Cycling Germany’s Mosel Cycle Route: Koblenz to Trier

IMG_8367We call it the fairy-tale route. The Mosel Cycle Route meanders past some of Germany’s prettiest landscapes, best wine regions, cutest towns and most impressive castles. As the crow flies, it’s only 95 km between Koblenz and Trier, two of Germany’s oldest and most charming cities. But traveling along the cycle path more than doubles the distance as the route hugs every swan-graced curve of the Mosel. This is a very good thing. Most of the roughly 200 km journey is like being in a feel-good Disney film with a really fine wine by our side.

We spend five days riding from Koblenz to Trier, plus an additional sightseeing day in Trier. Like our first stage along the Rhine, it would be easy to ride this flat route much faster, but there are so many worthwhile stops. The Mosel Cycle Route is primarily on dedicated bike paths with a few road sections through the towns. It crosses back and forth over the river and is well-signed. I’ve broken down our ride by day and touched on the highlights. The daily distances add up to more than 200 km as we took a few detours.

Day 1: Koblenz to Moselkern, approx. 35 km

It doesn’t take us long to ride the lovely stretch from Koblenz to Moselkern. We make it a short cycling day so we have lots of time to visit Burg Eltz. Travel guru Rick Steves claims it’s his favourite castle in all of Europe.

Burg Eltz is hidden in the forest; it can’t be seen from the cycle path. We dump our gear at one of the few guesthouses in tiny Moselkern and get back on our bikes for the short ride to the trailhead. The 2.5 km hike follows an idyllic creek up through the forest. We gasp as the trees open up to reveal a perfect medieval castle with soaring turrets. Burg Eltz has been owned by the same family, the Eltz family, for over 800 years and it’s one of the few castles in this region that has never been destroyed. Our 45 minute English tour takes us through rooms with gorgeous tapestries, ornate tiled stoves and medieval weaponry. It’s fascinating but I’m most taken by the fairy-tale exterior. We hang around and eat cake at the castle’s cafe until most visitors have left. The late day sun casts an irresistible glow over the grand cobblestone entranceway—I can almost see the brave knights and fair maidens of Burg Eltz. Rick Steves might be right.

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Alken, one of many pretty town on our route from Koblenz to Moselkern

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Burg Eltz hidden in the forest above the town of Moselkern

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The imposing entranceway to Burg Eltz

Day 2: Moselkern to Zell, approx. 65 km

With so many beautiful towns along the Mosel it’s difficult to decide where to stop. Coffee break beckons as we roll into stunningly-situated Cochem, a town that’s used by many visitors as a travel base for this region. After exploring the old town with its half-timbered houses and medieval gates we are happy to see our route cross over the bridge where we are treated to Cochem’s most enchanting views.

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View of Cochem and hilltop Reichburg (Cochem Castle) from bike path

By lunchtime we make it to Beilstein, the pint-sized darling of the Mosel. There are countless tour buses, cars and cyclists. Most of the crowd have plonked themselves down in the closest restaurants. We wander a short way up the narrow streets to Beilstein’s hilltop church where it’s calmer and offers splendid views of the river (my header photo).

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Pretty Beilstein is a popular place

The afternoon brings us to the steepest vineyards in all of Europe. The Calmont (hill) between the towns of Ediger-Eller and Bremm has gradients of up to 65º. The steep slope provides the optimal angle for sun exposure, in turn producing some of the world’s best Riesling. I’m glad I’m drinking it and not picking it!

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Marvelling at the steep vineyards of the Calmont

Our stop for the night is Zell. I like this town a lot. It’s not quite as busy as the others and has a more authentic feel,  but that might be because we have arrived later in the day. The town is best known for its legendary black cat label (Zeller Schwarze Katz) originating from a story about a black cat that fiercely protected a barrel of particularly fine wine. Before we leave the next day, I convince Mike to climb up through the Black Cat vineyards to an old town tower. The view is as exquisite as the wine.

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View down to Zell and the Mosel River

Day 3: Zell to Bernkastel-Kues, approx. 45 km

Our first stop today is Traben-Trabach, a town well-known for its half-timbered buildings and art nouveau architecture. Sadly, the Traben side of town is in the midst of major road construction. We spend a bit of time poking around but it’s noisy and hard to manoeuvre our bikes through all the detours. I’m mad at myself for not making more effort to take photos (I have to use a stock image for the town’s impressive bridge).

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A fairy-tale scene near the town of Pünderich

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Awesome bridge connecting Traben-Trabach. Courtesy Wines of Germany

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Traben-Trabach

We press on to Bernkastel-Kues another gorgeous town that straddles both sides of the Mosel. Its Marktplatz, a public square that has been the centre of the community since the 12th century is surrounded by picturesque buildings that house vibrant cafes and shops.  The bend in the Mosel here is especially dramatic and I manage to once again convince Mike to climb a steep vineyard path. He’ll admit that it’s worth it. Not only do we get a fabulous pano shot from the ruins of  9th century Landshut Castle,  we also see the wine harvest in action. On one side, men with giant buckets are picking grapes, on the other side, a specialized harvesting machine tethered to a truck by a steel cable, moves down a row of vines, shaking them and capturing the grapes in holding tanks. It’s so cool I have to take a video.

We stay overnight on the Kues side. It’s quiet and charming and affords a wonderful sunset view of Bernkastel and the vineyards we’ve just climbed.

