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Archive for October, 2015

Wine tasting along the Moselle

Panorama_neumagen_dhronI wonder if the Romans had known two millennia ago the hype their occupation of Europe would create and places vying for the titles of the oldest place on record for winemaking, sausage selling or lead casting, if they would have been a bit more meticulous about their record keeping?! 1280px-Neumagener_WeinschiffToday’s place of interest is one these: Neumagen-Dhron laying claim to being the oldest winemaking village in Germany. The Roman settlement Noviomagus Treverorum ( Latin for “new market of the Treviri”) was destroyed by Germanic tribes around 200AD. Several archaeological finds from the region can be viewed at the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier, in particular the famous Neumagen Wine Ship, replicas of which can be seen in several places around the region.

Neumagen Wine Ship

1280px-Nachbau_Neumagener-WeinschiffThis elaborate tomb was for a roman wine dealer from the period of the first settlement around 200 AD. Specialists have been able to ascertain that the particular design of the boat and the wine barrels meant it was transporting a locally produced wine to be sold at distant markets. This find – supported by others – form the base of the claim of being the oldest wine making village in Germany. The relevance to the region was recognized and honoured in 2007 by the local Chamber of Crafts having a real-life replica crafted by its apprentices. The working ship is well and truly seaworthy and can be hired. It is powered either by two 55 HP diesel engines or rowed by actual man and woman power!

Hub of wine growing region

moselle-valleyAlong the Moselle River approximately 9000 hectares are planted with grapes, which makes the Neumagen-Dhron region with its 247 hectares the fifth largest community along the river. The Moselle river wine growing region is subdivided into 6 regions. The area along the Saar river is part of the Upper Moselle region, the produce of which you were able to savour while travelling from Saarbrücken. As you approach Neumagen-Dhron you’re in the Bernkastel-Kues region, the Middle Moselle. While we stop for a break in Neumagen-Dhron you will have ample opportunity to taste the local wines and discover the subtle differences between individual vineyards and cooperatives. In another article we will talk about some of these individual ones and try to prepare your taste buds.

Author: Petra-Alsbach-Stevens

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Seasonal idiosyncrasy

StrausswirtschaftAs Kiwis we all recognise the PYO signs on the side of the road and know what the term honesty box implies. But did you know that in some parts of Germany one can buy wine and something to eat in a not-licensed premise?! Like the pop-up shops in cities, during summertime a range of signs pop up at the side of the road, indicating that HERE you can consume locally produced and made wine and other regional delicacies. Depending on the region it can be a broom, a brightly coloured flower bouquet or a stylised hedge. Which are all regional terms for this particular enterprise: a Strauss– (Bouquet), Besen– (Broom) or Heckenwirtschaft (Hedge inn).1280px-Heckenwirtschaft-01

Open for business: part time only

Each state in Germany has its own detailed regulations regarding this particular trade, but they all have a few points in common: only during 4 months of the year, you can have two opening times during the day, minimum of hygiene, no other alcohol to be sold – except home-made spirits(!) – and only very basic simple food. Like the Flammkuchen for example, a delicious Alsatian kind of pizza.1280px-Tarte_flambée_alsacienne_514471722

Due to its seasonal character, the range of locations where the wine is sold vary greatly. In the olden days it was quite common for the winemaker to just clear part of his house to accommodate the paying guests or just add a few hay bales to the courtyard! Others built little stalls with walls that would open to serve the general public. Either way, they are an interesting display of the commercial habits of the wine growers in Germany’s wine growing regions. And a unique way to sample local wines and cuisine!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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Country Living – Roman Style

Today’s trip will take you to one of the larger country estates in the area around Trier built from the 2nd to the 4th century AD: the Villa Rustica. This is a general term for a countryside villa and usually was the residence of the landowner as well as the farm management centre. While the individual design depended on the vision of the owner and the architect, it usually contained certain components: the main living area for the landowner, living quarters for the workers, slaves and animals and the storage areas for the farms’ produce. Usually they had plumbed bathing facilities and under-floor heating! The wealth of the owner was apparent in the use of mosaics throughout the villa and the number of rooms it ultimately comprised.

‘Humble’ beginnings

1280px-Villa_Rustica_in_MehringInitially this villa was planned to cover a floor area of 28 by 23 meters with two corner Risalites joined by a columned hall. By the time it was finished – a couple of centuries later – it covered an area of 48 by 29 meters and had 34 rooms. A multi-coloured floor mosaic and a black marble wall panelling indicate the owner was of very high social standing and of considerable wealth. Careful restoration in the 19th and 20th century made it possible now to get a glimpse of what it was like living a well-to-do life then.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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Soaking it up Roman Style

asterixgladiator432As some of you might know from history lessons or Asterix and Obelix comics, the Romans LOVED to have a good soak. They not only spent their time in the baths getting cleaned up or plotting a revolt against the current head of state, but also conducted business meetings, participated in sports activities or got the full spa treatment ( manicure, pedicure, massage, hair removal: they’ve done it all). As a result they built baths wherever they went/invaded. And some places proved to become such thriving cities, that one bath was not enough to cater for the whole of the population. 1024px-Augusta_Treverorum_StadtplanAs in Trier, where over the course of a century three baths were built. The Imperial Baths – which are on the guided tour – were the last to be started at the end of the 3rd century AD and were intended to be the grandest of the time and for the general public to use. But, some scientist believe they were never finished (or only on such a small scale that they were only of limited use) due to changes in the political arena.

Imperial Baths

Trier_Kaiserthermen_BW_4All the baths show a sophisticated use of underfloor heating, water heating systems and the use of solar heating. A classic roman bath had a range of baths and steam rooms, that served very distinct purposes. The size of a bath complex determined how many rooms it had and this site has a good description of the basic set-up – tepidarium, caldarium and frigidarium – and other interesting details about Roman baths in general.

Around 375 AD the baths were re-purposed by Caesar Gratian into barracks. Some major buildings were demolished at the time and the rubble used to fill in other parts that hadn’t been finished or were of no use to them. Thus the restructuring began which meant that centuries later excavations for an underground parking lot uncovered the unknown ruins of the oldest and forgotten Forum Baths.

312px-Trier_Kaiserthermen_BW_2After the Romans left the region the baths suffered the same fate as many other structures from the time: they were dismantled and recycled in new buildings in the city. The guided tour will explain in detail not only how the structure and waterworks were designed, but also how the different parts were re-purposed by churches, schools and nobility. The family names of some of the nobility at the time reflect the parts of the old structure they had acquired: de Castello (obviously the Castle), de Palatio (the palace area) and de Horreo (lat. Horrea for granary/storehouse) for example.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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