Germany diary, day 7

Thursday, 4 October, 2018. 16:28

We are sitting in Bar Tripoli in Limburg an der Lahn, enjoying a glass of wine during a rest break. There are photos of Sophia Loren on the walls, including one of her serving spaghetti from a giant bowl. M. is having a Primitivo red from Puglia, while I tried the Grillo white wine. (I later discovered that Primitivo is an alias for Zinfandel.) Mine was something like a Pinot grigio, with tart fruitiness like kiwifruit or gooseberries and a hint of minerality. The owner is Italian, and I am trying to remember enough Italian to speak with him with less difficulty than in German, but it’s difficult switching languages when my head is full of German.

The day is bright and sunny and a bit warmer than we’ve had so far on the trip. We began early, waking up before the 07:00 alarm. I did some stretching exercises while M. had a shower, and then I got ready and packed bags for our trip. We left a bit before 08:00 and set out on the walk to Köln Messe/Deutz station, where our train would leave from at 09:36. We crossed the Severinsbrücke to the eastern side of the Rhine and walked through the Deutz neighbourhood north to the station.

Departing Köln
Cologne Cathedral in the morning, from the Deutz side of the Rhine

Along the way we found a street with shops and a nice looking cafe called Saint Louis Urban Deli. We stopped here for a morning coffee for M., and I got a hot chocolate and a chocolate croissant, which was warm and rich and buttery, really very good. We sat for a while, as we had some time in hand, but eventually left to walk the remaining few blocks to the station.

St Louis Urban Deli
Saint Louis Urban Deli

We entered the impressive domed entrance building and found our platform down a tunnel. We were a bit early and the previous train was still yet to arrive. Several people were waiting for it, and climbed aboard when it arrived. It came from the opposite direction to that which I thought out train should be travelling, and I was a bit confused until I looked at the timetable and train car plan information, which indicated that our train would indeed come from the other direction. It’s an interesting design decision, to switch trains so that they can travel in both directions from the one platform.

Our train arrived on time, and there were quite a few people waiting for it, with large amounts of luggage, obviously heading for Frankfurt airport I would guess. I hoped we could find a seat to sit down, rather than have to stand all the way, but it turned out there were plenty of seats and our carriage was mostly empty. We sat at the first seats we found at first, but then moved to seats with a table between us and two facing seats that were empty. We had a good view out the window, although for much of the trip we could only see nearby trees and berms of grass, only occasionally allowing views across the flat countryside.

The train reached speeds of 300 km/hr as displayed on the screens inside, but the ride was smooth. We stopped at Montabaur, and then the next stop just a few minutes later was ours, at Limburg Süd. This is a long distance station a little bit outside the town of Limburg, so we had to find a way to get into the town, as it was too far to walk. I expected there would be some sort of bus connection, and indeed there was a bus waiting as we exited the station, with a destination display of ZOB Süd. I knew ZOB was an abbreviation for a central bus station, so this seemed good.

We climbed on board and I tried to ask the driver how much a fare was. He asked in German if we’d just got off the train, and I said yes, and he waved us aboard without charging a fare. The bus waited a few minutes presumably to see if anyone else getting off the same train was coming, and then the driver started off for Limburg. The trip was indeed too long for walking with luggage, but took only about ten minutes on the bus. It arrived on the south side of the local train station in Limburg, and we got off and went down in the nearby lift to walk through the tunnel under the station and into the town on the north side.

Top of Kornmarkt
Old houses in Kornmarkt, Limburg

It only took us a few minutes to walk to the Dom Hotel Limburg, although this was interrupted by M. stopping at a bakery to buy a snack in the form of a triangle of hazelnut biscuit dipped in chocolate. At the hotel, we discovered it to be quite fancy, moreso than I expected from the relatively cheap price. We got room 208, on the top floor. It was a bit of a walk along a long corridor that twisted and turned around a corner, being almost the last room right at the end. It’s a nice room though, and seems a nice hotel all round. It was good that we got access to our room right away, as we’d been expecting that we might have to drop our bags and check into the room later in the afternoon.

Dom Hotel Limburg view
View from the window of our room at Dom Hotel Limburg

After freshening up a bit, we went out to explore Limburg. Our first stop was the fruit and vegetable market which we’d passed just before reaching the hotel. This was in the Neumarkt square, and there were two or three produce stalls selling delicious looking fruits and vegetables. We bought some apples for snacking on later. The focal point of the square is a fountain with a thin copper statue of St George slaying a small dragon.

Fruit and vegetable stalls in Neumarkt; St George fountain at far left

Once done fruit shopping, we walked through the Old Town area. The old city is compact so didn’t need a lot of walking around to see most of it, but is very picturesque, with dozens of old half-timbered buildings crowding over narrow streets, many fitted out as shops and restaurants, though some apparently simply houses for people who live in this area. We walked around, admiring the old architecture and looking for interesting places to eat or drink. Some old houses had dates on them, with numbers like 1376 or 917, so clearly some of them have been here for a very long time indeed. But they seem to be fitted with modern windows and no doubt the interiors are renovated and quite comfortable.

Half-timbered houses
Half-timbered houses

We walked a loop clockwise around the old town, through the narrow streets of old buildings. At the old bridge across the Lahn River we went out to walk across it. A plaque indicated the bridge had been built in the 14th century, destroyed in 1945, and rebuilt from 1946 to 1947. We crossed the river, stopping to admire the view, seeing a pair of swans swimming up the river towards us. We could see the cathedral up on the hill overlooking the river, but the sun was right behind it, so we thought we’d come back later in the day to see it lit from a different direction.

