Whine, Whine, Wine A trip down the Mosel with a sting in its tail.

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Take a look at these funny little bushes.  Each one is worth four or five bottles of wine. Each bottle is worth four or five euros. They grow on either side of the river for hundreds of miles and have been doing so since before the Romans invaded this part of the world.  The little chapel within the vines was built to commemorate how far the blood of martyred Christians flowed down the river Mosel from Trier (40km.) when the Romans had a leaving bash.

 

Of course a mono-culture like this cannot be sustained without a huge intervention usually in the way of chemicals and machinery.  The more level areas can be accessed by tractor but the finest wines come from the steepest vineyards. These require a more inventive and somewhat risky approach.

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The Romans left an enormous heritage in the Mosel valley including the city of Trier and its noble gates.  The Black Gate is apparently the largest surviving Roman City gate south of the Alps.

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The Stella Noviomagi is a recent reconstruction of a Roman War Galley that was used by the Romans to transport wine from the Mosel to Rome.  It has a couple of dozen oars  that would have powered it at a very sedate Roman pace but this reconstruction has a couple of diesel engines.  I wondered how long it would take to go by rowboat from the Mosel to Rome….down the Mosel to Koblenz, Down the Rhine to Rotterdam, across the North sea, through the Channel, out in to the Atlantic, across the Bay of Biscay, past Portugal, whip round Spain and Gibraltar then just about a thousand miles across the Med.  Stalwart chappies those Roman galley slaves. 

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Not like this bunch of beery tourists!

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Rowing boats aren’t the only traffic along this bust highway.  Thousands of tourists cruise along this river system like these moored in Bernkastel-Kues. 

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We met an Australian couple that had cruised from Amsterdam on an enormous ship which was heading to Budapest via the Danube.  Although that was in a ship a little more like this one:

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Most of the traffic, however, is commercial freight and these enormous potential seagoing vessels cross the watershed of Europe from the Atlantic side to the Black sea side rising up to 450m. above sea level using these river valleys and canals.

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There are much more sedate and relaxed ways to travel along the Mozel:

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brimstone butterfly

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You can cycle along both sides of the river through the vineyards to touristy places like Bernkastel-Kues with it’s bears and half timbered buildings and imagine you are in a world from several centuries ago.

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But- the modern world is catching up fast.  The new autobahn cuts out all the meandering of the Mosel and forces itself along the valley with tunnels and (nearly completed) flyovers.

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But it is still worth the effort of going the long way round:

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Warning:

Many of these photographs were taken whilst leaning out of the window of a moving vehicle where there was no possibility of stopping safely.  I can now testify that the humble bumble bee can sting twice.  One flew in to my flapping tee shirt sleeve and stung me on the shoulder.  Whilst I was screaming and wriggling back in to my seat the bee flew round inside my shirt and stung me in the middle of my back!  Good news though, I was able to release the bee unharmed back in to the wild.

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Last Post from Ypres Menen Gate

 

 

There used to be a freebie motorhome stopover point in Ypres but it has now become an automated card operated site a little further out from the town.  It is right by the Railway dugouts Transport Farm Cemetery where over 2000 WW1 casualties lay buried.  The burial ground is a most humbling place to wander round.  I met an Australian couple there who had come to pay their respects to a grandparent’s comrades whose remains are among many commonwealth graves there.

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At 8pm in the Menen Gate every day since 1927 there is a “Last Post” ceremony.  The bugle call is played by buglers from the local voluntary fire brigade and the ceremony is administered by an association who will continue the call in perpetuity.

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In 1918 at the close of the Great War, Ypres was a ruin with most of the landmarks and public buildings destroyed.  The British wanted the town to remain as it was as a memorial to those who died there but the Belgians were determined to see their town restored to as it was before the war.  Many of the local buildings were rebuilt exactly as they were before the hostilities.  The Cloth Hall now houses a museum and records of the fallen.

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I just snapped these wonderful people as they were setting up their stall outside in the street,  what they were advertising with their marvellous  makeup was superb is a mystery but it sure wasn’t apples .

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In the 13th Century there had been a plague of rats in Ypres, then the cats brought in to clear them themselves became a plague so they threw cats from the towers above the city in times of celebration.  Nowadays in these enlightened times of course they only throw toy cats from the towers but the gold statues that were so high up and only visible to a very long lens are still there. 

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The Menen Gate with a marching band.

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Ansell is an unusual surname and I can only ever remember meeting two Ansells in my 66 years that weren’t directly related to me.  I was rather shocked, therefore, when I put “Ansell” into the computer database in the Cloth Hall Museum to find the names of 207 Ansell casualties buried thereabouts.  Here is one, perhaps a distant relative whose name appears on the list of soldiers whose graves are unmarked.

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On a lighter note:  Well! There were these two cows drinking IPSAM cocktails in a bar…..

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You just don’t see this much in the U.K. this was a tiny town with not much of a river going through it but this enormous barge carrying thousands of tons of goodness knows what went under the bridge we were cycling over.

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You do however see a few of these.

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We had just driven through a small town called Beaufort when we came to another small town with the top blown nearly off it’s church steeple by high winds.

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Our first turtle this trip, sunning itself on a log.

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Into the principality and city of Luxembourg.  Much of the city was being dug up when we got there with at least 10 enormous tower cranes in view wherever you stood. 

This bronze statue made me smile, perhaps not as much as the sheep smiled nor indeed as much as the children managed.

 

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We arrived shortly before Luxembourg’s national day. Celebrations had been taking place for some days beforehand including a music festival spread across the city.  Pianos had been installed in a dozen locations where anyone who wished could give an impromptu concert.  I did my very own rendition of “London Bridge Is Falling Down” (because I can still remember all the numbers from when my little baby Robert insisted I play it over and over again on his toy Xylophone) then Sheila played something quite complex and impressive (more than one finger and more than one hand impressive!) drawing a round of applause from bystanders. 

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There are miles (oops…Kilometres) of subterranean tunnels beneath the rocks that fortified the original city of Luxembourg.  For five Euro (OAP discount!) you can tour these “Casements”  but the info at the entrance desk does not tell the visitor that you have to climb down ten flights of spiral staircase, wander through Stygian gloomy caves suitable for dwarves or tin hatted minors then climb back up equally hazardous endless stairways like Gandalf and Frodo Et. Al. before emerging back in to daylight.  Good job Sheila was wearing her Fit Bit!

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Outside of the caves on the riverbank in the very centre of the city someone has the most perfect allotment.  Wow this is impressive stuff- not a weed in sight.

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The city is on two distinct levels.  Wandering around the upper level you encounter the usual city and commercial infrastructure but below is a wonderland of parkland and impressive architecture.  Getting down means a series of winding alleyways and stairs but fortunately for the weary traveller there is a lift to take you back up to the top. 

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The shopping area was decorated with miles of stainless steel tube that was supposed to represent the fresh air that the city experiences as it is one of the cleanest cities in Europe.

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Here is a summary of the route we have taken so far.  Only half a dozen out of thirty or so countries on our list.

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We are currently sitting by the Moselle in Germany watching the grapes swell. (Well they ought to be….Its pouring down with rain!!) Our intentions are to go further north and East in Germany and then follow the border clockwise and re-enter France sometime in Mid August.