The Mosel-Wein-Nachts-Markt – Wine, Culture and Christmas Shopping on the Mosel
If you have ever been to Germany in December, you most certainly will have visited a Christmas Market. But have you even been to the very special Mosel-Wein-Nachts-Markt? This Weihnachtsmarkt is organized in the so-called ‘Unterwelt’ or Underworld of Traben-Trarbach, a town halfway up to Mosel between Trier and Koblenz. The theme of this market is wine, enjoyment and culture.
Since the 16th century the twin communities of Traben and Trarbach, positioned on opposite banks of the river Mosel, have played a very important role as centres for wine trade. Trade peaked around 1900, when merchants went round the countryside to select and buy the best wines, produced at the nearby steep vineyard slopes. The barrels were marked and sealed, and afterwards brought to Traben or Trarbach. From there, the famous Mosel wines found their way into the world. At that time, Traben-Trarbach claimed to be the biggest transit point for wine in the world, right after Bordeaux!
All those vats were stored in large underground cellars. Above ground, over the cellars, big mansions for the ever-richer merchants arose. Around 1900, Jugendstil was in vogue, and present day Traben-Trarbach shows an impressive collection of magnificently restored Jugendstil buildings. From the famous Hotel Bellevue, with its Sekt-bottle shaped turret, to the former Weinkellerei Julius Kayser, now a museum with possibly the world’s largest collection of Buddha-statues. Or the Moselschlösschen, now an hotel, then, at the start of the 20th century, the headquarters of the wine firm of Rumpel & Cie.
The heyday of Traben-Trarbach wine trade in barrels was over in the 1970s, due to several reasons. The loss of sons and staff after World War II was one of the primary reasons and the sale of wine in bottles was another. The cellars underneath the old trading houses went into disuse, were neglected, and almost forgotten. Until the 21st century. Several of those cellars are recently restored, tours are organised and five years ago another initiative was launched: a Christmas Market IN the underground cellars, in the Traben-Trarbacher Unterwelt.
At this Christmas Market, held from the last weekend of November till the first weekend of January, wine plays a special role. First of all, the market takes place in the former wine cellars. Barrels are still in place in several of them. At the cellar under Galerie Bogner, the cables and tools to lift a large, 1000 litre wooden fuder out of the cellar are still in place.
Some of the cellars are still in use by modern wine producers. At the cellar of Weingut Emil Franz, for example, the presses have temporarily made way for a buffet and cosy seating area. At Weingut Axel Emert, storage cellars have been converted into floor space for stalls. At both these places, the wines of the property can be enjoyed with a delicious Flammkuche or a hearty Winzersuppe.
The stalls for the actual Wein-Nachts-Market are located in four large historic cellars. All the stalls sell products of high quality, from local wines and food to handicrafts and clothing; and from Christmas decorations, jewellery and art to kitchen equipment. The four cellars are in walking distance of each other; going from one to the other gives the opportunity to see something of the charming town or walk along the river.
The Market is accompanied by an extensive events program. A skating ring is located next to the beautiful Alte Bahnhof, a medieval salt repository is transformed into a theatre with old films from Traben-Trarbach and a model train exhibition attracts children and grown-ups.
At the Wein-Nachts-Markt, tasting a glass of local Riesling is of course a must. Several wineries from Traben-Trarbach itself are present, with good quality wines ranging from dry to (semi-)sweet. But if you have more time, don’t hesitate to explore other wineries in the area. In Traben-Trarbach itself, good producers to look out for are Weingut Martin Müllen, Weingut Vollenweider or Dr. Melsheimer (wines of the last are mostly available at their excellent restaurant Die Graifen in Trarbach). Or take a short drive to nearby Kröv and call in at Staffelter Hof, for delicious organic wines in several price ranges. My favourite? The Staffelter Hof Magnus Riesling Trocken, a light, juicy, joyful every day Riesling with a charming wolf on the label.
Six other things to do while visiting Traben-Trarbach for the Mosel-Wein-Nachts-Markt
- Visit Heid Bogner’s Gallery and look for her colourful decorated staves from old wine barrels.
- Walk around town and spot the Jugendstil houses and buildings.
- Take a guided tour around the old wine cellars and listen to the stories of a long time ago.
- Cross the bridge from Traben to Trarbach and enjoy the views and the Jugendstil gate house on the Trarbach side.
- Have lunch or dinner at the Alte Zunfscheune, and enjoy a typical German meal.
- Visit the Buddha Museum in Trarbach, located at the old Weinkellerei Julius Kayser. Look for the concrete wine tanks in the basement.
Mosel-Wein-Nachts-Markt, Traben Trarbach, Mosel, Germany, till January 8, 2016.
27 November till 20 December: Friday to Sunday 11am – 9pm
21 December till 3 January: Daily 11am – 9pm
Closed on 24, 25 and 31 December.