Life is a Ride…In Germany

I was invited to a family BBQ in Germany. I live in Southern California.

Not a problem!

My friend, the talented musician, film composer and singer Andreas “Zippy” Betten, invited me to Sunday BBQ  just as I was about to fly to Frankfurt for a 4-day progressive horseback trail ride through the beautiful Westerwald region of Germany.

I arrived at Frankfurt airport Sunday morning, quickly passed through customs, only to wait longer for my luggage, and then bought a ticket for a high-speed ICE train.  OK, I knew I was already certifiably BONKERS over transportation via the Tube, which is my MOST favorite thing when in London. So, it’s really no surprise that I quickly became enamored with the ICE as well!

I’d have another opportunity to indulge in my new ICE craze later on, but right now, I was more focused on meeting Andreas and his family!

I first came to know Andreas from the varied assortment of projects that he is attached to. My original favorite is his joint success with Olaf Wollschläger as music duo Vorsprung durch Technik.

Yello fans may be familiar with this RARE remix by Vorsprung durch Technik that you can listen to right now:

Vicious Games 12″ Mix (Hardfloor Vs. Yello) by Vorsprung Durch Technik

or if you’re a fan of BBC’s Doctor Who, check out my video with my favorite Vorsprung durch Technik song, “Blink”:  Blink – Doctor Who vs Vorsprung durch Technik.

Andreas Betten plays it all and a few of my other favorite and notable projects of his include:

I get to Düsseldorf area right on time and after a warm welcome from Andreas and family, some chit chat and a visit to a nearby ranch for a little horsey warm-up ride in the countryside, we’re ready for ein Bier and a BBQ!

Which brings me now to my first unforgettable picture moment since arriving in Germany. Andreas had mentioned he might use a hair-dryer to get the coals ready, but I didn’t think he was serious! Well here’s the evidence!

[note:  throughout this blog click on pics for larger version]

Musician Andreas Betten composing the perfect hotmedley of coals with a hair-dryer

Musician Andreas Betten composing the perfect hot medley of coals with a hair-dryer

What’s this!? Is this how they grill in Germany? I’ve never seen that back home in California! I did a little research and found this link, The Best Way to Start BBQ Coals! Hmmpf, looks like I must’ve fallen off the BBQ Bandwagon!

The BBQ, meal and evening was absolutely wonderful. I am entirely humbled again by the fabulous warmth and generosity of my German friends. I am reminded of last year when I met Silke and her family in Berlin (see Berlin Blog) and now again with meeting Andreas and his beautiful family…I must say that German people are an absolute treasure, and pleasure to be acquainted with.

The next day, Andreas took me into Köln (Cologne) for lunch and a few hours of sightseeing.  Here is the infamous Früh where locals say every visitor to the city must eat at least one meal here to get a flavor of Cologne:

Lunch and Kölsch at Früh

Lunch and Kölsch (beer) at Früh

Next we walked along the Rhine River.  This is the most heavily used railway bridge in Germany, connecting the stations Köln Hauptbahnhof and Köln Messe/Deutz with each other:

Hohenzollernbrücke (Hohenzollern bridge) over the Rhein River

Hohenzollernbrücke (Hohenzollern bridge) over the Rhein River

Pegel Köln water gauge stands in the old town of Köln (Cologne) and measures the water level on the Rhein River:

Pegel Köln water gauge

Pegel Köln water gauge

Great St. Martin Church:

Great St. Martin Church

Great St. Martin Church along the Rhein Riverwalk

The Kölner Philharmonie where one is not permitted to walk across the open red-bricked plaza during a concert because it echoes down to the performance below:

Kölner Philharmonie with Kölner Dom behind

Kölner Philharmonie with Kölner Dom behind

Living Statues.  These silver people stay perfectly still until you tip them and then they’ll move!

(click pic for larger view!)

Living Statue People in Köln

Living Statue People in Köln – This couple were phenomenal!!

