Reflections from our favourite European destination
A sturdy, tired tractor spits out a cloud of smoke as it passes us, slowly rolling down the single lane road. The morning sun creeps over the valley and makes its daily appearance, taking a bite out of the damp, crisp air.
The air is clean and fresh, filled with the scent of harvested vineyards and fermenting grapes. The streets are empty, but the village is slowing waking up. Freshly baked bread, buttery cheeses and cured meats are delivered to our table, accompanied by a single soft boiled egg and a variety of homemade jams and marmalade.
Fresh coffee tastes better in this part of the world. Not because the beans are any better over here, but because the peaceful atmosphere forces us to slow down and enjoy every sip.
We’re in wine country, in a cute German village named Reil. To our left, a centuries old guesthouse covered with green leafy grape vines. To our right, a dusty wine barrel sits beside the entrance of a winemakers home.
We love it here. But we’re conflicted.
Like a surfer protecting his secret surf spot, we want to keep the Mosel Valley all to ourselves. But the travel blogger in us feels obligated to share one of our favourite destinations in Europe.
With that in mind, here are some of the reasons why we love it here and why we think you should consider visiting the Mosel Valley on your next holidays to Europe.
1. Cute medieval villages
The Mosel Valley has dozens of adorable villages that hug the shores of the Mosel River, the most popular being Bernkastel-Kues, Traben-Trarbach, Zell and Cochem. Here are some photos of Bernkastel-Kues.
Strolling through the tight cobblestone streets, it’s easy to let your mind run wild and envision what life must have been like hundreds of years ago, when there was no electricity or motor vehicles.
Many of the old timber houses and buildings were constructed over 400 years!
2. Beautiful vineyard vistas
The photo above does a great job capturing the fantastic scenic views along the Mosel River. The area is known for its very steep vineyards that stretch for miles on both sides of the river.
It’s easy to appreciate why many label the Mosel Valley as one of Germany’s most romantic regions. There are plenty of trails and quiet roads that lead to fantastic lookout points. The above photo was captured across the river from the town of Punderich.
3. Fairy tale castles and historical ruins
Burg Eltz and Reichsburg Cochem (pictured above) are the most beautiful and best preserved castles in the Mosel, but virtually every village has an old fortress ruin or castle to explore.
The Mosel is bursting with history and medieval architecture, so if you’re up for it, spend some time bouncing from one village to the next. Here is a list of castles in the Mosel region.
4. Summer harvest festivals
If there’s one thing the Germans are known for (aside from building cars and brewing beer), it’s how to throw a kick-ass street party!
In late summer, many of the villages and towns in the Mosel celebrate the summer harvest by hosting street festivals. Local winemakers convert their homes into restaurants, proudly serving a variety of their homemade wines and signature dishes.
It’s a fun way to taste dozens of regional wines and sample some truly authentic homemade German cuisine.
We have extended family that lives in a small village named Reil. They have a guesthouse and sell a variety of handcrafted wines – you can visit their website here.
Every year, on the first weekend in September, the village hosts its annual street/wine festival. Friends and family return every summer to help convert the family garage and wine cellar into a restaurant that serves hundreds of people over the course of the festival (Friday evening to Sunday afternoon).
The festival typically has 10-15 participants (family homes converted into a “restaurant”), each serving a variety of wines and traditional food. Each venue seats between 50-100 people but there’s lots of standing area. It’s Reil’s biggest event of the year, attracting over 2,500 visitors.
If there’s one thing we recommend you do in the Mosel Valley – visit a wine festival in late summer!
5. Hiking and biking trails
The Mosel River snakes through the hills, creating an outdoor playground for hikers, runners and walkers. There are hundreds of trails that suit all skill levels. You can walk along the riverbanks, up and down the endless rows of vineyards, or through the many quiet forests that rest on the top of the valley.
The vineyards can get quite steep in some sections, so hardcore hikers will find plenty of challenging trails throughout the region.
