intoHistory, geschiedenis beleven in authentieke logies
Tales abound at the Märchenhotel (‘Fairy-tale Hotel’), as each of its bedrooms is inspired by a traditional fairy story. But the hotel itself has a long history. It is run by Stefan and Katia Krebs who are direct descendants of the original wine-growing owners who built the house in the 17th century. Visitors are warmly welcomed and the greatest attention is paid to their comfort not to mention the restaurant’s particularly refined cuisine. The hotel is the ideal place to immerse oneself in the medieval atmosphere of Bernkastel-Kues with its winding lanes and ancient half-timbered houses.
The magic of Bernkastel-Kues lies in its history. An ancient Roman fort on the south bank of the Moselle was strategically positioned between Trier, the old imperial Roman capital, and Coblenz where the Moselle joins the Rhine. The ruins of Landshut Castle that dominate the old town possibly date back to Roman times.
In the Middle Ages, Landshut Castle’s large defensive surrounding walls extended down to the small town that lay below.
The fortified town became increasingly important during the Middle Ages, when its vineyards and viticultural traditions were established. On the opposite bank, above the bridge, the port of Kues attracted many merchants. It was a prosperous period despite numerous military conflicts and regular flooding – sometimes with tragic consequences.
The homogeneity of its very authentic medieval fabric lends particular charm to Bernkastel – and perhaps too, because it is still pedestrianized.
In the 14th century, the archbishop of Trier fell gravely ill and is said to have been restored to health at Bernkastel by only drinking a glass of Riesling, which is the origin of the legend of “Doctor Wine”, who contributed to the town’s popularity and its famous vineyard.
Bernkastel-Kues was home to the humanist and great scholar Nicholas of Kues (also known as Nicholas of Cusa, among many other variations), who, in the 15th century, was famous for his crucial diplomatic role in easing relations between the Holy Roman Emperor and the papacy, as well as the renewal of the Church in Germany. This pre-Renaissance cardinal-jurist left a deep impression on the entire valley.
The old Weinstube © E. Brand
Outside the old ramparts a conglomeration known as the Forstadt stretched the length of a small river towards the castle. This was the artisanal quarter consisting of craftsmen, blacksmiths, roof tilers, woodworkers, wine growers, and other town guilds. In 1670, the Dahm family, who owned a nearby vineyard, constructed a house into the side of the rock in which to store their wine barrels. A few years later, they opened a butcher’s shop, and then, right next door to it, a Weinstube (wine bar) – now the oldest in the town. In the 18th century, the establishment let out rooms, a forerunner to the innkeeping activity which was further developed after the Second World War.
The coat of arms are those of the wife (born von Umscheiden-Nalbach) of one of the many occupants of the house.
The Märchenhotel, which is now listed as a historic monument, underwent many extensions and was substantially restored. The old tavern was succeeded by a gourmet restaurant, which is enjoying an increasing popularity, and the bedrooms were renewed to correspond with the theme of fairy tales. Some medieval features have been hidden or replaced by sensuous modern-day comfort – with space made for whirlpool baths, saunas, and a wellness centre.
The restaurant, welcoming and cosy with its ceramic stove, lends itself admirably to a tasting of the red or white Moselle grand crus. © Maerchenhotel
Floor plans offer a true geo-location exercise for the curious!
One of the most fascinating characteristics of half-timbered houses is the way they are constructed. Once the beam structure is in place, the way the rooms are laid out, can vary considerably from floor to floor. There was nothing easier than to add a partition, or to open up a bedroom overlooking the street. Since the Märchenhotel extends over three medieval houses, the disposition of the rooms can be quite disorienting.
Other characteristics of this ancient collection of houses are the uneven floorboards in many of the rooms – one can feel that the beams are not quite level. The Märchenhotel is decorated with many historical items, such as cast-iron firebacks, portraits of several prince-bishops of Trier, and wood statues, as well as other traditional ornamental objects.
The dining room hasn’t changed much since 1940 © Maerchenhotel
Former clients of the Weinstube, were able to enjoy a game of Kegelbahn (German bowls) in the bowling alley set into the rock (now the back of the reception area), which was the first in the State of the Rhineland-Palatinate.
One never tires of wandering through the lanes of Bernkastel’s old town where there is always something new to be discovered in their ancient, intricately constructed houses. In December, with the Christmas market and the town’s intimate, cosy lighting, the atmosphere is particularly magical.
In winter, Bernkastel-Kues with its gingerbread houses, its half-timbered façades of chocolate and fresh cream, and its thousands of little coloured lights, is transformed into a fairy-tale world.
Roofs were covered with tightly fitted slate tiles in the typical fish-scale pattern of the region.
River-cruise enthusiasts will love meandering through the vineyards in summer, and wine buffs should not miss the wine festival in September – a veritable ode to Riesling! The Moselle Music Festival that takes place from May through to October is a treat that attracts music lovers from all over the world. You will find many more places to visit and things to do on the town’s website.
The St Nikolaus hospital (Cusanusstift), on the other side of the river is one of the oldest still-working medieval foundation in Germany. Created in 1458 by Nicholas of Kues, it is dedicated to offering refuge to the poor from all social classes. Its late Gothic architecture is remarkable, in particular, its cloisters and its church. It houses the richest private library in Germany, which is famous for works on philosophy, theology, and canon law.
Nicholas of Kues’ birthplace is well worth a visit as well. The first floor is a vast, pillared room that houses a very interesting museum dedicated to the work of this great humanist. The stairwell bears witness to the levels the water reached in the worst of the Moselle floods.
The founding charter of the Saint Nicolas hospital, exposed in the birthplace of Causanus.
The town of Trier is just a few kilometres away, and is a ‘must-see’ on any itinerary with its impressive Roman remains; Eltz Castle with its soaring Gothic architecture will capture the imaginations of fans of chivalric romances. Many other castles border the length of the river and can be visited or admired from a river boat.
The Burg Eltz attracts many tourists, but several less known castles are worth visiting in the area © linesinthesand
Note: Many cultural attractions are closed in low season. Enquire first at the Tourist Office.
I was there several times! It is a VERY romantic and extremely beautiful region, the Mosel-Valley (150 km) from Trier to Koblenz ; in the middle the little historical beautiful town Bernkastel and on the other side of the Mosel, Kues! It is most interesting to visit in summer because there are very much (green) wine-yards! Highly recommended to visit the whole region!
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Märchenhotel Anno 1640 ****
Stefan and Katia Krebs
Tel. +49 6531 96550
Fax. +49 06531 1432
Hotel’s own website
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