Europe 2005-2006 travel blog

The castle on the hill in Cochem

The Mosel River from Belstein

Half timbered houses in Belstein

Beilstein from across the Mosel

Burg Eltz castle near Moselkern

Riverboat on a foggy Mosel behind our camp spot

Bike path along the Mosel through the vineyard

Imagine a place where you could ride your bicycle along a path through vineyards beside a sleepy, snaking river; through storey book villages; watching long, low riverboats and swans? Well, friends, do we have the place for you! We have been in the Mosel Valley in Southern Germany for a week and it is a place that truly lives up to expectations. The Mosel River is a tributary of the Rhine (at Koblenz) and snakes its way from the Lorraine area of France - and is one of Germany's most important wine growing areas. In this valley there is over 200 Km of dedicated cycling paths along both sides of the river - with the additional bonus of a quaint, picturesque village every 3-5 Km. We have had challenges finding banks and grocery stores in the villages BUT there are always about 4-5 wine merchants offering tastings and products!

We stayed for 3 days in Cochem, full of half timbered houses and an honest-to-goodness pointy spired castle high on a hill in the middle of town. German tourists are crazy for this region as a cycling destination, especially this time of year when most of the villages are hosting Wine Fests. Yes Square, we attended one in Minheim and found the street through town closed and dozens of tasting tents set up to profile the local wineries. You could buy a small glass of wine for €1.10 (about $1.60 CDN). They also had food stands full of roasting German sausage, potato pancakes, kebabs and rich confections - as well as the hawkers demonstrating knives that can cut through nails and vegetable cutters (some things are all over the world, aren't they?)

We hiked through the forest for an hour out of Moselkern to see the Burg Eltz, built between the 13th and 16th century and one of the best preserved mediaeval castles in Germany. It is still inhabited by the same family who has occupied it for over 800 years. What astounded us on this hike were the number of people hiking along with us - tourists, children and many, many seniors, including elderly women all dressed up in suits and high heels. That and the number of senior German cyclists we see every day put us to shame.

The last part of the week we stayed in Neumagen beside the river. The bicycle paths do actually go right along the river or through the vineyards so you can watch the plump green and purple grapes ripening up in the sunshine (we are still experiencing summer-like weather here). There are bridges or small ferries connecting one side of the river to the other so you can cross frequently. There are also tour boats and trains that run from one end of the Mosel to the other so your options for travel are unlimited.

We have to admit to challenges with the language! However, when you consider the lunch meat we bought is called Geflugelbrustfiletpastete it gives you an idea of what we are trying to tackle! We now have three white 1-litre tetra packs: one is sugar and written in French, the second is yoghurt and written in Danish, and the third is milk and written in German. You have to remember to look closely whenever you grab one of them as yoghurt in your tea first thing in the morning would not be a good start to the day! This, however, is all offset by the price of local wine: €1.60!

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