While we enjoyed the city of Cologne, some of the best moments of our trip happened just beyond it. Friday morning we rented a car and drove to the Ahr, a wine region built into the mountainsides whose winding roads and sweeping views blew us all away.
We first stopped at Jean Stodden to try their wines, and while everything was incredibly well-crafted, they’re known for their reds and it’s clear why. Not only were the wines great, but seeing the three boys taste and learn about what I’ve been tackling for the past year was beyond entertaining.
After grabbing lunch across the street we drove to Burg Eltz, a fairytale-like castle hidden among mountains and forest. And though we didn’t want to pay to go inside, the short hike there and views outside made it worth it.
For our last stop of the day we went to Cochem, a traditional German town right on the Mosel river. With tiny winding streets, captivating architecture and lots of little shops and restaurants, it was the perfect way to round out our day. Since we had to get the rental car back we only spent a few hours there but I’d love to see more someday.
Saturday we headed out to Hennef to where Gerrit’s parents live. Only 20 minutes from Cologne, it truly felt like another world. Quaint but still very much suburban, it was fascinating to see how people there actually live: in charming, reasonably sized houses where having home-cooked dinners are still the norm and afternoon/evening beverages implicit.
His father drove us to a few nearby sights including their boathouse for rowing, old castle ruins and a three-day long outdoor party Gerrit’s brother was at. Florian and his friends had filled an empty field with a bonfire surrounded by couches, hot tub, dance floor and bar to celebrate an annual religious festival. And playing swing beer there with the locals was everything.
After the most delicious dinner made by his mom, we sat around and watched the final soccer game of some league I will forever forget the name of. And the incredible thing was that although we barely spoke the same language, we were enthralled in it together.