Updated: Oct 11, 2019
Yes, Bertrich was a very naughty boy.
Some of my 'extended' family live in Germany and recently started managing a hotel in the tiny town of Bad Bertrich in the Cochem-Zell district of Rhineland-Palatinate, near the Moselle River. Having been offered accommodation in return for a few hours work a day at the hotel, on 24 July and in a noteworthy 36c I was driven in a non-air conditioned car to Bad Bertrich.
The town has a population of around 1,000 and my observation is that every one of these is over 75. It's situated inside a former volcano crater with sheer sided mountains fully encircling it. This geography is also why it's also called "Bad" (bath) as it has natural hot springs and apparently bathing houses were built here in the 4th Century under Roman rule.
These days it's still a bath town and also the focus of various health centres renowned across Germany for their speciality in varicose veins, knee rehabilitation and various other conditions of the slightly-older-than-me. The majority of people moving around town do so very slowly, often on crutches. I even had my legs inspected for free as part of the annual 'varicose vein' day.
In total I ended up spending quite some weeks in ye ol' Bad Bertrich. It's a unique place, very close to the main tourism areas along the spectacular Moselle River yet sheltered enough to give you a middle-of-nowhere feel. It's also located in the middle of some really amazing forest; I spent a lot of time exploring these forests and never got tired of it. Basically, my time was spent either working in the hotel, in which I also lived, or in the forest, or with my extended family (Hanny and Harald) who lived two doors down from the hotel.
Vintage Hotel Twenty-Eight
This hotel goes way back and was quite the luxury stay back in the day. It's always been a hotel and I think was built in the early 1900s. The furniture etc is still original and built to last, made from hardwood. It has some retro features like old radio's built into the bed. Twenty eight rooms on four floors. Hanny and Harald have been managing this hotel for around a year and currently, Harald runs the entire hotel alone, from reception and bookings to cleaning and maintenance. A really big job.
In return for staying here, I helped in the hotel. My speciality was cleaning rooms and making beds, which is surprisingly tough when done 20 times in a row. Note each double room has two beds to make not one. Ah how I cursed some of those beds, but all in all it was fun times together with Harald. I became known as the hotel 'mole' because of how long I sometimes spent inside doing rooms, think my eyes shrank over time and struggled when I ventured into the daylight. 'Rat' would also have been appropriate as my mornings started by eating left overs from the guests breakfast. I have new respect for those involved in cleaning hotels.
At night in my hotel room all I could hear was the creek running, owls and various other forest noises; the forest starts just 20 metres behind the hotel.
The forest surrounding the town is fantasy book stuff. Gnarled oaks covered in moss and in the morning usually draped in fog (excellent for photography). The forest is completely silent and because the slopes are so steep (remember everyone is on crutches) you rarely meet anyone else. I regularly came across deer but no wild boar, which are known to frequent the area. I did stumble across what looked to be a WWII Nazi communication antennae, yet to confirm this with some online war geeks.
The Moselle River and nearby towns
Having access to Hanny/Harald's car, I did a number of day trips along the Moselle River to well known towns such as Cochem, Bremm, Beilstein and Bernkastel-Keus. At the latter I attended Germany's largest wine festival. Each town has a story and history of its own but they all share the feature of having a castle on a hill, generally dating to 12th century; some serious history here.
The vineyards in the Moselle area are among the world's oldest and steepest; one - which was a tough climb - is 66% (world's steepest) and has claimed a number of grape picker's lives, it must still be done manually. I also went swimming in some nearby crater lakes, which was definitely refreshing (read: cold).
This is one of Germany's most popular castles due to its fairy tale location and Disney like structure. I really wanted to experience this place tourist free and ideally covered with some mist for maximum effect (photographically speaking). I left before dawn and arrived 2hrs before opening time and - happily - drove through and occasionally above a thick blanket of fog. It was worth the effort, there was literally nobody else there and it was misty.... *click* (243 times).
I also did a tour inside the castle later on and it definitely makes my top 3 castles ever visited. It's still owned by the 33rd generation of the same Eltz family that lived in there in the 12th century. It has 100 rooms and something like 40 fire places. No photography allowed inside.
A small collection of the many photos I took during this time is in the gallery below.