The Disenchanted Forest

The Elzbach forest is too innocent to be enchanted. The birds chatter at the same high pitch as kindergarteners. The brook splashes dutifully along, scrubbing the shadows off the riverstones. Instead of foliage, the trees wear sunshine and a dappling of green buds. There is nowhere for enchantment to hide. Stripped pines stand straight and pale as sunbeams, casting gossamer shadows. Along the path, wild strawberry blossoms freckle the underbrush like lost pearls. A downy little dormouse peers out from under the umbrella of a leaf, but he is too timid to be a bewitched prince.

Where the brook bows into a horseshoe, the palace Burg Eltz sits enthroned on a ridge overlooking the valley. Cross-gartered in red paneling, the palace is frilled with spires and pennants, and diamond-paned windows bejewel the dark stone.

Inside, Eltz is an antiquarian’s Eden, a garden of originals: intricately scrolled rococo dining chairs, fireplaces wide enough to roast Hansel and Gretel, Flemish tapestries rampaging with half-imagined beasts (an ostrich with ears and hooves, a grinning leopard), moose skulls with shadows like outstretched eagle’s wings, fools’ masks leering over the counsel table, blue clay crockery cool as butter, legions of copper pots, wide windowsills where summer suppers were savored, and a bedroom wrapped in painted flowering vines that warm the walls and ceiling with summer’s ochre and vermillion.

Down in the nearby town of Cochem, summer can be sampled on a spoon. At the festival of the Weinbergpfirsich, the vineyard peach, my parents and I taste a dozen preserves and half a dozen vinegars, all odes to the region’s unique peach. She is a red queen, a blood peach, a summer sunset inscribed in soft flesh. As the crowds bleed away, leaving the square quiet, we savor red peach sorbet. April needs no enchantment to make it charming.

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