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A Quiet Maulbronn Afternoon

A former cistercian monastery, Maulbronn Monastery is one of the best preserved in Europe, earning its place on the UNESCO World Heritage Site List.

After our jaunt into Bavaria, we wanted to head due west to the city of Trier and the Mosel river. We used to live near this city, and it holds a special place in our hearts. We also have friends in the area, so of course, wanted to go visit them while we were in the country. We had to stop half way, just for sanity’s sake, so we chose the little-known town of Maulbronn. There is not much there except for this awesome UNESCO World Heritage monastery which is over 850 years old.

As all religious sites seem to have, the founding of the monastery has a good story. Legend has it that the monks were looking for a secluded place, with lots of natural resources, to build a Cistercian monastery, so what did they do? They took a donkey, and placed a bag of money on his back then let him go.

They decided that wherever he stopped, it would be a sign from God and that is where they were to build their monastery. There is a fountain in the courtyard of the church, called the Eselsbrunnen, and this is reportedly where the little donkey (maultier) stopped. In recognition of its accomplishments, the town still retains some of its title in “Maul”bronn.

Upon entering the town, we were just in time for lunch, so we stopped at a butcher/restaurant that had garden seating and was quite packed. After a deliciously meaty meal, we were fortified enough to tromp the grounds of the monastery with the audio headphones. At first look, the monastery seemed rather deserted. Although it is a large complex, there were not many people there at all. There was one German youth group and a handful of tourists. Even though we went in July, we were able to enjoy the quiet and peacefulness of the place.

In the square, there were a few shops and restaurants, one of which we ate dinner at later on. The main focus of the site was the church itself, which was impressive. It took so long to build, just like they tout in the book and mini series, Pillars of the Earth, that there are two types of windows. One side has the old romanesque rounded windows and the other are the pointy-topped gothic windows as the building years straddled these two architectural eras. You can see both windows in the photo.

As most monasteries, this one was self-sufficient and had plenty of crops. One of its more famous products was the wine it made. In the central dining hall stands a massive stone column that has a narrow channel running down one side. Apparently the wine would flow down the column.

The monks were only allowed to drink wine at meal times, and were only allowed to take as much as they could slop up with their two fingers. It seems like they would have had a hard life, one of toil and prayer, the least the magistrates could have done is give them a tankard for their wine.

We strolled around the grounds enjoying the warm summer afternoon and, after an ice cream, headed across the street to our hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Klosterpost, which itself is a Maulbronn institution. It was established in 1253 and has continually been a hotel ever since. The main and oldest part of the hotel is located in a half-timbered house, but the owners have also taken over a part of the old folk’s home behind the main hotel and renovated some of the rooms. This is where we stayed and it was very comfortable.

Looking at the website it seems that there is a restaurant on site, but really the Klosterschmiede is located within the monastery walls across the street. Since the town is so small, we did eat there and ordered the Schwabian delicacy called maultaschen. Again we see the use of the word “maul.”

Maultaschen, or feedbags, are just that; a small pastry packed with meat and some vegetable.  It’s a kind of dumpling or potsticker. The ones we had were supposed to a gourmet version, and these were the only ones they sold. I was a bit dissappointed. The rest of the food was pretty run-of-the-mill, but thankfully the beer made it all worthwhile.

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.