Winter Fare in Germany

Gingerbread and glühwein, imperial treasures, ruined castles and Christmas markets- a winter weekend in Germany’s hidden gourmet heart.

  • DRINK Glühwien in a ruined castle and Pinor Noir straight from the barrel in a vaulted vineyard cellar.
  • DINE in cosy inns and at tiny market stalls.
  • FEAST on Aachen’s speciality gingerbread, local venison, and freshwater fish.
  • WANDER the cobbled streets of the traditional Christmas markets, selecting unusual gifts and tasting local delicacies as you go.
  • MEET fourth and fifth generation gingerbread makers, coffee roasters, fish smokers, distillers, and Anne, your hostess and German wine expert.

Day 1

Ahr Valley in the WinterWe’ll look after you from the moment you land in Cologne, taking you up into the Ahr Valley, one of Germany’s smallest wine regions, internationally known for its Pinot Noir.  We’ll visit a 12th Century abbey for a lunch of flammkuchen (tarte flambée) then head into the vaulted stone cellars to taste the local wines. Afterwards we’ll drive to Germany’s oldest co-op and wrap up warm for a short walk through the vineyards to the ruins of an 11th century castle, where a steaming cup of glühwein will be waiting. After our tasting- if you’re in need of a pick-up- Anne will do her best to tempt you with a stop at the konditorei for the German ritual of kaffee and kuchen (coffee and cake). Following a well-earned snooze, dinner is a meal of seasonal delicacies: traditional smoked hams, a haunch of venison, and spiced desserts- and perhaps a little more of the local Pinot Noir.

Day 2:

Gourmet tour in the Ahr ValleyThis morning we’ll head to the shores of a volcanic lake, fished for centuries by Benedictine monks in a method that remains virtually unchanged today. Here we’ll meet Ansgar, a fish breeder and smoker, who talk to us about his craft, and feed us fresh fish, smoked fish- even caviar if our timing’s right. Later we’ll head to the historic walled town of Ahrweiler, and wander amongst the stalls of the Christmas market, stopping to nibble on tasty morsels along the way.  After all of this time outdoors, we’ll need warming up (especially if there’s snow on the ground), and there’s no better way to warm our cockles than with a visit to the Kiessling family distillery, known for its delicious fruit spirits and liquers. Tonight, dinner’s just a short stroll from our hotel, in a nearby 13th Century Inn owned by a local winemaking family.

Day 3:

Aachen Gingerbread (printen)After breakfast today we’ll head for Aachen, a UNESCO World Heritage site, home to Charlemagne’s treasury and printen– some of the finest gingerbread in Germany. We’ll head to the heart of the old town for a talk (and a tasting, naturally) of printen at Konditorei  Drouven – run by the same family since 1896. Later, Anne will guide us around the heart of the ancient town, including Charlemagne’s cathedral. Afterwards the stalls of Christmas market and Aachen’s boutiques await- time to stock up on some unusual Christmas presents perhaps? This evening, we head to old town hall’s cosy dining room for a typical Aachen-style dinner.

Day 4:

Christmas Market in the Ahr ValleyOn our final day we’ll head to the clothmaking town of Monschau- the half-timbered houses sit so closely to the cobbled streets that we’ll need to meet our guide on the edge of the old town. We’ll visit the coffee roaster, founded by the current owner’s great-great-grandfather, for coffee and chocolate. Then, there’s a last opportunity to explore the market- one of western Germany’s prettiest Christmas markets, and that’s saying something! Look for bratwurst, mulled wine, Christmas decorations and pretty gifts. Afterwards, laden with our treasures, we’ll head back to Cologne for our return flight.

** Please note- we’ve based our plans on normal travelling times for November, but in the event of heavy snowfall we may need to adjust our plans slightly!

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