Monday, October 8, 2012

The Germany of My Dreams: Monschau

When I first found out we were moving to Germany, I pictured storybook villages surrounded by mountains and meandering creeks. The area we live in is certainly beautiful, but not in the Hansel-and-Gretel way. Luckily Monschau is less than two hours away and it's the village of my imagination!

The weather has become cold and dreary here again but a few raindrops can't spoil the splendor of Monschau. Original half-timbered houses dot the winding, cobblestone streets. We visited on Germany's Unification Day (marking the reunification of East and West Germany) so some of the attractions were closed.

The rote haus (red house) was built in 1752 by a wealthy cloth merchant. Inside is a self-supporting oak wood staircase that spans three floors. Due to the holiday we were unable to take the tour but it's on the list of things to do when we return in December for the Christmas market!

Rote Haus
Speaking of Christmas, we strolled through a shop entirely devoted to nutcrackers, smokers, and the most beautiful tree ornaments I've ever seen in one place. Commerce is definitely catered for the tourists. Postcard stands and shelves filled with beer steins are commonplace. One Monschau product that lives up to the hype is mustard. It's made between old millstones using traditional craft methods. No preservatives are added (no worries-- it will be eaten long before the year expiration) and it's packaged in authentic clay pots. After taste-testing several varieties, we settled on Original and Honey Mustard.

We grabbed a quick bite for lunch and decided to trek up to the top of the hills to see some ruins from the castle. Unfortunately we didn't make it all the way to Monschau Castle during this visit but the outpost ruins were interesting and hiking to the top rewarded us with magnificent views of the mountains, the River Rur, and the entire village.

We stopped at the Felsenkeller Brewery on the way out of Monschau. Guided tours can be pre-arranged but we just paid the admission (4 Euros each) and walked ourselves through the brewery with an English guidebook. One of the most interesting rooms is devoted to beer bottles from around the world. We were also able to go into the Felsenkeller (rock cellar). It was created in 1830 by a blast into the slate mountain. The brewery operated for over a hundred years before shutting down in 1994.

Monschau was beautiful! The dismal weather couldn't dampen our spirits as we walked back in time through the village. The air smelled of firewood and cozy lights from timber house windows illuminated the narrow streets. I can imagine what it will look like with snow covering the roofs and the lights and sounds from the Christmas market enveloping us as we sip gluhwein.

Next up: Bruges!


  1. You know, I do miss a like button at the bottom of your entries. Always when I read a blog entry I want to like it.
    Glad that you liked Monschau!

    1. I wish there was a like button so I could like your comment! Thank you! Monschau might be my favorite German town so far...