular part of the tour however is the drive across the Hunsrück, the high ground between the Mosel valley and the Nahe river running parallel and to the South of it. The countryside here is like a wonderful tapestry consisting of forests of dark pines and leafy spring greens which alternate with geometrical fields in green and bright yellow from the flowering mais (corn).
After an hour's drive we stop at the Erwin Hess Edelstein-Schleiferei in Kirschweller for a demonstration and look around, then onto Idar-Oberstein on the Nahe river, Idar being on one side of it Oberstein on the other. Every second house in town is either a stone cutter or a goldsmith, but the jewelry on display in the shops is very much for tourist consumption. I only come across one Goldsmith shop which indeed has beautiful contemporary designs.

We are now in Klösse and Kirner country. The popular Klösse here are large minced meat balls (slightly larger than a cricket ball) surrounded by a layer of mashed potato. They are served in a light coloured sauce with a plate of apple sauce. I am interested to try them but it looks too much for a light lunch.
After lunch we proceed to the tiny Medieval village of Herrstein, an oasis of peace and quiet. In a small Inn tucked away amongst the ancient houses I have a Kirner, the local beer, brewed just 10 kms away. The Inn is run by an old American couple with whom I have a very pleasant conversation (in German). He probably came here first with the US army which used to have a huge supply center near Oberstein for all their troops in Germany.

Gemstone cutter at work Upon my return to the Hotel Peter Nelius invites me for a beer in the courtyard. He has just bought and installed a small copper pond with two (also copper) birds with water pouring from their beaks. The whole fountain assembly is placed on a pile of huge stones he lugged down from one of his vineyards. He wants my opinion. I think it looks great, but why tuck it in the corner under that tree ? I suggest another location for it where all diners can see it. But no, that spot looked just too bare, "it needed something" his wife explains to me. And of course they are absolutely right.

I have a wonderful relationship with all the family and staff here now. Before dinner I always sit on the bar for a few beers and I return to it after the meal with the last of my wine. This is where all staff activities sprout from. I observe, ask questions and make quirky comments which Peter's wife especially seems to enjoy whenever she helps out here.   Some diners order the most revolting drinks, like beer with a good shot of Coca Cola in it. Kalte Kaffee (cold coffee) it is called, Timo tells me.
Yesterday I asked Sabine (in charge) whether they make Holsteiner Schnitzel. She does not know what this is. But the chef does and would you believe it, today it is as a Special on the Menu. An absolutely great schnitzel (baked in the pan and with a subtle coating Peter's wife tells me) with a fried egg on top. I have not had one like these for 45 years.

I was supposed to leave here Friday morning, but I have booked for one extra night on Peter's suggestion. All wine cellars in Kues will have free tasting sessions Friday evening and I should check it out he recommends. Also the autobahn traffic will be much lighter on Saturday.

And one more thing !   The Mosel river is out off the picture regarding my flow speed theory. Why ?   Because it has locks in it. I spotted one from the bus today and also noted several on the map I have from the local region. No wonder those ducks can leisurely paddle upstream in this situation.

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Thursday May 8, 2008 (diary, travel)

A quiet day today, sunny and pleasant. I watch the Mosel flow by, walk around town (spot a Förster name plate), Imbiss, Hofmann's Weinstube for a beer. I complete the Ofen Tafeln photo collection today and show it to Sabine and her mother. They both like it.
Tomorrow I plan a long walk over the mountains and the day after I drive back to St.Peter. So next Blog entries will probably be a few days late.

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Friday May 9, 2008 (diary, travel)

First leaves on the vine stalks For today I have planned to do the 5.5 km walk from Bernkastel across the mountain to Trarbach. Then with a cruise ship on the meandering Mosel, a 20 km journey back home.
It is nice and cool in the morning when I start my climb through the vineyards. When I arrived in Kues a week ago they all looked brownish grey. Now, after a week of continuous sunshine there is a light green sheen over many of the fields. It is wonderful to walk through this.
This most popular walking trail is very poorly sign posted and I take a wrong turn after just 500 meters on the track. I generally have a good sense of direction, but with the zigzagging pattern of all the mountain paths here and not being used to the sun rotation going through the South (rather than the North as in Australia), I easily lose my bearings here. I continue on my way in blissful ignorance however. The inclination of the road is gentle which makes for relatively easy walking and near the top of the mountain I get a splendid shot of the Bernkastel Burg.
Eventually I reach the top and walk for ages I don't know where. I hit a narrow sealed road, a tractor driving towards me. The farmer points me in the opposite direction I was going and advises (after some considerable thinking, which worries me a bit) "Immer grade aus, dan rechts runter." He is the only human being I come across during my entire walk.

Bernkastel Burg I have a detailed map of the area, but it contains so many tracks that it is impossible to work out where I am. There is one easy rule of thumb however in mountainous terrain. As long as you go downwards you must eventually hit a stream, which leads you to a creek, which will lead you to the river. With this thought in mind I eventually take the plunge down a track into the dark forest.
I zigzag for ages but all the way going down. After 3.5 hours and I estimate at least 12 km I finally arrive at a village, Bad Wildstein. I ask a man cleaning his driveway if I am going towards Trarbach. Just 1,810 meters to the river he replies. I spot his Dutch accent and we talk a while, Stephan his name is. He runs a Guesthouse here at this artesian springs (33°C) resort town.   After lunch in Trarbach (a most forgettable town) I board the Bernkastel for the 2 hour journey back home.

Three charming ladies behind the Sankt Maximillian 

bar At dinner time I wait for Peter Nelius who wants to have a drink with me before I leave Kues. He too has had a tough day delivering wine to some of his customers and being caught in several "Staus". It is the start of the Pfingster Wochenende and the roads are very busy.
He joins my table for dinner and introduces himself officially as "Peter" after which we shake hands and drink Brudershaft. I am both very touched and honoured by this gesture after knowing him for only one week, as, especially amongst the older generations, this is quite significant. From now on we will address each other with the intimate Du (reserved for family and close friends only), rather than the formal Sie.

I am too tired to eat much and leave half my pommes frites untouched in their serving bowl. After politely asking twice if I really don't want to eat those, Peter, who has finished all his, happily polishes off mine.   I grin inwardly. A clear first sign of "Brudershaft", what is mine is yours. It is the first time in my life that I witness a Host Hotel owner finishing off the plate of one of his guests. Delightful !
After dinner Peter's charming wife ("Chris") joins us for a joint final farewell drink of wine. I have felt most welcome here. They will remain in my heart forever, and so I believe, will I be in theirs.

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Saturday May 10, 2008 (diary, travel)

Wivica's home I leave Kues in the morning shortly after breakfast. Heidi seems to be in her usual good mood as she guides me along my way. How wonderful to be guided by a woman through the most wonderful places and afterwards not even knowing where you have been. I am full of such romantic notions until suddenly brought back to reality as I turn onto an autobahn and get stuck in the mother of all Staus. A whole section of freeway is being resurfaced and I am stuck in a cue for 45 minutes. Eventually I get out of it but wherever I turn Heidi persists in guiding me back to the trouble spot. I have absolutely no idea where I am, somewhere in Germany on the West side of the Rhine.

I decide to ignore Heidi for a bit and travel for 20 km away from car concentrations, then I reprogram Heidi to find my way home but excluding the use of autobahns. This works, as immediately Heidi points me in a new direction. After and hour I stop and let her reroute once more, this time including freeways again. It works, for eventually I arrive safely in Sankt Peter. The supposed 320 km journey has taken me more than 6 hours to complete. But I have learned an important lesson. Even the most ideal woman does not know everything and occasionally needs a guiding hand from a kind and trusting man.

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