Saarburg (Rhine Pfalz), Germany September 2023 (Tour 8)

This was a return to the Rheinland Palatinate but our first time in the popular tourist town of Saarburg. We expected Saarburg to be busy but were unaware the town holds it’s annual “Saarweinfest” during the first complete week of September and we arrived on Tuesday 5 September to find the place absolutely teeming. Ordinarily a wine festival is reason to celebrate but there will be wine festivals throughout all of Germany’s wine producing areas during the month of September and this will make it very difficult for us to find suitable camp sites along our intended route. And so to Plan B. We had secured the last available space in the Leukbachtal Campsite but were allowed to stay on beyond our planned one night (possession is everything in camp sites across Europe). We decided to stay on and use the place as a base from which to make day trips until such time as something resembling normality returned. Plan B worked. Over the next three days we saw all we needed to see of Saarburg, took a boat trip up and down the River Saar and visited both Traban-Trabarch and the little village of Wolf in the Van.

Saarburg old town isn’t that big but it is very picturesque. It’s most interesting features appear to be, in no particular order, the 10th century castle ruins (Burg Saarburg), it’s two primary churches (Saint Laurentinus and the Evangelical Church) and it’s very scenic centre (the cafe area) bordering the tiny River Leuk. The centre is referred to in certain blogs as Little Venice because of the number of footbridges crossing the River Leuk but, I suspect, it will have been named by people who have never been to Venice. No matter, it is still very much worth seeing.

My first exploration of the town took me from the Leukbachtel, past the Parish Church of Saint Laurentinus (I wasn’t particularly impressed with this church – contrary to what I’d read, it is very plain inside and the stain glass windows are not at all grand) and then on up to the highpoint of the town, Burg Saarburg. There is little left of the original castle, other than it’s keep. The castle was dynamited by a French army in 1709 and was left an almost total ruin. The focus of all the recent restoration work appears to have been towards creating a restaurant, viewing points over the town and a series of lifts and ramps for the disabled but the views are impressive and the short walking route up to the castle takes you by the pretty sandstone Evangelical Church.

I didn’t stay long in the castle because one of my primary objectives during this first walk around Saarburg was to find a decent restaurant and book a table for the evening. This search took me on to the scenic cafe area and waterfall… and I was fortunate enough to secure a table in a pleasant spot by the river for dinner.

I’ll let the photos of the River Leuk do the talking…

Dinner that first night in Saarburg was pleasant enough, with Vanya’s dessert very much looking as if it were the main event but my apfelstrudel wasn’t bad and the local Riesling wine was fine.

Over the next couple of days we made frequent returns to the old town and were invariably there for dinner. Vanya has always liked ice cream and now she has discovered ‘spaghettieis’, a dessert created by Dario Fontanella in Germany during the 1960’s. Vanilla ice cream is extruded through a potato ricer, giving it the appearance of spaghetti. It is then placed over whipped cream and topped with strawberry sauce (to simulate tomato sauce) and grated almonds to represent the parmesan cheese. It is very popular across Germany and with Vanya.

No visit to Saarburg would be complete without a walk down to the Saar River where it is possible to cross the town bridge to the Saarburg suburb of Beurig and/or take short boat trips along the Saar.

We did both, starting with the short (1.5 hour) boat trip up and down the river. I wouldn’t particularly recommend this trip (there was little to see) but the weather was ideal for a short cruise; we could take the dogs with us on the boat at no extra charge and; the bar stocked bottles of the locally produced sparkling wine which we enjoyed in the company of a couple of two friendly Dutch ladies. Well, Vanya enjoyed it. I succeeded in spilling two glasses of wine and shattering one champagne flute which almost took the edge off our little cruise.

Saarburg is a lovely little town. We were perhaps unlucky arriving during a local holiday while the place was so busy but, in response to that, I recall our arriving in Colmar in France during the Covid Pandemic two or three years ago and our finding the streets, even the town centre, totally deserted. That was most disconcerting and, when all is said and done, much about these places has been created for people to enjoy.

One final bitter sweet observation about Saarburg: There are numerous stolpersteine (stumbling stones) dotted all around the town. Outside one house in the suburb of Beurig, I stumbled on ‘stones’ recognising a family of ten. These small brass blocks or ‘stones’ stand outside the homes or workplaces of people who were persecuted by the Nazis during and in the lead up to World War 2. The 10 stones in the photo below are outside what was the home of a Jewish family on Kloster Strasse in Beurig. There is a stone for each family member and the stone identifies their name and birthdate and what happened to them; being the year they were arrested and/or deported, where they were taken to and what ultimately happened to the person (where and when).

In many cases, stolpersteine serve as the only memorial to so many ordinary people whose lives were devastated by the Nazis and the initiator of the scheme (Gunther Demnig and his team) and the towns and villages which support his initiative (Saarburg included) are to be applauded.

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