Bill and I just got back from our second weekend excursion since the pandemic struck. The spring and summer of 2020 have been very unusual, and not just because everyone’s wearing a face mask these days. Since we moved back to Germany in 2014, we’ve made a point of traveling as often as possible. We’ve visited many countries and have several others on our bucket list. But this year, after two early trips to the Alsace region of France following a Christmas jaunt to Nimes and Beaune, France, we have stayed put in Wiesbaden. I was really becoming a shut in, until Bill finally decided enough was enough and insisted on taking me away for my birthday last month. We memorably visited a spa hotel for two nights in nearby Hofheim, just twenty minutes from where we live.
Since that trip in June went so well, Bill decided he wanted to go somewhere else in July. He tasked me with finding somewhere not too far away, even though unlike most Americans, we are now permitted to travel to other countries again. Because we can prove that we live in the European Union, we are allowed to be in Europe and, for the most part, travel as if we were E.U. citizens. Unlike the United States, Europe seems to take a somewhat sensible approach toward foreigners. Seems kind of ironic to me, given that the United States was always called a “melting pot” when I was growing up, watching Schoolhouse Rock during Saturday morning cartoons.
I remembered our very first “military hop”, which we took in May of 2012. At the time, we were living in Sanford, North Carolina. Bill was still in the Army, and we had about eight days to mess around in Germany. We ended up flying to Ramstein and planning a trip completely on the fly. I remember taking a train to Cologne, spending a night at the Ibis at the train station, and then getting a blind booking through the former Germanwings (now Eurowings). We ended up getting a cheap flight to Munich, where we spent three nights and visited Salzburg by train on a day trip.
Then we flew back to Cologne and took another train to Trier, which allowed us to visit Luxembourg. On the way to Trier, we stopped at Gerolstein, a city well-known for its bubbly mineral water. Indeed, I had even been buying Gerolstein water at our favorite local grocery store in North Carolina. I looked out the window at Gerolstein and thought it looked like a nice place to visit, not knowing then that we would be moving back to Germany just two years later and I would eventually get the chance to see the town.
When we lived in Stuttgart, I remember trying to come up with a trip to the Gerolstein area, but I never could find the right combination of dog friendly lodging and justification for driving so far to stay in Germany. In Stuttgart, it was more difficult to arrange for local dog sitting, so our dogs had to come with us on some of our trips. Now that we’re in Wiesbaden, it’s easy to book Arran (since we no longer have Zane) at the dog pension. Gerolstein is now just a couple of hours away, rather than several hours.
As I researched the area, known as the Eifel, I found a lot of things I knew would hold our interest. However, we opted not to stay in Gerolstein. Instead, I found us a lovely, old fashioned spa hotel in the tiny hamlet of Meerfeld, named after the Meerfelder Maar– a lake formed 30,000 to 40,000 years ago from an explosion in what was once a volcanic crater. There are several water filled “maars” in the Eifel, although there are dozens more dry ones scattered throughout the area. The Meerfelder Maar is one of the oldest of the maars in the Eifel region. Swimming and water sports are allowed there, and it’s also a nature preserve. If you have a car and a willingness to drive a bit, you can slip in a visit to Belgium or Luxembourg, or maybe a visit to Cochem or Trier, both of which are close by, or any of the other charming little towns where there are old castles, canopied hiking trails, and lakes made by volcanic eruptions.
The Meerfelder Maar wasn’t necessarily what drew me to Meerfeld. I was mostly looking for a nice hotel with a good restaurant or, barring that, a really well-appointed apartment or vacation house. There are plenty of inviting places to stay in the Eifel region, with something to suit almost any taste. I had a tough time deciding. I finally chose the family owned Hotel Zur Post in Meerfeld because of its consistently excellent reviews, particularly of the hotel restaurant; the fact that it’s close to an unusual geological attraction was an added positive. The area is also popular with hikers and bikers, as there are many trails near the hotel and the surrounding hamlets.
We really had a good time on our trip, which probably would not have happened if not for COVID-19, as I would have chosen to visit a place further afield, probably in an adjoining country or even further away than that. This trip was a good reminder that you don’t always have to go far to see something interesting. Now, on with my latest trip report series!