Germany diary, day 8

Friday, 5 October, 2018. 15:48

We are taking another afternoon rest break, in the true spirt of being German, sitting in a cafe with hot drinks and apfelstrudel with vanilla sauce. We are in Café Will, which says it’s the oldest cafe in Limburg, with five generations in over 135 years. M. is having a latte macchiato again, while I am having a hot lemon juice with honey, since I have developed a bit of a sore throat.

My throat got really sore during the night, and I found the bed a bit uncomfortable so didn’t sleep very well. We woke up about 07:00, and I was surprised that it was so late. We had showers and prepared for the day out, having decided to get breakfast at Café Kosmol, which we’d passed yesterday.

St George's Cathedral through fog
Cathedral through the morning fog

It was only a short walk through the cold streets. There had been a fog when we woke up, but it had lifted to a grey overcast. The cafe opened at 07:00, and it was after 08:00 by the time we got there, but there was just one old man running the place, and the inside was full of the display tables that had been outside yesterday, with arrays of biscuits and fruit and nut breads on them. We had to push past the tables, moving them out of the way to reach the cafe tables inside.

Café Kosmol
Café Kosmol

The various breakfasts on the menu all included a big list of items, with various types of bread rolls, croissants, pretzels, jam, butter, honey, and so on, plus selections of cheeses and meats. Some included a cooked egg, and the biggest breakfast included a glass of sparkling wine. I chose one with cheese and ham and an egg, asking for it fried. M. just wanted some bread with spread plus an egg, and had to combine two smaller options. Each if our choices also came with a hot drink; M. chose a coffee while I had hot chocolate.

First the man brought our drinks, then two stemmed glass bowls, one with a small plastic tub of honey and small glass jars of apricot and redcurrant jam, and bread and butter plates with small bread rolls shaped to look like mice, complete with straw whiskers! These bread mice seemed to complimentary extras, as there were more of them in various sizes scattered all around the shop, including one giant rat one by the cash register. Next he brought two baskets full to overflowing with bread rolls and other baked goods. There was one pretzel, two croissants, two small knot rolls, two large white rolls, one with sesame seeds and the other with poppy seeds, and two brown rolls with lots of large mixed seeds and grains. And then came the three tiered afternoon tea stand with plates full of cheese, meat, and salad. There were two large slices of a medium hard cheese, two of camembert, two of gorgonzola, two of ham, two of cured prosciutto-like black forest ham, and two of salami, plus various leaves of lettuce, slices of red and green capsicum, and slices of boiled egg.

Breakfast platter
First course of breakfast at Café Kosmol

We tucked in, starting with the croissants with butter or jam, after I tried my mouse roll first. It was simply white bread with raisins for eyes. We’d finished the croissants and were contemplating the mountain of bread rolls, when the guy arrived with our fried eggs! I’d expect that we’d get one egg each, but he gave us plates with two fried eggs, plus more salad on the side! M. split a brown roll and put the eggs on to make a sandwich and ate it with her hands. I split the poppy seed roll and cut pieces of egg to have one bits of bread. Halfway through I realised I could put the cured ham on as well, to start making a dent in the meats. After finishing the eggs, M. had the second brown roll, while I built sandwiches out of the other rolls and all of the meat and cheese. It was so much food!

Full German Breakfast
And then fried eggs!

But while we sat and ate, two men came in and ordered something similar, getting baskets of bread and plates of cheese and meat and other things. M. had noticed that bread rolls with meat and cheese seems to be a breakfast thing here, with people in the bakeries in Cologne eating two or three of them in the morning. So at least we were doing the local thing!

After this huge breakfast, we left to return briefly to our hotel room. M. bought some wrapped gingerbread from the cafe as gifts for people back home. Hopefully it should pass through customs okay.

Breakfast out of the way, we departed to wander the streets of Limburg again. We decided to check out the art exhibition in the small municipal building not far away, while the morning chill was still in effect. We found the Kunstsammlungen der Stadt Limburg in the Historisches Rathaus and entered. There was a woman at a reception desk, but no indication of any admission fee, so I asked if it was gratis, and she said yes, please look around. The exhibition turned out to be the work of two different artists, rather than a general collection of art that I’d expected.

