May 25, 2013

Castles and Vineyards Along the Mosel

“There are no foreign lands.  It is the traveler only who is foreign.”                                  Robert Louis Stevenson

Carol writes:  After a short dip into France we decided to head on over to western Germany and soak up some wine country and castles in the valleys along two of Germany’s most scenic rivers—the Mosel and the Rhine.  Our Mosel river tour began in Trier, Germany’s oldest city and at one time an ancient Roman capital.  Our half-day walking tour started at the ancient Porta Nigra gate, an impressive Roman fortification that somehow survived intact through a thousand years of many conflicts.

 Karl Marx was born in Trier, so I guess that was the explanation for all the little pink and purple statures of Marx that dotted the walking area on both sides of the gate, like large chess pieces.  This display did seem a little odd to me on the grounds of such a classic ancient Roman gate.

The Cathedral (Dom) is the oldest church in Germany and dates back to the days of Constantine.  St. Helena, Constantine’s mother, permitted part of her palace to be used as part of the church.

Our rainy day tour concluded with a dash out of the rain into the Konstantine Basilica, which actually started out as the Roman Throne Room of Emperor Constantine.  It is the largest intact Roman structure outside of Rome and is now used as a Lutheran church.

As we left Trier and headed down the Mosel Valley, our ride took us through peaceful, picturesque villages with beautifully maintained cemeteries,

and quaint painted houses,

in towns nestled along the Mosel at the foot of massive vineyards that stretched high up onto the valley walls.  This was Riesling country—the “king” of white wine grapes whose sweet taste is personally most pleasing to my palate.  I learned that the best Rieslings come from grapes grown on what seems to be impossibly steep canyon walls.

 The combination of the favorable angle of the sun combined with the mineral-rich slate soil that holds the sun’s heat through the cooler nights nurtures the perfect grape that creates the perfect Riesling.  I read that the grapes of the flatter, lower fields result in a poorer quality “table wine.”  It would be a huge stretch for me to detect the difference.

The Mosel Valley and the romantic Rhine Valley have castles galore, and we soon caught “castle fever!” Our best reference source for many of our sights has been the travel books written by Rick Steves.   We yielded to his expert recommendations and enjoyed our first castle experience along the Mosel at Burg Eltz, the castle Steves claims is his personal favorite in all of Europe.  Incredibly, this castle has remained in the same family for over 800 years through 30 generations.  Burg Eltz was fully furnished, and that made the visit so much more rewarding.  The setting in a hilly, wooded valley with Spring in full swing was superb and took our breath away as we rounded the bend on our short steep hike down to the entrance.

At the end of one of our most beautiful sunny days along the Mosel, we came upon a campground where we enjoyed our most lovely campsite to date.  We camped only a few yards from the banks of the Mosel, which provided us with a constant stream of entertainment from various kinds of barge traffic, along with gorgeous swans that fed along the grassy banks.


We had lively conversations with our next door neighbors, a delightful couple from the Netherlands, and even got in a few hours of relaxing outdoor pleasure reading…

Our three days along the Mosel River met every expectation promised by our travel brochure—“ancient castles perched on riverside hills and in the side valleys of one of the most beautiful wine-growing regions in all of Germany.”  Our trip down the Mosel ended at Koblenz at the famed German Corner where the Mosel flows into the Rhine, and that is where we started our journey up the Rhine Valley of storybook Germany.  To be continued…

“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”  Mary Anne Radmacher


1 comment:

  1. And to think, before now I did not know that Trier even existed.