Destination: Zell

Distance:  26 Miles


Today was supposed to be 26 miles.  Being the over-achievers we are, the GPS says we went 27.

I woke up in the morning with a very scratchy throat.  Fortunately, Mike had some cold medicine he could spare.  I so rarely get sick that I have stopped carrying things like that with me when I travel.  I was totally feeling sorry for myself!

The route was pretty straight-forward. Just stay on the same side of the river all day.  After the briefing, we hopped  onto our bikes and were off.  Although the forecast sounded like it was going to be the best day of the entire week, it was still a very chilly start.  There was a mist over the river valley.

One of the first things we saw along the Radweg was Wehlener Sonnehuhr, which translates to Wehlener (the town across the river) Sundial.  The sundial was erected in the late 1800s.




The vineyard was named after the sundial.



This little chapel was beside the road below the vineyard


A sign along the way


Mike patiently waiting for me to get a few photos

Not too far down the Radweg, we saw this ruin.


DSCN4664As near as I can translate (with the help of Google Translate, which only goes so far) it was the only hillside castle on the Moselle River.  It appears it was originally built starting in 1182 and, as the sign indicates, there is a long history that seems to end in the 1800’s.

It seems like today we were never very far from the next small town down the Radweg.  Not all of them made me want to get the camera out.

We passed beneath a fairly new bridge that was built across the entire river valley that seemed impossibly high.   At its highest point (over middle of the river, I presume) it is 518 feet.

DSCN4673 The village in its long shadow had a line of tidy little houses along the river with some cute garden statuary.






I saw several others, but getting a picture of them would have involved trespassing.

I think we need to follow the sign to the right?



As we were riding along, we noticed that almost nothing was open in the towns we were passing through.  Then we realized it was May 1 – May Day and a holiday.   Officially, the holiday is Germany’s Labor Day.  However, the old May Day traditions are still alive in Germany.   Historically, May Day was a day to welcome Spring and chase away evil spirits.  Different regions have different traditions associated with May Day.  One thing that most locations have in common is the May pole.


A tall tree is found and trimmed of branches except at the very top.  There is usually a dance around the May pole involving the dancers starting a good distance away from the pole and holding long ribbons attached to it.  A weaving sort of dance is performed and the ribbons get shorter and shorter as the dancers circle the pole and braid the ribbons tightly to it.  Some traditions have a young man placing a bouquet of flowers in the yard of a young lady he is interested in.  Other traditions include various types of innocent pranks such as moving a neighbor’s garden statuary.  In some areas the ante is upped as the men of neighboring towns conspire to steal the other town’s May Pole AND at the same time mount a spirited overnight defense of their own.

If you are interested to know more, this website has some interesting information.


Time for a break


I could see signs of a bigger town up ahead as we pedaled along.  It was Traben-Trarbach.



Looking at Traben across the river


I perked up a bit when I saw a very ornate building at the Trarbach end of the river over the bridge -the side we were riding on.

DSCN4688 It is called (in English) the Bridge Gate. The gate was built in 1899 (along with the original bridge, which was destroyed in WWII).

Traben and Trarbach are two towns situated across the river from each other.  In earlier times, the two cities were often controlled by opposing forces or countries so the Moselle, at times, created an international border of sorts keeping them separated. Traben and Trarbach combined forces in 1904 and are now known by their hyphenated name.

I asked Mike to stop so that I could climb up to the bridge.  There was a park along the riverfront (as well as our bike trail) and they had pedestrian stairs to climb up from there.


city gate 1

Looking through the bridge gate across the river


We just came from that direction.


We’re going that-a-way next.


Mike waiting patiently below while I explored.

Our next stop was at the village of Wolf where we stopped for a break and I ate ½ of my lunch.  There wasn’t much there, but I did take a picture of this house.


The style of construction is called “half-timbered”

We kept pushing on, mostly right along the river, while still looking for a café or store that was open.  We were desperately wanting to stop somewhere for a cold beverage and a snack that didn’t come out of the panniers.  Sometimes when the Radweg was skirting the edges of a town instead of passing through, we took a detour into the town hoping to find something.  All we found were ghost towns due to the holiday.

After passing through the desert of May Day towns…when there were only  a few miles left to go…we finally found a café that was open.  We happily stopped for a break and a snack.


