Mar 25

Schnitzels and Castles : German dining and a visit to Burg Eltz, Weirschem.

Castle Eltz2




Road trip!!!!! Hurrah!

It’s been a while since we last got in the car and went for a drive to a neighbouring country. The last one we did was in the summer of last year when my sister came for a 2-week visit. We rented  car and off we went, south towards the Mediterranean coast of France and Italy. That was a super hot July indeed, but being in the ocean was pure bliss and helped us keep our cool. That and the copious amounts of Pêche Melbas by the beach, washed down with milky iced coffees.



This time round however, our road trip takes place in a very different season, “spring”, and we froze our bums off. It’s the end of March and there is still no sign of spring. Brrr! While our friends are lapping it up on the beaches of Malaysia and Thailand (for a month!), they have asked us to look after their 10 mth old puppy and have lent us their car as well. We were under the impression that we would use the car to take the doggies to parks, remote forests and beaches during “good weather”. It’s been over 2 weeks and we are still waiting. In the meantime we try our best to entertain the pup pups indoors and on walks around our local parks. Charlie the poodle is young and he is a high energy puppy; it has been a challenge keeping him amused and under control. Mischief is his middle name and he has proven this on several occasions.




Castle Eltz3



Castle Eltz4




Anyway, the decision was made to embark on a day-trip to a nearby attraction in a neighbouring country that made it possible for R. to drive there and back within a reasonable time frame. Germany was chosen coz we have not seen very much of the country and we have never driven there. Also, R. has been hankering for ‘schweinshaxe‘ (roasted pork knuckle) for the longest time … almost as long as he’s been waiting for Fish & Chips. We initially wanted to bring the doggies but that morning was totally frigid with lots of wind and a temperature of -1ºC. Realfeel®  -13ºC. Fabulous. If we took the doggies then we would have to be seated outside at restaurants and cafes, or at least spend time looking for one that was pet friendly. So we left them behind.



The night before, R. made a big show of insisting we push off at the break of dawn. “We must be packed and on the road by 7 a.m!”, said he. He even made the effort of hitting the hay by 10 p.m so as to be awake and beaming like the breath of morning sunshine the next day. Pffft. I was awake at seven, but he wasn’t. I waited. Nothing happened. At 7:45 I finally poked him and said, “Is this your idea of bright and early then?” Hehehe. We eventually hit the road at a quarter past nine.



The drive would take us approximately 3.5 hours, provided we head there directly with no wrong turns and no stops for food or wees. So obviously that time prediction flew out the window very quickly for we were doing this trip old-school … sans GPS. R. had looked up the route on Google prior to our departure and had written down the road numbers on a piece of paper: “take the A10 and turn off as the highway merges with the A1. Then take exit 15 towards Venlo …“.  It’s GPS alright, but in ink.




Castle Eltz_map (800x371)





Getting to the town of Mayen was easy enough but once there the roads become less sign-posted and soon we were taking wrong turns every few hundred meters or so. It was after noon and we still hadn’t found the castle. R. was getting hungry and a touch testy over my navigational skills. So we pulled into the nearest collection of buildings that resembled a small country town, and went in search of food. It was called Münstermaifeld, as it turned out. Being a Sunday, pretty much everything seemed to be closed for business. Drat! We were running low on gas as well and had hoped to locate a gas station in this sleepy German village. Fortuitously, we rounded a corner and spotted what seemed to be a very smart cafe and there were people within! Hooray, sustenance was within our grasp! We parked our car and walked hunched over in the freezing cold, pulling our hats down low over our brows, towards the front doors of the establishment.



Once there I realised this was no cafe but a proper restaurant, with white table cloths and smartly dressed waiters in pressed aprons. Fortuitous find indeed. The outside of the place looked like an old farmhouse, but the inside was refurbished with modern fittings and furniture. Outside there was a garden, a wooden deck and a dog’s kennel with the name ‘Paul’ painted on it. This was my introduction to Löffel’s Landhaus, and it was an endearing picture already. Inside was toasty warm (*breathes sigh of relief*), and we were greeted by friendly wait staff, all of whom looked fresh out of high school. We peeled off our layers of clothing and sat down to peruse the German/ English menu.



