A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Jenniferklm

France Encore

Although we are now home, there will be a few more posts just to wrap up our trip. Don't get off your bikes yet! Onward....

We would be flying home from Lyon, France where we began our trip, in less than a week but decided to add one more experience to la Tour de Mosel, a stay in Colmar, France. We had always heard that this is a magical place, known for its "la petite Venice" old town so we made a Deutsche Bahn reservation for us and the bikes from Koblenz to Colmar with the help of a very efficient woman at the Koblenz Bahn.

It was an easy cycle from our hotel through the river park to the Koblenz train station. I love train stations in Europe; the fact that trains are used by so many people for short and long trips, the often beautiful old architecture of the stations, waiting for your platform number to appear on the electronic board, the little coffee/pastry/sandwich outlets in most stations, the efficiency of the trains' almost-to-the-minute arrival and the comfort of settling in to watch the landscape roll by. In France, I especially love the little 3 note chime that precedes any announcement in the station. Like Pavlov's dog, I immediately get excited on hearing that.

We always try and check out the station from which we are departing in advance so we know if there are elevators for the bikes to the various platform levels or if we will have to shlepp everything up or down stairs, usually the case in small stations. They sometimes provide a narrow track for the bike wheels on one side of the stairs as in the photo below but that requires taking off the bike panniers on one side. Consequently, we try and give ourselves lots of time if we are making connections.

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The Koblenz Haupbahnhof is a 1905 Baroque Revival building. It was built like a palace with central and side pavilions, and the northern wing was originally richly decorated and had direct access via a flight of stairs to platform 1, on which the Emperor arrived in Koblenz the year the station was completed. The station building and the railway tracks were damaged in air raids during the Second World War and the reconstruction resulted in less ornamentation.

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Trains don't stop for long in a station so you have to be scanning for the bike car as the train pulls in. Sometimes the car floor is on the same level as the platform so we can wheel our bikes right in, the very best scenario. Often there are steps up into the car so as soon as passengers have exited from that car, you have to be quick about getting your panniers off and the bikes in, usually hanging them in the bike car by the front wheels. Our reservation for the first leg to Colmar specified the car number and seats so once the bikes were in, we found our seats, the train guy having to move a couple of people from them who didn't have reservations.

It turned out to be a most interesting first stage of our trip to Colmar due to the company of our fellow passengers who engaged us in conversation. We were a multi-cultural group - a young German woman just starting first year university in Trier, a 30'ish guy from Chile and another somewhat older guy from India, both in Germany on business. The time flew by as we swapped information about ourselves and our home countries and we are now invited to visit our new friends in both India and Chile! Unlikely but it was a lovely encounter with strangers that give you more hope for our troubled world. The Indian guy works for a big biscuit company and lives with his wife and two children in a type of rural cooperative, where all 22 kids are home-schooled and they are almost completely self-sufficient as far as energy and food production go. Amazing! And we have since had an email from him, confirming our invitation to visit.

We had one train connection to make at Basel, Switzerland. Maybe because we were a little distracted by the animated conversations with our seatmates, we goofed and got off one stop too soon at Basel DB still in Germany, rather than Basel SSB in Switzerland. No train to Colmar showed up on the electronic board and it finally dawned on us that it was the wrong station. Off to the station information desk where unusually, the only person in this small station at the info desk spoke no English. However, we somehow were able to get ourselves rebooked on another train to Basel SSB in time to make our connection to Colmar. Gotta love that efficient German train system.

We had booked our accommodation, a studio apartment in Colmar a couple of days in advance. The building was a short ride from the station in a very nice residential neighbourhood with the big round brick late 19th C. Chateau d'Eau as a backdrop.

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Called Pierre et Vacance, our accommodation was an amazing discovery - and an amazing price perhaps because of our last minute booking. Turns out Pierre et Vacances is a company specializing in holiday residences and hotels under the brands Pierre & Vacances, Maeva, Center Parcs, Sunparcs, and Adagio. The headquarters of the company is in France and the core area of the company's activities is France, but it also has facilities in Belgium, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Italy and Spain. We would definitely look for this accommodation elsewhere now - it was wonderful!

