Monday, August 27, 2007

Dernau (in the Ahr Valley) and Muenster

After our whirlwind see-Bonn-in-1.5-hours adventure, we were whisked away on the bus to the Ahr Valley, a tiny, beautiful, steep valley near Bonn. We drove the long way to get a good look at the landscape before stopping at a winery in the town of Dernau.

Dernau & More Aug 2007

The winery is run by two young sisters and their father, who has expanded it greatly in recent years. Due to the expansion, the actual cellars have moved away from the main winery area. The cellar has been converted into a nice, cool, candle-lit dining area, where we tried something like 10 wines, with a short break for Abendbrot (light supper mostly consisting of bread, cheese, and cold cuts). The Ahr Valley is Germany's northernmost wine-growing region! It also seemed rather expensive, at least compared to most wine we've bought in our own area. The most interesting points were the Fruehburgunder and the Merlot. The grapes used for the Fruehburgunder are only grown on 200 out of 100000 grape-growing hectares in Germany! It's pretty good (and really expensive we later discovered at a store in Muenchen). The Merlot, a joint project between this winery and another in South Africa, was notable in that I couldn't stand it and actually had to dump it (after giving it three chances). This is only the second time ever I seriously couldn't stand a wine! (Not picky here, heh...) I had another notable experience - I took a soft cheese at dinner that was completely nasty and had no redeeming qualities. The evening really was lovely and a great time, it just happened to have two interesting personal lows :)

We stayed overnight in Bonn and were up early the next morning to head to Muenster, where we would be having a two-hour tour, free time for lunch, and then hopping back on the bus for Hamburg.

Muenster Aug 2007

We got caught in traffic and were late in arriving to Muenster. The only bad effect of this was that we did not arrive to the Dom in time to see its astronomical clock do its little performance at noon. Despite not seeing it, the astronomical clock was still a highlight. They never fail to fascinate me.
Tours were offered to us in both German and English. Less than a quarter of the group chose German, resulting in a very large English tour group. Damon and I resolved to do the German tour the next time.
The tour was interesting - see our photos for some details on the sights we saw! In addition to its interesting history, Muenster is also impressive for its sheer number of bikes. I thought Heidelberg had a lot of them, but it doesn't come close. Very cool! After the tour we only had one hour free and used the whole thing to find some lunch at a bakery - some Flammkuchen, which was a little different than what we call that down in these parts, but still delicious. I had been hoping to go back to the Dom a second time to get a look at the cloisters and maybe see if they had a small book about the clock, but we just didn't have time. (This was to be the nature of most of the trip, as we soon realized!)


  1. I can't imagine sitting there and designing an astronomical clock to run over 500 years - I don't know if it's faith or arrogance. (At least it was Y2K compliant.)

  2. I asked a German colleague about the markings on the wall. He doesn't know, but speculates it may be some kind of code between teenagers.

  3. A German colleague speculates that "19+C+M+B+xx" is a code between teenagers? In which dark age village of Germany did this colleague grow up?

    January 6th is "Heilige Drei Könige" day.

    On this day, Sternsinger (children roughly 5-12 in age) go from door to door dressed up as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar and sing carols about the birth of Jesus.

    They collect money for a charity as well. It's a different charity every year.

    Afterwards they write 19+C+M+B+year on the doorframe with chalk, which stands for "Christus mansionem benedicat", "Christ bless this house", and at the same time for the first initials of Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar.

    It's not graffiti.

  4. P.S. here:

    You can see which charity was collected for in which year and also the amount that was raised.

    You can read background information on the Sternsinger

    and here:

    you can see different versions of the text spoken by the children.

  5. Mary: Maybe they were just being economical :) Just fitting as many years on the clock as they could!

    Martina: Thanks for the info! So some of these scratchings have stayed on the buildings for years! (The photo I took was one that was sheltered under an arcade.)
    Is it possible that in some areas of Germany they don't do this and that's why Mary's colleague didn't know?

  6. To be honest after I wrote that first comment I thought Mary's colleague might be offended; I didn't mean to come across as harsh as it looked after I read it.

    You know, it's a Catholic thing, but in my experience people in Protestant parts of Germany are pretty aware of it, too. That would be sort of like saying "maybe there are some Americans who aren't aware that the Jewish celebrate Hanukkah". Sure, there might be, but then they're seriously living under a rock :-)

    In short: the greater majority of Germans would have been able to at least in rough terms explain the chalk markings left by Sternsinger.


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