Loffel's Landhaus




There seemed to be loads of potatoes on the menu, a locally grown variety, and they were proud to feature it as in a starring role. There was potato and bacon soup, potato rösti, potatoes and veal escalope (the house specialty), potatoes gratin and pan fried potatoes as a side order. However, while it seemed potatoes were in everything, from starter to main course, pork and veal were a close second. Afterall, what is German cuisine without a good breaded schnitzel, eh? Eventually we placed our orders and waited eagerly for our food to arrive. Just by reading the items on the menu I knew lunch was going to be good. R. ordered the Maifeld potato and bacon soup and the house specialty of Veal Escalope, while I ordered the Farmer’s Schnitzel with field mushrooms and gratinized cheese on top.




While we waited for food to arrive, I wandered off to take photos. One of the waiters offered to take me to the cellar which had been converted into a dining room and proceeded to give me  bit of background history on the building. The house was built in the 1830’s by a Baron Ferdinand Josel von Papen and used as a residential home. By 1878, the home ownership had changed hands and a tavern was established; owned and managed by a local farmer, Anton Marx. The house remained with the family, functioning as the local pub until the death of it’s last family proprietor in 1980. Then in 1985 a Mr & Mrs Heinz Hansen purchased the property from the last remaining heirs and over the years they slowly restored the place and put in modern fittings. The old barn was turned it into a marionette theatre, and it opened to the public in 1993. The Hansen Marionette Theatre was well recieved by both locals and Germans of the neighbouring regions, and became the only puppetry theatre in the whole of the Rhineland-Palatineate valley. It housed a collection of over 250 hand-carved wooden puppets, and the Hansen’s sewed all the puppets’ garments themselves. In 2005, the Hansen’s sold the property due to old age, and in 2009 the property reopened as Löffel’s Landhaus (Spoon’s Cottage), Modern German Cuisine, and they have been in business ever since.



Castle Eltz_Loffel3




After he had finished telling me this remarkable story, I happened to glance at his name tag and it read ‘Max Löffel’. I inquired if he was a member of the very family who owned the business, and he confirmed this. I asked if his father was the manager of the restaurant or simply the landlord … and he said his daddy was manager, owner AND chef of the restaurant … and that he was cooking our lunch right this very minute. How charming! Armed with this info I happily trotted back to my table and divulged all that I had learnt to R.




Food arrived shortly thereafter and R. proclaimed the potato and bacon soup to be “exactly how I had imagined it to be” … then he mopped up every last drop with bread. I had a taste of the soup and I must say it was pretty special; few ingredients but done to perfection.




Castle Eltz_Loffel (445x640)
The mouthful of soup had put me in  very hopeful mood as I anticipated the arrival of my lunch. I usually order the “not so nice” thing on the menu and then look over longingly at R’s more appealing meal. Not this time tho … haha! My Farmer’s Schnitzel presented itself on a large plate, almost all of which was occupied by the schnitzel itself, sitting in a pool of brown sauce and covered with melted grilled cheese + mushrooms. There was little room for anything else on that plate and the portion was so generous I thought well, there really is no need for any side dishes, is there? Oh, how wrong I was. For a few nanoseconds after my schnitzel had landed, so too did a bowl of salad and yet a bowl of fried potatoes arrive. Whoa! That’s a huge lunch to put away. But oh my goodness, it was AAH-MAZING! Everything was well seasoned; the pork, the potatoes, the mushrooms … it was quite possibly the best schnitzel I have tasted. I didn’t expect it to taste that good. For years I have always viewed schnitzel as cheap bar food that can be rather hit or miss. This thing of beauty in front of me however, has dispelled my prejudices forever. Hearty German food for the win!