Cologne Cathedral is a World Heritage Site and one of the best-known architectural monuments in Germany. As Cologne‘s most famous landmark, described by UNESCO as an “exceptional work of human creative genius”, it is visited by 20 thousand people every day.

Kölner Dom

Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral)

Inside Cologne Cathedral

Inside Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral)

Inside Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) – The nave looking East

This “swallows’ nest” organ was built into the gallery in 1998, to celebrate the cathedral’s 700 years. It was constructed at the east end of the nave on the north wall, which is considered an excellent location for organs in Gothic cathedrals.The nave organ has Great, Swell, Back Positive, and Pedal divisions, 3,963 pipes and 53 stops.

Inside Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral)

Inside Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) – Nave organ.

The most celebrated work of art in the cathedral is the Shrine of the Three Kings, a large gilded sarcophagus dating from the 13th century, and the largest reliquary in the Western world. It is traditionally believed to hold the remains of the Three Wise Men, whose bones and 2,000-year-old clothes were discovered at the opening of the shrine in 1864.

The Shrine of the Three Kings (Kölner Dom)

The Shrine of the Three Kings (Kölner Dom)

See more pics in my Köln (Cologne) photo album.

Before I knew it, it was time to say goodbye to lovely Andreas who suggested I take a slower regional train in order to enjoy scenic views of the Rhine and Lahn rivers on the way to my next destination, Limburg an der Lahn.

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Limburg is one of a handful of towns where almost every medieval building has survived intact. The entire central area between the cathedral and the 600 year old Lahn bridge stands under historic preservation. Visible for miles around, Limburg Dom (Limburg Cathedral) is a masterpiece of late-Romanesque architecture with a distinctive facade of red and white that dominates the old quarter.

Limburg Dom (Limburg Cathedral) overlooking the River Lahn

Limburg Dom (Limburg Cathedral) overlooking the River Lahn

I had a day and a half to sight-see Limburg and couldn’t wait to wander around this Disney-like town with it’s narrow streets and half-timbered houses.

The Altstadt (Old Town) - Limburg

The Altstadt (Old Town) is full of narrow streets with timber-frame houses, dating mainly from the 17th and 18th centuries

Next day around noon (jet-lag still lurking!!) I had my first meal of the day at an ice cream specialty cafe. A Cappuccino and a Crepe with warm apfelmus (applesauce).

For the next 5 hours I walked all over Limburgh and took tons of pics! Pics of half-timbered buildings and related detail like doors, streets and cobblestones. Here’s just a few favs:

Did I mention the Altstadt (Old Town) has narrow streets?

The Altstadt (Old Town) - Limburg

Did I mention Limburg is Disney-like?

The Altstadt (Old Town) - Limburg

Eventually, my lower back complaining and appetite competing for attention, I found a Bitburger place for a large beer and warm baguette mit Peperoni und Käse. OMG! It was huge, hot, gooey, cheesy and perfect with the beer. I devoured both! 😉 Had a baileys coffee after. Ahhh-h-h, Vacations are great!

Next day I came across this fountain memorial. In the 14th century Friedrich von Hattstein was appointed governor of the city and was feared for his strength because he could lift a wine barrel and drink from it.

Hattstein Memorial water fountain for former robber baron Friedrich von Hattstein

Hattstein Memorial water fountain for former robber baron Friedrich von Hattstein.

While the most touristy part of Limburg has cute specialty shops, just a few streets away there is a modern shopping strip near the Rathaus (Town Hall) with major outlets (H&M) etc.

Limburg is celebrating 1100 years (910-2010)!

Limburg is celebrating 1100 years (910-2010)!

Can you believe (pic above) that Limburg is celebrating 1100 Years in 2010?

