Everyone knows about the Romantic Rhine; stereotypical landscapes of half timbered villages clambering up steep, vine bedecked slopes, crowned with dramatic medieval castles. These landscapes inspired a whole generation of 19th Century romantics, poets, travellers and artists including Byron and Turner. However the little sister of the Rhine, the Mosel, is perhaps less well known but equally rewarding to explore in its own right.
Tourist guides in English pay scant attention to the treasures of this meandering gem of a river which crosses the German border near Trier before looping majestically down to the confluence of the Rhine in Koblenz. Information on the Mosel for English speakers is usually confined to one of four main centres; Trier, Bernkastel-Kues, Cochem and Koblenz. Here one can find all the usual trappings of mass coach-tour tourism including crowds, souvenir shops and a suitable helping of kitsch.
However we wanted to discover the true heart of the Mosel and so over the last few months we have been seeking out smaller riverside villages, historical sites, ancient churches, wineries and hidden treasures that give this area its own unique appeal. To complicate things we’ve also been taking our 2 small children in tow. However this allows us to slow down and to pay attention to some of the sights we would normally pass by or just merely take for granted.
By way of an example we stumbled across the picturesque village of Punderich, a riverside jewel where a maze of jumbled streets tumbles haphazardly towards the grassy banks of the river. We arrived just as the village was celebrating its annual wine festival. To our delight we found a cacophony of impromptu wine bars and stalls selling the Mosel’s distinctive slaty Rieslings and other local delicacies including the ubiquitous bratwurst.
Our children, Zoe and Kai, also enjoyed discovering makeshift flea markets set up by local school children to test out their business skills through selling toys, books and games to visitors (a right of passage for every young German it seems). It couldn’t last long however; my son must be the only 2 year old with a passion for church architecture. Before long he was running off with Martina in tow to witness yet another baroque gem of a church. I eventually tracked down Martina with the children in the church enjoying a moment of quiet contemplation in the otherwise empty nave, a rare moment of calm for 2 otherwise noisy youngsters who would otherwise be contributing to the decibel level in the streets outside.
After sampling the local wine, cuisine (bratwurst and pommes!) and atmosphere at one of the many crowded stalls, we found a perfect exit from the village by crossing the old ferry that ploughs its way daily across the river to the other more peaceful bank opposite.
As our car bumped up the ramp on the opposite (and as yet) undiscovered side of the Mosel, we realised that this unplanned little exploration of a little known (to non-Germans) Mosel village would be the start of many such small adventures around this corner of Europe. Further adventures await…