Trier a love story: come on a walk with me

April 24, 2011

Let me take you on a walk through my home-town Trier today.

I am sure that if you follow this route on Easter Sunday or Monday it will be even lovelier since nature will be greener and the sun will shine on you.

Let us start with what I call the “public” city.

The public city

The “Porta Nigra”, English the Black Gate, is the landmark of Trier.

“Dreikoenigshaus”, please notice the door on the first floor

The “Steipe” and the red House, where the guilds used to congregate

The fountain of St Peter, the city patron

The market cross

The main market square

The cathedral or “Dom”

The “Domstein”, a column with a folk story attached to it

The Roman basilica of Emperor Constantine

Here I will end the public walk through the city and take you to some more “private” places, places I am attached to.

My private Trier

The “Maerklin-shop-Theisen” in Metzelstrasse, where we spent zillions of hours looking at the various miniature toys

Chinese restaurant, one of many catering to the needs of the more than 30,000 tourists from China visiting the birthplace of Karl Marx

Renovated patrician house in Nagelstrasse, formerly owned by friends of ours, the Fey family, where we spent many hours as little kids

My old watering whole: “Die Glocke”, a rather traditional tavern which attracted the young when I was young

Of course there is much more to see than that above. I could have uploaded many more pictures of my beautiful home town. Why don’t you come and visit?

This is actually a must-do for any Riesling lover. There are so many wine bars, and cellar doors to explore in Trier that you might need some time.

In the meantime please explore the virtual map which I like quite a bit.


The Old Man with the Beard

February 9, 2010

Famous last words

As a native of Trier, I treasure the most famous son of our city, Karl Marx, though he left rather early and spent most of his time in exile in London. He used to love wine, especially Riesling from the Ruwer where the Marx family used to own a vineyard and of course my beloved Mosel.

I like the poster above (this is why I took a shot through the window to get a glimpse of it), but unfortunately these were not his last words. he did not say: “Sorry folks, it was just an idea.” Only later generations could come to that conclusion. As family gathered around the dying Marx awaiting his final utterance. It is reported that he barked at them and said: “Go on, get out! Last words are for fools.”


Karl Marx and Chinese Grape Wine

November 28, 2008

To state it from the outset, Karl Marx never ever tasted Chinese grape wine in his lifetime. However, Karl Marx, the most famous son of my home town Trier, used to own for some time some of the better vineyards properties along the Ruwer river, a tributary of my beloved Mosel river.

The Marx family vineyard was found in the location “Viertelsberg” a medium quality terroir near the castle ‘Gruenhaus’. In 1857 the family sold its vineyards in Mertesdorf. Karl not only invested in vineyards and the wine industry but he also loved to drink Mosel wine. I frankly do not understand how Marx could survive those many years in London where good Mosel wines were certainly hard to come by in the latter half of the 19th century.

Marx would have enjoyed the samples of “College Wine” produced by the Chinese Agricultural University (CAU) oenology department. The wine is produced for purely non-commercial reasons. The bottles were presented to me by an old friend. We enjoyed it over a meal which marked our reunion. The wine went very well with the Chinese food on offer. Later at home in Bangkok we would have it with an Italian pasta. But in this case I felt that some depth and ‘strength’ was lacking.

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The grapes for this wine come from Changli in Hebei province and were supplied to the oenology department by the well known Huaxia Winery. When I lived in Beijing in the early 1990s, it was marketed as Great Wall wine.

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Swirling in the glass – what a beautiful ruby-red colour

The wine displays the typical varietal character of a Cabernet Sauvignon but is medium to lights bodied. At 12% alcohol it’s a bit “thin”/”light” for my taste. In comparison, it went well with Chinese but not Italian food.

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A somehow classic design

Afterthought
PS: Despite the fact that the CAU is a modern university, at the entrance to its eastern campus, one of the few statues of Mao Zedong graces the gate. When I lived in Beijing in the early 1990s, my friend David McGrath (al marhum), chased the remaining Mao statues still standing in the capital city. He took photos of all of them. If I remember correctly David identified 8 statues. Around ‘Xue Yuan’ road where I stayed, I found 4 of these 8 in no time. All were to be found at the entrances of universities or other academic institutions.

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The four Mao statues

F.l.t.r. and up to down: Research Institute of Petroleum Exploration and Development, China University of Geosciences, University of Science and technology, China Agricultural University.


Karl Marx and Mosel wine

September 26, 2007

When I visited my hometown Trier recently, I also went to the place where Karl Marx, the most famous of our citizens, was born in 1818 (the Karl Marx Haus). What I did not know about him was his relationship to wine and the Mosel wine industry. From a leaflet collected at the tourist paraphernalia shop I learned that the parents of Karl Marx were vineyard owners along the Ruwer in Mertesdorf where they owned several parcels. It was quite common for bourgeois families of the times to acquire vineyards either for their own wine consumption and/or for investment and old age security reasons. The Marx family vineyard was found in the location “Viertelsberg” a medium quality terroir near the castle ‘Gruenhaus’. Today, the ‘Weingut Erben von Beulwitz’ produces a 2002 Spaetburgunder (Pinot Noir) wine with a Karl Marx label to commemorate this famous “son” of Trier. The wine is not exactly from the old Marx family vineyard but derived from vineyards nearby. Some time ago I had tasted this wine with some delicious venison (big horn sheep) which my mother had prepared for me.

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The label with Karl Marx

Marx himself was fond of drinking wine and appreciated the value of it. More interesting is the fact that among others the misery of the Mosel wine producers inspired Marx to study and research economic issues in general. In various newspapers Marx reported about the problems of the Mosel vintners. He criticized the Prussian government for its lack of support which in the end brought him into conflict with the authorities in the 1840ies which in the end led to his exile first in Paris, later in Brussels and finally in London.

After Napoleon lost the war and with it the once occupied lands west of the Rhine river, these territories were given to the Kingdom of Prussia after the peace congress of Vienna in 1815 and administered as the Prussian Province of the Lower Rhine. This marked the beginning of a golden age for Mosel wine producers since they benefited from tax-free export of their wines to Prussia. Unfortunately, the phenomenon was short lived when, with the introduction of the German Customs Union (Zollverein) in 1834, vintners from the southern German states were in the position to successfully displace their competitors from the Mosel. This in turn brought wine prices down. An unfavourable Prussian tax policy coupled with bad harvests led to the pauperization of many vintners at the Mosel. Marx was appalled by their suffering, criticized the government, violated press censorship requirement and in the end had to leave into exile.

In 1857 the Marx family sold its vineyards in Mertesdorf. But due to the efforts of the Weiss family (the owners of the Weingut Erben von Beulwitz, www.hotel-weiss.de), we can enjoy today a Pinot Noir depicting the face of Karl Marx on the label. These bottles can also be bought at the aforementioned shop (7.5 €/0.75 l bottle).

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Ruwer vineyards near Mertesdorf in spring

PS: I personally think that it is a pity that the wide adoption of his ideas in Eastern Europe, Vietnam and China for instance brought so much misery to mankind. Less emphasis on the collective and more on individual freedom would have gone a fair bit. Marx should have stayed with drinking and enjoying wine and give up writing in the first place, one is tempted to argue.

In a letter to the father-in-law of his daughter he mentioned that “a man who does not love wine will never achieve anything good for mankind”. Unfortunately, wine drinking is not a guaranty for such deeds as his own life showed.