Pusteblume (Dandelion) Fountain and St. Anna-Kirche (church)

Pusteblume (Dandelion) Fountain and St. Anna-Kirche (church)

While I paused for a break and enjoyed the Dandelion fountain pictured above, I spied this little charmer down at my feet… (don’t forget to click the pic for a bigger bug view! 😀 )

Forest Shield Bug

A Forest Shield Bug of the Pentatomidae family. Common in central Europe and British Isles

No visit to Limburg is complete without a stop at the Cathedral also known as Georgsdom or Limburger Dom after its dedication to Saint George. I realized almost too late that I hadn’t worked my way up to the Dom yet, but just as I did these amazing, lovely bells began ringing.  I took a three minute vid to capture the sound as I walked up to it…the bells rang on for about 10 minutes!!

Limburger Dom (Limburg Cathedral) - Saint George's

Limburger Dom (Limburg Cathedral), one of the most complete creations of Late Romanesque architecture

Another must-see in Limburg is to walk along the riverside of the Lahn for views of  natural art exhibitions, swans, longboat canoers and paddle wheels:

The River Lahn and Old Lahn Bridge

The River Lahn and Old Lahn Bridge

Along the Lahn Riverwalk there was an Art Exhibition that used the natural elements to blend in the displays.

Kunst am Fluss - Kunst im Fluss

Kunst am Fluss – Kunst im Fluss (Art on the River – Art in the river)

Plus other river related sights:

Lahn Riverwalk

Lahn Riverwalk

Longboat canoers:

Lahn Riverwalk

Lahn Riverwalk

Oh look another ICE Train reference below! Stay tuned for my big ICE Train finale! 😀

Lahn Riverwalk

Lahn Valley Bridge on the A3, behind is the ICE bridge and in foreground is a campground

Color Mill Wheel

Farbmühle

Farbmühle

And on the last morning after sight-seeing all of Limburg and the river Lahn, here’s a lovely blue-sky view from my hotel room.

Limburger Dom (Limburg Cathedral) - Saint George's

Limburger Dom (Limburg Cathedral) – Saint George’s

See more pics in my Limburg an der Lahn photo album.

Woo-Hoo!! Next up is my much anticipated Germany Equestrian Adventure! The last time I took an equestrian vacation was in 2000 at the Castle Leslie Estate in County Monaghan, Ireland. Yes, I’d say I was long overdue!!

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Unlike my trip in Ireland where we stayed at the centre the entire week and rode our horses into the surrounding estate grounds for daily cross-country jumping and gallops, this Germany trip was a 4 day, Progressive Drei-Täler-Trail (3-Valley-Ride).  I had selected this trip from HiddenTrails.com, a great internet provider of premier equestrian vacations world-wide, plus more!

Our fearless trail guide for the 3 Valley Ride was Jens Hammer who arrived in Limburg to collect me and another rider (Sara from New Zealand) to take us to the home ranch at Hofgut Molsberg for an overnight stay.

Street View of Hofgut Molsberg

Street View of Hofgut Molsberg

Hofgut Molsberg is a fabulous facility with simple, clean, warm accommodations and shower, a banquet hall, private home, large stable and extensive pastures.

Hofgut Molsberg

Entrance to Hofgut Molsberg – Wanderreiten (Trail-Riding) im Westerwald und Taunus

My equestrian partner “Amel” is out there in that pasture!

The Pastures at Hofgut Molsberg

The Pastures at Hofgut Molsberg

oh, a little filly!  Check her out in action! Filly Fun Video

Family Life at Hofgut Molsberg

Family Life at Hofgut Molsberg

3 Valley Ride: Day 1 – Three other german riders arrived in the morning (Michelle, Rica, and Björn) and after fetching our horses from the field, grooming, tacking, plus a short lesson on how to properly roll up oilskin duster/raincoats to tie down behind our saddles, we set off for a 4-6 hour ride into the Westerwald region.

We were scheduled to stop every 90 minutes for a break and be met by Klaus who not only had our luggage with him in his van but had also stocked some refreshments for us.

