Most would have heard of the Rhine wine region but very little would’ve been aware of the Moselle Valley. With the steepest vineyards in the world, this wine region is renown for their sweet white wines, Riesling. Before this trip, white wines were never really my thing, especially sweet ones. But a trip down the Moselle has changed it all. It has introduced me to the diverse range of these sweet wines, especially those dry, dry ones. This journey along the Moselle was simply a fantastic experience: meandering roads, gorgeous views, cute little towns and awesome, awesome wines.
Day 1 – Fly into Stuttgart and try the Autobahn
In a panic buy to avoid the extra costs during the Easter break, we bought tickets from London to the wrong German airport! With the Moselle Valley as our destination, we were flying into Stuttgart, a mere 280km away from our starting town of Trier. Only after buying our tickets did it dawn on us that Frankfurt was just 80km away. This might seem like the start to a terrible holiday, but in hindsight, it was a great decision to fly into Stuttgart. It allowed us to test out the famous German Autobahn! Think big roads, a decent car and with most parts, unlimited speed limits. I was finally able to fly down these straights at ridiculous speeds, while not breaking any laws. An experience well worth the extra kilometres. We hired an A3 from Europcar and it looked new and well spec-ed, perfect for a little road trip. Not a bad start after all!
Our first night was a stay at Trier, pretty much at the start of the German part of the Moselle. This is one of the oldest German cities and we spent the late afternoon walking around the centre. The main attraction is the Porta Nigra, the largest Roman gate North of the Alps. In Roman times, the gate guarded the northern part of the walled city and it is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Come earlier during the day in the summer and have a guided tour of the upper floors of the gate. Or try out one of the local guided wine tours on offer at the tourist office next to the gate.
A walk around Trier and you will no doubt be drawn towards the grand towers of the local church. Magnificient in size and looking so plain and simple. With the sunset beaming over, it is a mighty sight. At first it looked closed, but a push of the heavy door and you enter a sanctuary of peace, with the stillest air and quietest surroundings I have ever been to. A quick 10 minute sitting in one of the pews and your mind will wonder and make you contemplate.
After some quiet time, we were finally going to try our first proper meal in Germany. Zum Domstein is located in the central square area of Trier. With interiors of a classy pub, we were led downstairs to what seemed like a mini museum in the restaurant. There were glass cupboards dotted around the dining tables, filled with old artefacts. Definitely different here. The food was delightful -juicy meats covered in thick gravy with potato cakes and vegetables. We also finally got to try some local wines, where I fell in love with Rieslings. I never really appreciated the cool white drink, with the sweet but bitter and minimalistic flavours all mangled into one. It was really refreshing, especially after a long day’s drive.
As a ritual of post dinner drinks, we headed to a cosy looking wine bar, sitting outside the cutest little courtyard. Bischöfliche Weingüter is a winery that dates all the way back to 1773 and is a merger of three local wineries (1966). Their Vinothek has a selection of local wines displayed behind the bar on wooden boards and some delicious apple strudels. Perfect to end the long day.
Our stay for the first evening was at Covey’s Airbnb, sitting on the side of a little hill just across from the river. It is a beautiful little house covered with an amazing selection of books and is really well decorated. There was a double bed and a single bed on offer, with an amazing view out the window overlooking the river and Trier. A really nice evening’s sleep with a great host.
Day 2 – Trier to Koblenz
With the sun up nice and early and seeping through those massive windows, we started the day off with a drive up to the top of the hill. We were hoping that the local bakery ran by an old grandma would be open for some breakfast. But it turned out that breakfast really isn’t big in small German towns. With that bakery shut, we heading to the view point for some quality shots of the morning sun beaming down on the old city of Trier. A really refreshing way to start the day!
With hunger still on the horizon, we decided to drive along the river in search of somewhere to feast for breakfast. It took us a while but the meandering roads along the bendy Moselle offered some beautiful views of steep vineyards hiked on the side of the hills. With the river flowing, the sights of the greenery sweeping and the sleepy towns slowly driving by, we eventually reached Bernkastel-Keus. The town is named after two sides of the river and we quite literally stopped at the first cafe/bakery we saw and got a table. Make sure you buy some interesting Germany bakery goods for the road. Never say no to Schokostreusel! A Delicious bit of pastry with bits of chocolate and sweetness – definitely no regrets.
The buildings around town are all very similar and very cute looking, with nice rectangular buildings with similar patterns and designs. We walked into a little pavement area and found a little sweets shop! It had hard boiled sweets of pretty much any flavour, with the fruit ones tasting just like real fruits!