Kunstsammlungen der Stadt Limburg Historisches Rathaus
Kunstsammlungen der Stadt Limburg

The first artist was a contemporary portrait painter and sketcher with a sort of impressionistic style, depicting people fairly accurately, but with unusual colour choices, such as greens and blues and purples rather than skin tones. It was mostly paintings on the ground floor, basement, and mezzanine floor overlooking the ground floor room, but there was also a room of pencil sketches, in which the faces were very detailed and true to life, but then the pencil work became less defined as it moved further away, devolving into simple linear scribbles suggesting the shapes of clothing towards the edges of the paper. All these works were done in the last 20 to 30 years or so.

Pencil sketch

On the top floor was something completely different. Here was the work of a different artist, done around 1920, and all of it was silhouette figures cut from black paper, mounted on a white background, each frame about A4 size, and depicting from two to four full length human figures, interacting in some way. Many of them wore historical costumes from around the French Revolutionary era and onwards. Although mere silhouettes, the details were so incredible and gave them an amazing amount of expressiveness. They were truly fantastic.

Silhouetto, Scaramouche
Paper silhouettes

The exhibition was small, and we spent probably just under an hour there. We decided to walk around a bit more of the old town area, exploring some peripheral streets with old houses but not necessarily any shops or anything. We ended up at a short stone arched tunnel leading under the road that approached the Lahn bridge.

Tunnel to the Lahn
Tunnel leading to the Lahn River

Going through this we ended up on the river bank, on a path that led east under the bridge. We stopped by the water to admire the multiple stone arches of the bridge and saw a collection of mallard ducks on the river.

Alte Brücke
Alte Brücke over the Lahn River

With the ducks was a single bird that wasn’t a duck; I couldn’t remember what it was called but thought it might be a loon. And then we kept talking about the “lone loon”. The ducks and “lone loon” kept swimming towards us, thinking we were going to throw them food. They must be used to people feeding them. (Identifying the bird later from photos, I discovered it was a Eurasian coot, not a loon.)

Eurasian coot
The “lone loon”, actually a Eurasian coot

The river banks were lined with trees starting to show autumn colours and reflecting off the water. It was peaceful and very beautiful. We walked along the river bank, enjoying the views, and passed behind the hill on which the cathedral had been built. On the other side it can be approached by various more or less steep streets and sets of steps. But on this river side the hill was a vertical cliff of bare rock, thrust up so the strata layers were at about a 40° angle to the horizontal. And perched on top was the cathedral, not far from the cliff edge.

Lahn River path
Path along the bank of the Lahn, with cathedral up on the cliff

Past the cathedral we crossed a small footbridge to a small island, which was set up as a beer garden for the restaurant Obermühle, which was in an old mill building, with waterwheels in the narrow mill races flanking the island. We checked the menu to see if they had anything good for dinner. They had Reibekuchen with apple sauce, which I thought were potato pancakes, but looking later online found they were more like hash browns, which M. didn’t fancy, so we didn’t end up coming back for dinner.

Restaurant Obermühle
Restaurant Obermühle, with cathedral behind

We’d come around the eastern end of the hill and turned away from the river, passing a schoolyard full of young children and then turning to climb the steep cobbled street up towards the cathedral. From this side we could see the Schloss that perched atop the cliff next to the cathedral. I’d read last night that you can go into the courtyard to look around, even if you can’t enter the building itself. So we walked up to take a look. Inside the cobbled courtyard were fire engines for some reason. There wasn’t that much to look at, but walking to the far corner of the courtyard gave a good view of the cathedral with a nice half-timbered building in front of it, lit by the midday sun.

