Cruising the Mosel River with Star Travel guy Richard Ouzounian
When you’re touring Germany, you soon learn that the Mosel River unfortunately winds up playing second fiddle to the Rhine and that’s unfortunate, because it’s a fascinating region, not just for its history and culture, but for its wines and liqueurs, which can possess a complexity underneath their surface sweetness that Rhine wines often miss.
The Avalon Waterways river cruise that my wife, Pamela, and I recently took was largely devoted to the Rhine, but it detoured down the Mosel just long enough to make us want to go back and revisit the region at length at a later date.
We first entered the area at Koblenz, where the Rhine and the Mosel intersect. It’s a proud military city whose strategic position has made it crucial for more than 2,000 years.
The citadel of Ehrenbreitstein still provides a sense of what it was like to look over the juncture of these two great rivers from a position of command and it’s impossible not to be moved by the giant sculpture of Emperor William I, which stands at the place where the rivers meet. It’s supposedly the largest equestrian statue in Germany, if not the world and I have no reason to doubt that.
But if Koblenz assaults you with its power, then Cochem wins you over with charm. It only has 5,000 residents, but, inch for inch, it’s one of the most fascinating cities I’ve ever encountered.
It too dates back over 2,000 years and elements of every stage of its development remain side by side to marvel at. Also, reminiscent of New Orleans, is the fact that the centre of the town lies to far below the river that it floods regularly, about once every 10 years and the residents cope with it by making sure the ground floor of all their homes and stores are made of tile so they can be easily cleaned when the waters recede.
Pride of place, however, goes to the Reichsberg Cochem, which stands high above the city. First built in 1131 and left in ruins by Louis XIV’s troops in 1688, it was restored in 1868 by a millionaire businessman, Louis Frederic Jacques Ravené, who created it as a tribute to his young wife.
Shortly after the renovation was complete, Ravené’s wife left him for a younger man and he died a year later of a broken heart.
That may depress you so much that you’ll be forced to seek solace in one of Cohem’s charming cafes, sipping their unique schnapps made from the local “red peach”, which is actually a frumpy grey on the outside, with a brilliant scarlet fruit inside.
Something to think about as you sit and drink and think about the power of history, architecture…..and romance.