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Our studio apartment was on the top floor of what appeared to be a quite new three storey building. It was very modern both in design and furnishings and scrupulously clean. We had a kitchenette with a 2 burner induction stove, a dishwasher and a Nepresso machine, and could just buy the coffee pods at the front desk. As well as a sleek bathroom and great lighting, we also had a big balcony equipped with a table and chairs. And the building had an indoor pool and optional breakfast in a lovely room downstairs - or you could pick up croissants and baguettes at the reception desk. Pretty impressive - and we paid 43E per night.

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So we had a very comfortable stay in Colmar for 4 nights. It was a nice change to not have to eat in a restaurant and we were a 5 minute walk from the old town and the beautiful 1845 covered market where we could pick up all kinds of goodies. We made good use of our Nepresso machine in the morning and the boulangerie delivery downstairs. I would have been happy there for a very long time!

Colmar is on the Alsatian Wine Route and considers itself to be the "capital of Alsatian wine". Having developed a taste for Riesling on the Mosel, I was happy to continue my wine tasting and since our trip was almost at an end & I thought I could get them home with careful packing, I bought some of the long-stemmed, delicate green wine glasses it is usually served in. Jim bought a beer glass.

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Between 1673 and 1945, Colmar bounced back and forth between France and Germany and was even taken by the Swedish army in 1632 and held for two years during the Thirty Yeats War. Amazingly, the beautifully preserved old town was mostly spared from damage during the French Revolution and the subsequent wars.

We were only a 5 minute walk away from the old town and even after all the lovely sights of our past 5 weeks, I was quite entranced by its beauty. Eight centuries of French and German architecture are on display in Colmar.

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The cobbled streets in the former butchers', tanners' and fishmongers' quarter, are divided by canals of the river Lauch, earning it the nickname "la Petite Venise". The canal bridges and many of the buildings are covered with flowers and there seems to be a penchant for attaching all kinds of decorative items including pots and pans to the exteriors of the colourful old shops and restaurants.

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Rustic flat bottomed boats with silent electric motors take tourists up and down the canals, at a rate far less than in la grande Venise! We had a morning coffee at the market sitting in the sun on a little deck built over the canal with the boats floating by. There are plenty of tourists in Colmar and high season would probably be uncomfortable in the narrow streets.

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Colmar was the birthplace of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi (1834–1904), the sculptor who created the original Statue of Liberty and there are many fountains and monuments by him and a Museé Bartholdi.

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There are several other museums too including one with a famous alterpiece, the Isenheim Altarpiece. It was sculpted and painted by, respectively, the Germans Niclaus of Haguenau and Matthias Grünewald in 1512–1516. It is Grünewald's largest work, and is regarded as his masterpiece. It was painted for the Monastery of St. Anthony in Isenheim near Colmar, which specialized in hospital work. The Antonine monks of the monastery were noted for their care of plague sufferers as well as their treatment of skin diseases, such as ergotism. The image of the crucified Christ is pitted with plague-type sores, showing patients that Jesus understood and shared their afflictions.

The weather was too perfect to drive us into any museums. We just enjoyed walking the streets, sitting in the cafes and even exploring the elegant residential neighbourhood our accommodation was in, including a lovely part with a vintage carousel.

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On our last full day, went for the most idealic 35 km return day cycle along the Canal de Colmar. Built in 1864, the canal connects with the Rhine and you could continue on the Rhine Cycle Route (EuroVelo 15) south-east to Andermatt in Switzerland or north-west to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Or to Strasbourg in between. The portion we cycled, like most canal routes took us through a rural landscape glowing with the colours of fall.

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It was a Sunday and our plan was to have lunch at a little restaurant situated that Jim had seen the day before on an exploratory cycle while I went shopping in town. However, when we got to this utterly charming eatery, we discovered all the tables were already reserved for the one seating. However, the owner invited us to have coffee, which was some compensation and we soaked up all the atmosphere of this totally delightful place, all outdoor tables in a tangled garden setting, right on a small dis-used excluse (lock) of the canal, with the sound of the falling water a musical accompaniment to the whole experience.