Cathedral and schloss
Schloss Limburg and Cathedral

By now we were getting hungry and M. wanted to go back to the same bakery to get a bread roll with salad on it as yesterday. The place was called Simon, on the main street leading away from the old town area. M. ordered a bread roll with salad made to order, with lettuce, tomato, and cucumber. The lady also put some sliced egg on it, but that was okay. I was still too full from breakfast to have too much, but had a teilchen similar to yesterday. Today instead of a choice of apple or apricot, they were all plum. It seems to be plum season here as everywhere has lots of plum cakes.

Plum Teilchen
Plum teilchen at Simon bakery/cafe

For the early afternoon, we walked around more streets, exploring some other places we hadn’t managed to see yet. Walking past one house, we met the man who took our money at the Diocesan Museum yesterday. He recognised us and called out to say hello. He was working on plastering the outside of a house, which he said was his house. We crept into a few dead end streets to see the old houses, and we found the actual house of the seven deadly sins, with small wooden carvings in the ends of first floor beams in shapes of grotesque faces that might be interpretable as representing the sins, although it was difficult to assign some of them. TripAdvisor had this place listed as an attraction, but all of the photos and reviews are of a different and more obvious building in a different part of the old town! I think most people who come looking for it only find the more obvious one, with large red carvings on it, and think they’ve found the right one.

House of the Seven Deadly Sins
The actual House of the Seven Deadly Sins

From here we explored more paths no previously taken. We went up steps approaching the cathedral from the west, then down another set of steps on the same side which led through a garden on a terraced level. This route gave us some more interesting views of old houses, and we passed through a small courtyard with what looked like two stone wells, one circular and one square. There was a sign with historical information and bronze models of the square and surrounding buildings over time, showing how the area had changed since the Middle Ages. We took our time exploring and poking our noses into little nooks and crannies among the old medieval streets.

Bakery sculptures
The red carvings on the bakery which many tourists apparently mistake for the Seven Deadly Sins. There are a lot more than seven of them, too.

We had a mid-afternoon break at Café Will, the oldest cafe in Limburg. The menus said it had been operating for five generations and over 125 years. M. had another latte macchiato, while I decided to try the apple strudel, with vanilla sauce, since that seems to be the accompaniment of choice. The strudel was nice, with finely sliced apple and a paper thin wrapping of pastry. The sauce was strongly vanilla flavoured and thick but runny, like a very thin custard.

Afternoon tea at Café Will
Afternoon tea at Café Will

After this break we went back to the hotel briefly, then out for late afternoon photos of the Alte Brücke (old bridge) and of the cathedral from the bridge, in the pre-sunset light. This was really good, and worth the walk, to catch the yellowing light of the setting sun and the reflections on the river. We ended up walking right across the bridge, past the Brücketurm on the far end. As we walked down to the far bank along the street, a man with a camera appeared from a fenced area where he’d been walking along the grass bank of the canal that ran alongside the river, climbed the fence, then said to us that it was worth a bit of rambling to get a good photo. He must have just decided that a bit of trespassing was fine too.

Mallards on River Lahn
The Alte Brücke and Brücketurm in evening light

We walked along the canal a bit, on the other side of the road, where there was a parking area and a pathway. There was a lock to raise and lower boats past the stepped weirs in the main flow of the river. As we walked back after turning around, we saw a man appear and begin operating the lock to raise the water in the middle section. We went over to have a look, and saw that in the lock was a single man in a canoe! He paddled a bit to keep station as the water churned in, and chatted with the lock operator. It took a good ten minutes or so for the lock to fill, then the operator opened the gates and the canoeist paddled out to continue his journey up the river.

Canoe through the lock
Canoeist in the River Lahn lock

We crossed back over the bridge, taking some final photos as the sunlight started getting some warm colour. But now we were getting hungry and thinking abut dinner. Yesterday I’d found the Gasthaus Burgkeller in the Fischmarkt square, which had a menu showing they did fried mushrooms with cheese spätzle, which M. liked the sound of. So we went there, assuming we could get a table easily after seeing how free places were last night. But no, when we went in and said we had no reservation they turned us away.