Within the first 90 minutes into the ride Sara’s horse had gone lame.  We were delayed as Jens made arrangements to have another horse swapped in. When we set off again we were very behind schedule and in order to reach our first overnight stop before dark, we rode straight on with no more breaks. Along the way we were overtaken by a heavy rain and stopped long enough to unroll and put on the oilskin rain dusters to keep ourselves and our saddles dry. When the rain stopped we made up some time with breath-taking gallops through glistening rain soaked green meadows!  That first day we were also treated to the sights of a herd of deer running across the hill before us and also a large European brown hare that gave us a wide berth.

At 7 pm we had reached the Bruchhäuser Mühle…

Dinnertime - End of Day 1

Dinnertime – End of Day 1

…where we enjoyed a fabulous Inn-style dinner together and comfortable rooms to recover overnight.  I was expecting to be sore from riding but found that although my muscles were not really aching, my poor seat bones were quite tender! Even sitting down on a soft bed was to be done with caution!  I decided a couple Motrin tablets would help take the edge off.  I tried not to think about having to sit in that hard saddle for another 4-6 hour ride the next day.

Start of Day 2 - Bruchhäuser Mühle Inn

Start of Day 2 – Bruchhäuser Mühle

3 Valley Ride: Day 2 – The next morning arrived quickly.  After breakfast together we set off and began a steep climb up through wooded terrain to skirt along near the top of the ridge with a dizzying slope down our right side.  Seeing the steep slope from our narrow trail, we couldn’t help but recall that famous scene from “The Man from Snowy River” known simply as, “Jim’s Ride” (watch first minute):

Oddly, no one opted to take the “The Snowy River” shortcut 😉 so we took the long way down into the next valley. And a good thing too, since that meant we could delight in this picturesque view of Obernhof:

Obernhof - In the distance is Cloister of Anstein

Obernhof – In the distance is Cloister of Anstein

We ended up going right down through Obernhof using that center road pictured above. Then spent a good portion of the day going in and out, back and forth and within a river creek that substituted as our trail. The creek was shallow enough and Jens kept us out of the deep parts but it also had a VERY rocky bottom. Getting into the river meant facing the horse straight down the muddy bank and letting them slide their way down and in. Getting out meant just hang on as they clamber out!

At one point a 10 cm branch was blocking our path about chest-high on the horses.  Most obstructions we would squeeze under, over or around as needed but this time Jens took a few minutes to saw through it with his utility knife.

This day was full of “Situations” (a fast-becoming familiar phrase of Jens’) and I had a full appreciation of how very fit and safe his horses were. They knew their job and were pros!

We stopped for a hearty lunch at Mittelmühle.  Later that afternoon I remember thinking perhaps I shouldn’t have ate so much… as we were galloping hell-bent-for-leather during our fastest gallop yet! Yee-Haw! 😀

Even with our fast gallops it was dusk when we reached the very tiny village of Bärbach. Tiny Bärbach consists of 5 homes and 16 residents. I am soon thrilled to know that we will stay here for two nights!  My internet connection on my iPhone was random at best, suddenly I felt like I was truly on a remote vacation from my normal daily life. Our wonderful host, Christoph (not sure I have his name spelled right) fixed delicious home-made dinners and desserts for us.

Fabulous host in Bärbach - Christoph

Fabulous host in Bärbach – Christoph

My favorite that Christoph made was the Frankfurter specialty, Grüne Soße. I found the perfect description of this delicious, locally found dish here –>  Frankfurt on Foot City Guide: Frankfurt Grüne Sosse or Green Sauce and a nice photo that portrays this dish perfectly:

Grüne Soße - (c) Klaus-Uwe Gerhardt pixelio.de

Grüne Soße (Green Sauce) – © Klaus-Uwe Gerhardt pixelio.de

3 Valley Ride: Day 3 – We took a break from the previous two days’ riding schedule.  After a leisurely start we ride a short 90 minutes to have lunch at the foot of Burg Hohlenfels. We stopped for some pictures along the way:

Wanderreiten in Deutschland ist prima!

Wanderreiten in Deutschland ist prima!