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Marktplatz, Bernkastel-Kues

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View to Kues side from Landshut Castle

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Harvesting by hand in Bernkastel-Kues

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View of Bernkastel and Landshut Castle from Kues side

Day 4: Bernkastel-Kues to Trittenheim, approx. 30 km

The day looks ominous as we cycle out of Bernkastel-Kues. A light sprinkle soon turns into a torrential downpour. Wouldn’t you know it, it’s the first time we strayed off the main bike route and ended up on road with a narrow shoulder. We get showered every time a car passes. We’re drenched when we finally find a roadside shelter and wait it out for an hour. We’re cranky and cold but the worst is over. We find the path and cycle as far as Piesport, the biggest wine growing centre in the Mosel. It’s a sleepy town but there’s a cute looking vinothek (a place that sells wine and often has a wine bar). We end up sitting at a long table with a group of friendly German tourists who have obviously enjoyed a glass or three. It doesn’t take long for us to become the best of buddies, singing songs and swapping tales over what may be the best riesling I’ve ever tasted. We’re  introduced to flammkuchen—a thin crust pizza-like dish made with crème fraîche, onions and bacon. Divine!

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Mike and a couple of our new friends

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Piesport and its famous vineyards

Our new friends tell us about a wine festival taking place in the neighbouring village of Neumagen-Dhron. How can we pass up a festival in what is reported to be Germany’s oldest wine making town, founded by the Romans 2000 years ago. Feeling very happy after our extended lunch, we cycle to our guesthouse in the cute, non-touristy town of Trittenheim where we drop off our stuff and take the bus back to Neumagen-Dhron. We get there just in time to catch the parade, complete with a marching band, wine princesses, and toga-clad Romans. We feast on roast pork, potato pancakes, cheese and more wine. A crappy start has turned into our most fun day. We try not to think about how we’ll feel tomorrow.

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A nice ride from Piesport to Trittenheim

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The Romans at the Neumagen Dhron wine festival parade

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Wine princesses are ushered in by a marching band.

Day 5: Trittenheim to Trier, approx. 45 km

We’re feeling surprisingly energetic this morning and even take a short uphill detour for a panoramic view of the Mosel loop just beyond Trittenheim. Yesterday’s antics seem to have unleashed a when in Rome attitude. We simply can’t pass up the opportunity to stop at a little stand in Riol, right next to the bike path that is serving up flammkuchen and wine. Our resolution to not drink wine at lunch has now been firmly tossed out the window.

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The Mosel bend at Trittenheim

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The cycle route through the vineyards in Pölich

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Our scrumptious lunch next to the cycle path in Riol

We’re excited and a bit sad as we get closer to Trier. Our cycle journey along the magical Mosel is drawing to a close, but we get to spend two nights in historic Trier. No cycling tomorrow, just sightseeing in Germany’s oldest city.

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Trier, Germany

I’m saving Trier for another post. Stay tuned for that and our continuing journey along the Saar River.

Categories: Biking, Germany | Tags: , , , , | 20 Comments

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20 thoughts on “Cycling Germany’s Mosel Cycle Route: Koblenz to Trier

  1. Pingback: Trier: The Oldest City in Germany is an Underrated Gem | Writes of Passage

  2. I have read your full post and I want to say that this is a very nice post with beautiful images thank you to share this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, this gets better and better. The scenery, landscapes and architecture is just stunning. Really does feel like you transported us into a fairytale land of castles and beauty. Love the cycle route through the vineyards and the shots of the river from above which remind me of Cincinnati, Ohio, where I lived for a few years.

    Impressive in every way.

    Peta

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Peta. I was intrigued by your comment about Cincinnati and had to google it. I never would have guessed but it’s true—found an old photo of the Ohio River bend from a place called Eden Park. It does look very similar.

      Like

  4. I was already sold on this whole trip, but with each new post, you are planting very strong seeds of thought about trading one of our hiking trips for a biking trip in the near future. The bike-only paths are a huge plus for me, as is the fact that they look pretty flat! Your photos are gorgeous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My preference is hiking, Mike’s is biking (as long as it’s not too hilly). I really didn’t expect to enjoy a long biking trip as much as I did. The bike paths and generally great cycling environment made a huge difference for me. Two summers ago we did an organized bike trip through Grand Teton/Yellowstone parks. The scenery was amazing but I was petrified being on roads with tiny shoulders and lots of big vehicles. We’re already scheming about another cycling trip in Europe.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Mike Hohmann

    Just beautiful, Caroline… so scenic. And your photos are exceptional. Are you using a new camera? Or maybe it’s just me! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Mike! The photos are a mixture of iPhone and Olympus. Those darn phones are just so convenient, plus I couldn’t figure out how to do Panorama shots on our good camera.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. ostendnomadography

    Wow, fantastic blogpost! Nice pictures, nice sceneries… nicely written report! Something for my bucket list:)! Have a nice weekend. Regards Stef

    Liked by 1 person

  7. love the video of the grape harvester!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This sounds so fabulous! Even better I think that the Rhine cycle. I so want to go and do this! It sounds as if you had an amazing time. Gorgeous photos. Those panorama shots are fabulous – definitely worth the climb.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Alison. I honestly can’t say if I have a preference for the Rhine or Mosel. Even though they both have cute towns, fantastic castles and great vineyards they feel different. The Rhine has far more river traffic and this gives it a real vibrance and drama. The Mosel has more of a laid-back rural charm. The good news is that it’s easy to see then both and you can compare for yourself.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow, Caroline! That opening shot is pretty, Burg Eltz certainly looks amazing, Traben-Trabach looks like a very picturesque town with interesting Art Noveau architecture, and the harvesting machine! That is such a cool invention! You definitely saw so many impressive things along this leg of your cycling tour. If I were also there I wouldn’t want the trip to end.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is a cool invention isn’t it? I have another video of the machine dumping all the grapes into a bin before continuing down the next row. Many places are too steep for machines and must be picked completely by hand. Looks like difficult and possibly treacherous work. The region is fascinating from so many perspectives.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. What an absolutely gorgeous part of the world.

    Liked by 1 person

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