It’s also a hugely popular destination for cyclists. Because there are so many villages, cyclists can ride along the river and stay in a different village each night. An added bonus is that most guesthouses produce their own wine, so you can mix in some wine tasting with each stay. Bonus!
6. River boat cruises
River boat cruises are a big deal in Europe. The nearby Rhine River gets most of the attention, and for good reason, but the Mosel River is another beautiful region worth exploring by boat.
The Mosel River is a left tributary of the Rhine, joining the Rhine at Koblenz and stretching into France (where it’s called the Moselle River). Many of the river boat tours can be done in an afternoon or overnight. Popular starting and ending points are in Koblenz, Cochem and Trier.
7. Sweet white wines
Wine making is the heart and soul of the Mosel Valley. Generations of Weingüter (winemakers) have been producing the region’s famous sweet whites for centuries. The Riesling grape is the most popular and is considered the highest quality wine grape in the region.
The steep river bank slopes are said to be some of the most labour intensive vineyards in the world. The steep incline allows for direct sunlight to hit the vines and, because most of the soil is dominated by slate stone, the heat is reflected and retained, creating a unique growing environment.
You don’t have to like wine to enjoy the region’s wine culture. It’s fun bouncing from one village to the next in search of wine tasting opportunities. Many of the wine cellars are located in people’s homes, so half the fun is knocking on random doors and seeing where the moment takes you.
Resident winemakers are very proud of their wine and love interacting with visitors. If you’re lucky, you might get a tour of the wine making facilities. Some of the smaller winemakers have been using the same equipment and techniques for decades.
8. Delicious German beer
Ah yes, the beer. We can’t forget about the beer!
If you’re a beer drinker there’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard of Bitburger – it’s ranked 3rd among Germany’s top selling breweries. The beer is produced in the city of Bitburg, located a few kilometers west of the Mosel River. You can find this popular beer at most establishments, just look for signs that say “Bitte ein Bit.”
And because the Mosel Valley is within close proximity to the city of Cologne, beer lovers will also find a variety of Kölsch available. We enjoyed the Früh, Gaffel and Reissdorf Kölsch.
9. Spaghettieis (Spaghetti Ice)
I’ll admit, when I first heard the words “spaghetti ice” I thought it was shaved ice with some kind of sugary syrup. Little did I know this decadent dessert is actually ice cream pressed to look like a bowl of spaghetti, then topped with strawberry or chocolate sauce (pictured above), whipped cream and shaved white chocolate made to represent grated cheese.
“Spaghettieis” is to the Germans what gelato is to the Italians.
Every village or town in the Mosel has at least one ice cream parlor or cafe that serves Spaghettieis. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this dish has your name written all over it!
10. Location, Location, Location
The Mosel is easy to reach and easy to navigate, regardless of your travel style. The closest major airport is Frankfurt, which is about 1.5 hours from the the city of Koblenz (here are some things to do in Frankfurt). Other major cities nearby are Cologne, Bonn and Luxembourg City.
Like most regions in Western Europe, the Mosel is well connected by train. We used our Rail Europe train pass and arrived via Strasbourg, France. On our departure, we took the train from Bullay to Paris via Luxembourg City, passing dozens of cute villages and picturesque countryside.
And let’s not forget about the river! You can also jump on a river boat and hop from village to village. You can either start in Koblenz and head south to Trier, or vice versa.
11. Good ol’fashioned hospitality
Life moves slower in the German countryside. Most accommodations will be at boutique hotels, guest houses and Bed & Breakfasts.
When searching for accommodations in small German towns and villages, look for signs that say “Zimmer”, which means “room” in English. Often times the guesthouses look unassuming and nothing like a hotel or hostel, so don’t be alarmed if you don’t see big signs that scream “Hotel”.
We have always felt very welcome in the Mosel, particularly in the smaller, less touristy villages like Reil and Zell. Most Germans can speak a little bit of English, enough for basic communication, and are always happy to help. Don’t be shy, say hi!
Your turn! Do you have a favourite spot in Europe?
Share your favourite destination below and tell us what makes it so special.
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