Our spirits were lifted when we came around a bend and saw that we were finally arriving at Zell. Even though 26 miles would normally be very easy for us on our own bikes, the boat bikes made it feel like 50 so we were ready to be done riding.

Zell’s claim to fame is the Zeller Schwarze Katz – the Black Cat of Zell.   The cat is a very famous symbol of Zell and wines from Zell.

The first thing to greet us as we rolled into town was a statue of the Black Cat herself.

black cat 1Zell, like so many other locations along the Moselle, was founded by the Romans around 70 (A.D.)  One of the next moments of interest in its history is that the town was granted “town rights” in 1222.  (It is not clear who was in charge of granting those rights).   In 1794, the area of Germany that included Zell was conquered by the French Revolutionary Army, so they were all French for the next 20 years or so.  Then in 1814, Prussia was given control over Zell during the Congress of Vienna.  In 1946, Zell became part of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate, which was subsequently joined with the Republic of Germany in 1949.

I was surprised to learn how much upheaval there has been for this area of Germany historically.  I thought that Germany’s borders of today were more or less the same ones in existence hundreds of years ago, rather than being dramatically changed and shaped  by the vagaries of time and war.


An interesting house (?) near the the spot where the Patria was due to tie up.

We arrived before the Patria.  Zell has a nice river front.


There is a pedestrian bridge over the river to connect the people on both sides and since we were early, I walked up there for some pictures.



Church of St. Peter built in the late 1700’s



While I was up there, I saw the Patria motoring down the river.


Up in the vineyard, high above the church, is the Black Cat sign.


The legend is that in 1863 some wine merchants came to town to buy a cartload of wine.  They visited the different wineries and did their wine tasting.  They were getting tipsy and still couldn’t decide which barrels of wine to buy and take back with them.  As the story goes, at one place they were negotiating intensely with a winery owner when a black cat jumped up on one of the barrels and began hissing at anyone who came close to it.  The merchants decided this was a sign and bought several barrels of that wine.  It was so good that they returned to Zell and bought the rest of it.  The merchants bottled it with labels depicting the black cat.  As the black cat became popular, the wineries in Zell capitalized on it and began using the black cat label for their wines too.  Now the town owns the logo/copyright and only wines from the Zell area can be labeled “black cat”.  There is an annual festival in June for the black cat.  The wine queen’s tiara even has the image of the hissing black cat on it.

We sat and watched while the Patria got moored.  It took about 15 minutes before they’d let us board.


Our captain.

We got fancy folded towels today on our bunks.


We jumped in the shower and then took a walk to see if we could find a grocery store and a pharmacy.  We struck out on both.  My kingdom for a box of Kleenex!  It is never fun to be sick while on a trip like this.  I did find a place with cold diet coke  –so I bought a 1-liter bottle of it and told Mike I’d be drinking all of it immediately.  It helped with the sore throat a bit.

Some pictures from around town:




This is referred to as a castle, (now a hotel) but was originally built around 1250 as a residence for the archbishops of Trier.



Tower of a protestant church from the late 1800’s


It is hard to see in the photo, but the stairs in the background look like a shortcut to the next street up the hill.


Another interesting door. Love the beehives.


This is the Black Cat fountain in town.



A better shot of the hissing cat.

It doesn’t always have the greenery/decorations, so think it was specially decorated for either Easter or May Day.  The fountain was built in 1836.  There is an inscription commemorating the townspeople who helped to defend Trier from an attack in 1532.

That night at dinner, the crew staged a mutiny, turned themselves into pirates and captured the Captain.  They threatened to throw him overboard if he didn’t meet their demands.

DSCN4731I think about half the guests wanted to see that happen (solely for the entertainment value) so not everyone was completely playing along by pretending to be horrified at the idea.

The mutineers took the captain away and we breathlessly awaited our dinner… er… to find out his fate, I mean…

In an unanticipated turn of events, the captain ended up joining the pirates and returned to the dining room a changed man….literally… he changed his outfit.

pirate party 1

Our alert table-mate took this one.


More pirates:pirate party 2


All’s well that ends well.  Eventually the crew…er…dread pirates, I mean, brought out our dinner and served us all a glass of local wine compliments of the captain.

After dinner we went in search of the Black Cat fountain to take a few pictures (shown above).  We decided to not paint the town red.  Instead we went back to the Patria, ready to have some quiet time to ourselves.

As Scarlett O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day.”



Categories: Destination: Zell, Germany

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