Our next stop was to pop into a nearby winery. Markus Molitor took over his father’s vineyards at the age of 20 with the aim to produce German Resiling. Under the Molitor name, wines have been made here in the tradition of the past eight generations, for the last 100 years. The drive along the Moselle will see the steep inclination of the hills where the vineyards spread out, some with around 80% inclination. Such unique vines, soil and microclimates bring incredible flavours to the grapes and Reislings. A visit to the Moselle will not be complete without a visit to Haus Klosterberg, a magnificent estate that has won awards such as the Architekturpresi Wein 2013. The large building is stunning from the outside with distinctive manor like features, but it was the insides that truly stood out. With the use of modern and historical materials, the interiors are in simply colours, really plain but at the same time aesthetically pleasing. It is so pure and comfortable to just look at the inside of the house.
Wine tastings are done the large dining room over a long wooden table. Try eight different types of unique wines from the Molitor collection for only 20 euros. Take all the time in the world and really understand the grapes, wine and enjoy those unbelievable flavours. Don’t forget to buy a few bottles home!
We have all seen those Instagram pictures of that long suspension bridge hanging over a deep valley somewhere in a forest in Germany. About an hours drive from the winery is Hängeseilbrücke Geierlay, a 360 meter long suspension bridge hanging at 100 meters above ground. It is a good 20 – 30 minute walk from the nearest car park, which is perfect after a nice long wine tasting. The views from the bridge are excellent and the minor swaying while walking along it adds a bit of excitement. Definitely worth the extra detour for a nice stroll and some incredible pictures!
From here we meandered back towards the river and stopped by the little town of Krov. The story of this small town was that little kids used to sneaked into the basements and drank the wines that their father made. This resulted in the child being flung over the father’s shoulder for a bit of a smack! The story can be seen in their local wine bottle labels and the large statute outside the stores. We stopped by and a friendly lady greeted us with a few samples and answered a lot of our questions about the town and the different types of dry Rieslings. We of course were obliged to buy a bottle for the awesome wine and its label, only to find out that the unbelievably fresh and delicious wine only cost 3.5 euros a bottle!
This castle on the hill was one of the first castles we saw that day. Perched mightily on top, it looked very grand and picturesque, just like the rest of the sleepy town. There was a lot more tourists here and after a walk around, it felt like it was hyped up too much. Would recommend skipping if you are out of time!
What you definitely cannot skip is Eltz Castle, one of the best ones I have ever been to. Imagine your typical fairytale castle, like the ones well hidden inside the woods or forest and next to a meandering river. Now imagine walking along a long road towards a ridge and looking down, you see this towering castle below you. That’s the the feeling you get when you first see Eltz castle. The site has been around for about 850 years and gives a middle ages experience to all those who visit. The castle is still owned by the same Eltz family that once lived there in the 12th century, 33 generations ago!
Walking towards the entrance of the castle gives you a very medieval feel, with cobbled roads leading up to the small castle. For a bit of peace and quiet, head to the top of the castle and into the back open area for a good view!
The final leg of the second day was the drive to Koblenz, where we would stay the night. Here you will see the final sights of the Moselle, as it merges with the Rhine. By the time we reached, it was late and we enjoyed a simple stroll around the old town before having a fantastic local dinner at a pub. The food was classic German cuisine, so think pork knuckles, beers, local wines and sausages. A perfect way to end our long day of driving and exploring.
Day 3 – Final Day
In my Krakow post, I mentioned the importance of starting your day with a good breakfast. As we have seen earlier, Germany isn’t a very breakfast friendly place, so we decided to do some research for a place to eat early on a Sunday morning. Pfefferminzje was probably the only place that was open, so we decided to check it out. We were so glad that we came here for their buffet vegetarian Sunday brunch. As one of the first ones to arrive, we saw the serving table laid out with numerous amounts of vegetables, cheeses, dips – everything. The food was creative, delicious and you won’t even realise you are at a vegetarian restaurant! One of the best breakfasts I have had whilst on holiday and if they opened up in London, I would probably go quite often! The food was quirky, so creative and the cafe itself is worth a visit!
After a filling meal, we went for a stroll down the promenade where the two rivers met. Koblenz is an old city dating back to 8BC and recently celebrated its 2000th anniversary in 1992. The meeting point of the two rivers sits the William I monument, who was the first German Emperor. The statute was destroyed during the war but was soon rebuilt and is now a highly touristic area. A walk along the river was a perfect way to end a Sunday morning!
Our final stop of the road trip before our car rental return in Cologne was at Schloss Drachenburg, a private castle-looking villa built in the 19th century with views of the river Rhine. Built with a somewhat confused architectural style, it is a mix of a medieval castle, a gothic style church and a tint of Gothic revival style.
We started with the circuit walk around the gardens to admire the outside architecture and its towering presence, before heading in to check out the interiors.
After viewing all the rooms and hallways, make your way to the top of the building where you can check out a view of the river and the surrounding greenery. A truly different experience to walk around this castle and to end this little road trip adventure!
Wine lover or not, this is a trip that should be on everyone’s radar. An extremely easily accessible region, full of beautiful countrysides along the ever flowing Moselle and filled with incredibly refreshing Rieslings. This is a road trip to discover some of the best ever sweet white wines.
Also published on Medium.