Limburger Dom & River Lahn
Cathedral and River Lahn at sunset

We wandered around a bit, first looking at a Spanish tapas place, but deciding that it would be better to get German food. We found a place apparently called Weingau Stube, and when we went inside there were two tables free, but the woman said they were reserved and we could sit at the other end of a table for six where an older couple were already sitting. M. fancied the flammkuchen with tomato and zucchini, while I thought I’d try the matjes with cream sauce. This came with “pellkartoffel”, which I assumed meant a baked jacket potato, after looking up that “pell” means “skin”. Also on the menu was baked camembert with fried potatoes, which we both liked the sound of and thought we could share as a starter. We asked if it was vegetarian, but the waitress said no, it had speck in it, however, she could have it made without the speck. So we said okay to that.

But when we ordered the other two dishes, the waitress looked at us with some alarm and tried to explain in her halting English that this was too much food, three dishes for just two people. But the menu said the camembert and the flammkuchen were “small dishes”, while the matjes was a “large dish”, so we thought we should be safe enough. We told her we’d like to share the camembert and she at first said no, they wouldn’t let us do that, but then M. said to bring out the camembert first as a starter, followed later by the flammkuchen and matjes, and then the waitress agreed we could do that. So there was obviously some sort of misunderstanding in the process there.

Fried camembert and potatoes
Friend Camembert at Weingau Stube

We sat and waited for our food. I could see the staging area where the chef put dishes to be taken out to the tables. We saw a few different things go out. Then the chef put out a plate with camembert and potatoes on it, followed quickly by another! Suddenly we were afraid that maybe the waitress had assumed we wanted a camembert each as a starter! But we breathed easy again when she put one plate on our table and took the other to another table. The camembert had crispy breadcrumbs on it and cranberry sauce. It went well with the fried potatoes, and we finished it off pretty quickly.

Flammkuchen at Weingau Stube

There was a suitable wait for the main courses. M.’s flammkuchen arrived and also had onions on it, which had been mentioned on the menu but we’d forgotten about it. And the matjes, or pickled herring fillets, came smothered in what basically looked like cream, with small chopped bits of cucumber and capsicum in it. I’d expected a baked potato, but the accompanying potatoes were fried the same way as the ones with the camembert, only with bacon bits this time. I thought the fish would be cooked, but realised when I saw it that it might be cold, and indeed it was. It had a strong and salty flavour, and I can see why it’s served with cream, to neutralise it a bit.

Matjes in cream sauce and fried potatoes
Matjes in cream sauce at Weingau Stube

The couple at the other end of our table also had a flammkuchen for her, while the man ate what looked like a huge serve of salmon cream cheese pâté, with little pieces of dark bread and crunchy pretzels. M. pointed out that an old man had come in looking for a seat, only to be told that the two empty tables were reserved. He was about to leave when a couple at another table called him over to sit with them. He sat there and they all talked together as they ate.

Kornmarkt at night
Kornmarkt square at night

While our food was filling, it wasn’t over the top, and we finished all three dishes. I even had room for some gelato, so we left in search of some. I didn’t want to go to Eiscafe Venezia like last night, and suggested we try another gelato place we’d seen, Eiscafe Cortina. But when we got there it was closed. So we walked out past our hotel into the new town area where we’d seen a third gelato place. This was open, and I got two scoops, selecting amarena cherry and pomegranate flavours. The man put them in a huge plastic cup, apologising that they didn’t have any the right size for just two scoops. I was glad we went here, because the gelato was very good, better than the ones at Venezia. The pomegranate in particular was really fruity and delicious. I was amused that the German word for pomegranate was granatapfel, or “granat-apple”, until I realised that the “pom” in pomegranate also meant “apple” in French. So in English it’s also “apple-granat”!

We took the cup of gelato back to the hotel room where I finished it off. We need to get up in the morning, shower, and pack our bags for a midday checkout. M. asked if we could have a late checkout because we were flying to Australia and not leaving Limburg until 5pm, but the reception lady (who we both agreed looks like Ros from Frasier) said the hotel was fully booked for Saturday night and the best she could give us was a midday checkout. We accepted this gratefully as it would be better than 10am or whatever.

Then it was time for bed, in our last night in Germany.

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