Castle Eltz_Loffel2 (640x426)




R.’s Veal Escalope arrived on an even BIGGER plate than mine … half of it filled with a fresh garden salad (uh-oh!). And we also found out that ‘escalope’ simply means encased in grated potato. While the dish was really tasty, R. couldn’t help but eye off my breaded schnitzel. I didn’t manage a photo of the escalope coz I was beginning to feel slightly embarrassed for dragging out the camera and snap snapping at the table. I am still learning the ropes of manual settings on the camera so taking a single photo requires time, multiple attempts and lots of fiddling with settings at the table. However, I managed to find this YouTube vid of chef Löffel himself preparing the dish. As a bonus the video includes views of the gardens in the summer, when outdoor seating and al fresco dining become available.







By the end of the meal I was stuffed. No room for dessert. I finished my apple juice, paid the bill and we left, in search of the elusive Eltz castle. We finally caved and used GPS on our phones. Small country roads are a challenge to navigate even with GPS assistance. Many a snow-covered field later we finally saw a tourist sign pointing us in the right direction. Even a small country tavern had the name ‘Burg Eltz‘, which meant we were definitely close. Eventually we hit the jackpot and pulled up to buy our parking ticket from an elderly chap, € 2 per car. He said we could take the shuttle bus to the castle or take the hiking trail behind the carpark area. Total distance was a mere 1.4 km, so we decided to walk even tho it was cold. Glad we did coz the forest walk was stunning!





Castle Eltz7 (427x640)



Castle Eltz8 (451x640)



The trail was rather bumpy and uneven so you need to watch your step. If you slip over the edge you’ll roll all the way down to the rivers edge. Twenty minutes later we rounded the corner and there it was, sitting proudly on a rocky hill was the castle.



Castle Eltz9




The history behind the castle is quite fascinating. It was built sometime in the 1100’s and was owned by three noble families. Building castles was expensive business, so they decided to each chip in and live in a “co-op” castle. Today the castle is still inhabited by descendants of the original owners, 33 generations down the line. The castle is divided into sections and private apartments meant for each family. The only common area where they can all meet is in the courtyard and the Great Hall, where discussions about the management of the castle were held.



Picture source : Wikipedia.org

Picture source : Wikipedia.org



For € 9, you can join the tour, held in English, German and Spanish (I think), and get access to the treasury where all the fine jewellery and expensive ornaments are on display. To be honest I thought the tour would be awful but had to eat my thoughts later. It was pretty informative and conducted rather well. The tour started in the armoury, then we moved on to one of the bedrooms upstairs which had a sit-down toilet complete with rain-water flushing system. The kitchen was massive; each family had their own private kitchen in their respective households. I would have included photos but unfortunately no photos were allowed inside the house.





Castle Eltz12 (640x435)




Castle Eltz13 (478x640)




Castle Eltz16 (436x640)



Burg Eltz, Wierschem, Germany



After the tour we went thru the treasury for a while and then we made a move to head back to the carpark. The light was fading and we had a long drive ahead of us. Back in the car I was freeeeezing. Since it wasn’t our car we didn’t know how to set the heat on, or if the heater even worked in the first place. So no heat and the outside temperature was dropping rapidly. By the time we reached Cologne for dinner it was -1ºC and my fingers were beginning to hurt. I was so thankful for the warmth inside the brauhaus, where we dined on more German food in generous proportions. I wanted something small so I ordered the chicken and baby mozzarella salad, coz I wanted Apple Strudel for dessert. What came to the table was a ginormous dish piled high with salad, a whole chicken breast and half a dozen mozerella balls. And this was labeled under “Light Meals” on the menu. So in the end there was no dessert for me … again. *sigh* Least Germany is just a drive away, and I am sure we will be back sooner rather than later, in search of yet more schweinshaxe and a bratwurst or two.



Back in the car for the final leg home I sat in the passenger seat wrapped in a blanket. Yes, I packed a blanket. By the time we reached our front door it was 11 pm, and we still had to feed and walk the doggies. We didn’t expect to be home so late but R. missed the turn off to Venlo and we had to find an alternate route back to the highway … plus German road signs are weird. Had an amazing day out with amazing food … but I was knackered by the end of it. I hit the hay and was out like a light almost instantly, curled up with my big doggie in bed. R. had already passed out on the couch and that is where he stayed the rest of the night.




~ The End ~


Permanent link to this article: http://foodflurries.com/travel-2/castle-eltz-weirschem-germany

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