St George's cathedral, over Lahn River
St George’s Cathedral over Lahn River

We continued our circuit, climbing the hill leading up to the cathedral, which is an interesting building with salmon and white colouring on the outside and large square towers with incredibly steep slate shingled rooves. Inside it’s not nearly as impressive as the huge interior of the Cologne cathedral, but it was interesting, with several very old looking paintings directly on the walls. There was also a stone carving of Konrad Kurzbold (the Gaugraf of Niederlahngau, who had campaigned to have the cathedral built), lying on a table, which a sign indicated had been carved around 970 or so, well over a thousand years ago. The cathedral is dedicated to St George, and there is a sculpture of him slaying the dragon perched high atop a central spire between the two tall flanking towers at the front. We’d also seen a statue of St George in the fountain in the main market square, and another one or two scattered around the old town, so it seems he’s the patron of Limburg.

St George's ceiling
Ceiling of St George’s Cathedral

We went down the hill via some stairs, descending back to complete our circuit and return to the hotel briefly to use the toilet and get some water to drink. Then we went out for lunch, back to the bakery where M. had got the hazelnut biscuit earlier. She’d seen good looking bread rolls with sandwich fillings and wanted to try them. But when we got there. there didn’t seem to be any left! M. said maybe they were just moving the trays around or something, and indeed soon a woman put a tray of rolls back in the display.

M. picked a caraway roll with sliced egg, cheese, and lettuce, while I chose one with schinken ham and salad. I also got a Hefeteilchen, which is sort of a thin layer of cake covered with fruit slices and a topping a bit like crumble but sort of more sugary glazed. The woman asked if I wanted something I didn’t catch or apfel, so I just said apfel. The other option was actually apricot. These cakes seemed to be very popular, as the supply dwindled steadily as we sat inside and ate our rolls, selling faster than anything else they had. M. also had a coffee.

Schinken ham salad roll
Schinken ham bread roll

After eating, we explored some of the few streets in the old town that we hadn’t walked down yet, and then returned up to the cathedral, where the sun had moved to shine on the front of the building, making it better for photos than before. We walked to the north side where there was a bit of a view looking down into the river valley below, but it was mostly just trees and difficult to see very far.

St George's Cathedral, Limburg
St George’s Cathedral in the sunlight

We went over to the nearby Diocesan Museum, housed in a smaller church or cloister. We paid 3€ each to enter and inspect the three floors of church artefacts and relics. These included paintings for altar pieces, vestments, sculpted figures, chalices, crosses, reliquaries containing bones of saints or something (it was hard to tell from the German explanatory signs), and other assorted religious items. There was a lot of silver and gold, and the basement level had things under heavy security, with alarmed display cases, and one room actually inside a security vault with heavy steel door. One of the weirdest things was a stone sculpture of a naked woman riding on the back of a skeleton, the skeleton being on all fours like a horse.

Ivy arch
Houses in old town of Limburg

We returned to the old town and walked around a bit more, before deciding to stop at a wine bar for an afternoon drink. We’d thought of going to one we’d seen in one of the squares, but ran across another in a quiet street, which looked nice. It was called Bar Tripoli, where I began writing this day’s entry. We sat and drank our wine, and I tried to recall enough Italian to tell the owner that I spoke better Italian than German, but that switching languages in my head was very difficult. After our first glasses, M. had a second of the Primitivo, while I decided to have a Negroni, which was on the cocktail menu. We sat and relaxed there for some time, taking us to after 17:30 and nearly time for dinner.


Earlier we’d passed a small place which had flammkuchen on the menu posted outside, and we decided that would be good for dinner, so I went inside and asked to reserve a table for 18:30. The man said, in English, that that would be fine. I asked if I should leave my name and he said no, he’d just see us then. When we arrived, after leaving Bar Tripoli and dumping some things back at our hotel room, the place was empty inside, and he waved us to take any table we wanted, though he did have one with a reserved sign on it, and a post-it note saying 18:30.

Salmon flammkuchen
Salmon and spinach flammkuchen

We took a table by the window and ordered a flammkuchen each. M. had one with goat’s cheese, honey, and walnuts. Mine was smoked salmon and spinach. To drink we just had some water, after the drinks of the afternoon. The flammkuchen were really thin and crispy, with thin toppings, so light and quick to eat. I thought maybe we should have ordered something else to go with them, but M. left a few slices which I got to try, and that made it enough for a meal, with dessert to come.

Goat cheese and honey flammkuchen
Goat’s cheese, honey, and walnut flammkuchen

We walked towards our hotel and stopped at the Eiscafe Venezia, which looked like a good gelato shop. The menu was a huge booklet, containing dozens of different combo cups of gelato with various sauces, nuts, fruit, liqueurs, etc. Like pretty much every food establishment in Germany, they also offered beer, wine, and cocktails. Again the owners here were Italian, and carried on a conversation with a visitor in Italian while we ate. M. had another latte macchiato, while I chose three flavours of the gelato: banana, roasted almond, and malaga, which I believe was rum and raisin. The scoops came in a fluted white porcelain cup, topped with a cylindrical wafer. The banana was white but very intense in banana flavour, though slightly under-ripe bananas. The almond was the best, with crunchy bits of nut.

Banana and almond gelato
Gelato and coffee at Eiscafe Venezia

After this dessert we returned to the hotel and got another early night.

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