Cochem and Rittersdorf castles: dinners range from primitive fun to delightfully posh

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Cheryl L. Toner
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Forget White Castle and Burger King when you're in Europe - here you can eat in a real castle and dine with the "king." Whether your taste runs toward getting down-and-dirty for a finger-licking medieval dinner or perhaps a more refined meal where the glint of the candlelight reflects off your dainty wine glass, both Cochem and Rittersdorf castles offer unique options in the Eifel region.

Cochem Castle

If eating with dinner without utensils, while getting a little bit of history appeals to you, you may want to check out one of the Cochem Castle medieval dinners. Both the local ITT and the Kaiserslautern community RTT offer regular trips.

The Cochem trip begins with an hour-or-so bus ride, followed by a breathtaking - figuratively and literally - walk up the hill to the castle.

Cochem Castle, originally built around 1000, was almost destroyed in the 1700s. From that time, it went through many stages and today it has seven rooms that are reconstructed.

The castle has many features very similar to the original, according to the tour guide. One feature that would be almost as convenient as a remote control is key holes with guides. Raised metal on both sides of the key hole guides the key into the hole, pending darkness, drunkenness, or a combination of both. Apparently, this feature was very useful back then as gentlemen were allowed five liters of wine a day and ladies had three - and that was just to stay warm.

Another dandy feature no castle should be without is a winding staircase. The purpose, according to the tour guide, was defense. Men defending the castle would make sure their assailants were on the steps below them. They always fought with their right hands and anyone fighting while going up or down the stairs, while lower than their assailant, would leave one side unprotected. The steps to the castle were also constructed with this in mind.

An additional item for the warriors was a chair with three legs and one armrest. This chair was reserved for knights in armor. They would sit, straddling the armrest, and when they left they would lean forward on the armrest to get up without any assistance. According to our tour guide, each suit of armor weighed about 100 pounds.

After the tour, dinner was served; however, not before a knight, baroness and noble man were chosen and dressed.

On my first trip to the castle, I went with a coworker. On the bus ride there, the tour guide asked if anyone was celebrating a birthday, anniversary, etc. Well, knowing that my coworker loved to be the center of attention, I volunteered her up, adamant that it was her birthday. Thankfully, the tour guide didn't look at her ID card.

So, when dinner came around, my friend started by dressing with other "members of the court" for the feast. She then dined at the head table with the "king." Hindsight being 20/20, next time, I may just have to say it's my birthday.

Dinner was a mini-theater as the host and "servants" entertained us as the courses were brought out ... minus a knife, fork and spoon. Wine, bread, soup, a large turkey leg and grapes were the fare. The turkey leg looked like it was once attached to a bird on steroids. Between the messier courses, "wenches" came by with two buckets of water suspended from a pole behind their necks, allowing us to wash, rinse and dry our hands. After all, after this excellent meal, anything else would have been uncivilized.

Rittersdorf Castle

Speaking of civilized, there is a chance for fine dining in our own backyard. I've been to this castle twice - same as Cochem - and both dining experiences were vastly different. Back in the early 90s, Christmas decorations were hung as our office had a holiday party in the Rittersdorf Castle, mere minutes from Bitburg. That meal was similar to the Cochem experience; however, I don't recall any wenches.

At any rate, if you're looking for a meal for a special occasion, or you just want to treat yourself, the "chef's menu" at the Rittersdorf Castle is to die for. On my most recent visit, a friend and I went there on a whim. Just over the moat and outside the main entrance, the menu of the day is listed.

The day of our visit, there were four or five courses (apparently, the wine was good too), with the first being a surprise. Diners could take the chef's menu with or without accompanying liquors, for 50 euros or 100 euros respectively. We chose the menu without liquor; however, when I go back - and I definitely will - I'm springing for the 100-euro meal.

While the price may seem steep, I am positive there is never a bad meal served here. We were seated in a quaint room and our only company was a fireplace; no other tables and no other diners. The food was awesome, the presentation was exquisite and the service was excellent - no hovering and no neglect, just right.

According to the Rittersdorf Castle Web site, they offer medieval dinners and tours by appointment. For more information about either castle, you can do a Google search. Seriously, eating in a castle here is like driving on the autobahn - both are experiences that all Americans should enjoy at least once while they're here. Enjoy!