Mining sand is an industry widely practiced along the scenic Moselle River separating Germany and Luxembourg in the leafy navel of Europe. One of the more novel applications of all this digging is making designer hills for vineyards, all neatly oriented towards the most favourable aspect. All a bit Noddy in Toy Town perhaps, but this is terroir by truck on an industrial scale. A second spin-off is creating lakes for recreation. In fact the whole region has the feel of the Finger Lakes in upstate New York, with bulldozers bequeathing what glaciers did not.
The best way to admire these architectural appellations is from the air-conditioned luxury of the MS Princesse Marie-Astrid (above), a luxury floating observation deck cum tasting room that makes the Uncle Ben of Viljoensdrift on the Breede River look like a Somali refugee boat adrift off Lampedusa.
The Concours Mondial concluded yesterday, we bussed down to Remich for a vineyard cruise along the Moselle. We chanced the dreaded #2 bus which had fallen into a black hole, Bermuda Triangle like, the previous day; disappearing in the middle of our vineyard visit.
Taking off upstream with the theme from the Love Boat in lieu of a lifeboat drill, we were merrily harassed by jet skis who darted nimbly in front of Marie-Astrid, barely rocking the stately barge with their foaming wakes. A quick u-turn in mid-stream using the head of a dismounted skier as a turning buoy/boy, German vineyards on the starboard bow swapped to the Port as a toothsome 2009 Gewürztraminer made from grapes grown in the communal vineyards owned by the state, was poured.
The Marie-Astrid is owned by the tourism body of the various Luxembourg communes with wonderfully medieval names like Wormeldange. The wine served as the vineyards slip by is state owned and so mostly quaffed by politicians and bureaucrats.
Our destination was Schengen, the armpit of Europe, where the borders of France, Germany and Luxembourg come to a point. A travel nightmare, which prompted Europeans to rationalize their paperwork a generation ago, allowing visiting South Africans to buy a single visa for signatory countries which unfortunately does not include the UK.
For Blighty, an additional expensive stamp in your passport is necessary, which costs British Airways millions each year in lost ticket sales. A regressive step in this era of global tourism and something for SA tourism Minister van Schalkwyk to sort out straight away.