Burg Hohlenfels (Castle) in the distance

Burg Hohlenfels (Castle) in the distance

While the horses took an extended break:

Day 3 - Lunch Break

Day 3 – Lunch Break

I enjoyed another German specialty:

Spiegeleier mit rohen Schinken

Spiegeleier mit rohen Schinken = YUMMY!

After a long lunch we headed back to Bärbach, stopping along the way at Schauferts Brewery for a couple Biers!  I can see one of our horses in the background is wishing he could join us!! 🙂

Courtyard at Schauferts Brewery

Courtyard at Schauferts Brewery

I had ein helles Bier und ein dunkles Bier:

Schauferts- Hell und Schauferts-Dunkel

Schauferts- Hell und Schauferts-Dunkel

Yep, Vacations are Grand!

3 Valley Ride: Day 4 – For our last day we were back on schedule with another 4-6 hour ride ahead of us because this time we needed to go all the way back to our origination point of Molsberg. We took as much of a direct route as possible in order to cover about 30 km or 18 miles before dark.

In the morning we rode through lovely Balduinstein

Balduinstein on der Lahn river

Balduinstein on der Lahn river

and stopped for a break

Day 4 - Morning Break in Balduinstein

Day 4 – Morning Break in Balduinstein

By Day 4 me and my seat bones were finally in the groove and it was a great final ride!  After our break in Balduinstein there was a steep hill range we had to cross. Jens said we needed to do this starting at a trot (to make it easier for the horses than walking up), then switch to a gallop…while on a narrow path no wider than a picnic table. And we had to do this singularly without stopping on the way up. Jens said just give (loosen) completely with the reins, hang on to our horse’s mane midway up and rise out of the saddle off their backs. Similar to how we got out of the river each time on Day 2, but this was a longer steep uphill stretch, with serpentine-switchback turns through bushes and trees, and all to be done at speed.

My horse Amel was a beauty! 🙂 All the horses did great, although puffing, as we took a quick break at the top.  A great excuse to check out the view of nearby Schloss (Castle) Schaumburg!

Schloß Schaumburg (Castle) in the distance

Schloß Schaumburg (Castle) in the distance

Towards the end of the day as we were almost back at Molsberg, we had a couple of special fast gallops; one was a race up a grassy meadow, and the other a final mad dash in the woods with hooves clattering loudly and flinging bits of hard mud everywhere!!! WOW what a great time that was! I think I need to continue to see the rest of the world via horseback!

See more pics in my Drei-Täler-Trail (3-Valley-Ride) photo album.

Jens Hammer - Our fantastic horse ride guide!

Jens Hammer – Fantastic horse trail guide! (http://www.derwanderreiter.de)

The next day we said our goodbyes as Jens dropped Sara and I off at the Limburg Süd station to catch our flights out of Frankfurt.

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As my Germany trip was coming to an end and while waiting for my ICE train, I had time to indulge in watching other ICE trains in action. Standing at the station when these trains blow through at speed will provide enough of a thrill to give you goosebumps and make your hairs stand on end!

Limburg Süd station

Limburg Süd station is the only railway station in Germany at which exclusively high-speed rail ICE trains stop.

The Limburg Süd station has four tracks in total. Two tracks are equipped with a platform while the other two allow through trains to pass the station unobstructed at speeds of up to 300 km/h. That’s 186 MPH!!!

Here’s some excellent vids to demonstrate for you now… the one …the only… ICE Train!

First listen to the cool sound (at about 10 sec) of one departing, no wait, that would be…ACCELERATING from Limburg Süd. I think it’s trying to lift off!  Select to watch in HD!

Here’s one passing through Limburg Süd station at speed!

And because I don’t want you to leave until you get a truer sense of the sheer RUSH one feels as these trains fly by at 300 km/186 mph, here’s an excellent vid with just a single word of German commentary…“Scheiße!!” (Shit!!).

What would YOU say if you were the one taking this video??

Yow-Zah! That train sounds more like a Jet, eh??

Thanks for being my passenger as I discover that “Life is a Ride”.