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After an equally effortless and beautiful cycle back to town, we stopped at a funny little cafe we had seen before. It had a simple menu, a selection of tartes and salad so we opted for an inside table to take in the quaint art nouveau decor and collection of enamel coffee pots and old posters. In addition to a young man, a very elderly woman in black scurried back and forth, taking orders and delivering tartes. It was very busy and our simple meal somehow took several hours but we were entertained the whole time watching both customers and staff.

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We finally gave up on the prospect of ever being asked if we wanted dessert or coffee, paid our bill and departed. We stopped at a boulangerie on an adjacent street to see if there was anything we wanted to take home, parking our bikes right outside the door and doing a quick 1/2 minute scan of the delectables. Returning to our bikes without having succumbed to temptation, we noticed that the basket on the back of my bike was pulled to one side. Then I noticed that my purse that I had unthinkingly left in the basket was missing. We scurried back to the restaurant to make sure I hadn't left it there. Main non - it was gone!

This was the only time in all our trips we have ever had anything stolen and we have often locked up our bikes with all our panniers in place for short periods of time. It was a good lesson in not getting too casual. Although it was an upsetting experience, it could have been so much worse. The thief got little - my credit card, bank card and drivers' licence, all cancelable and replaceable and no money; at lunch I had given what was leftover from my shopping trip the day before to Jim so we knew how many Euros we had left. The loss of our credit card would have been problematic any earlier in our trip and we will now travel with a second different credit card kept apart from our primary card, just in case. As it was, we could still use Jim's bank card to get any needed cash. I was most regretful about the loss of my great travel purse that has accompanied me on all those trips. Hope the thief enjoys it!

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Posted by Jenniferklm 21:42 Comments (2)

Koblenz and Beyond

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Well, you haven't heard the last of us yet. Having arrived in Koblenz, we decided to switch our allegiance from our sadly departed (or subsumed) friend, the Mosel, to the Rhine, and carry on up the Rhine from Koblenz for an additional excursion, then cycle back to the city to stay for a few days. Our book seductively stated. "What better way to finish your ride than a visit to the most scenic part of one of the world's greatest rivers?" The Rhine Gorge offers "spectacular scenery, as the Rhine forges its way between the Hunsrück and Taunus mountain ranges....A series of pretty riverside towns are passed.....The gorge sides are covered by vineyards and forest, with numerous romantic castles standing sentinel above." How could we decline that invitation?

This is the Upper Middle Rhine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From Koblenz to Bingen, this 67 km stretch, 5% of the 1,320 km long Rhine is considered the most beautiful part of the river between the Alps and the North Sea. This section attracted 19th C poets and painters who made the romanticism of the Rhine known worldwide. The famous artist, William Turner painted here in 1817.

So, having taken some photos to mark our arrival, we said Auf Wiedersehen to Koblenz for the time being and continued cycling along the Rhine promenade through an expansive waterfront park skirting the city, past the quite beautiful Residenzschloss palace and the statue of Empress Augusta and some elegant houses to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) where we booked our tickets from Koblenz to Colmar, France a few days hence. We had been to nearby Strasbourg on a previous trip and had heard great things about Colmar and its' "la petite Venice" old town, and as we had time, that would be another excursion for a few days including a day cycle along the Canal de Colmar, then a train from there to Lyon for a last hurrah and then our flight home. Who knows when we will come this way again?

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Koblenz Train Station

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And so we left Koblenz behind the same day we arrived, cycling through more forest park, through the city's outskirts on the Rhine flood dyke, past a big brewery, and below Schloss Stolzenfels, apparently the best preserved of all Rhine castles. Schloss Marksburg came into view on the other side of the river. The hills were alive with castles!

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Next were the red and white half-timbered buildings of the village of Spay. This is the halfway point along the navigable Rhine between Basel, Switzerland up the river ahead of us and Rotterdam, the Netherlands behind us, 414 km each way.

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Boppard, 25 km from Koblenz and on the Rhine would be our stop for the night. We wanted a room with river view and checked out several, finally finding one, Rhinehotel Lilie, Italian/German fusion, with fresh, modern rooms and windows we could fling open to the river. Our last two hotels had been a bit worn and dreary. Lots of flood markers here too. The town is not much above the river.

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We liked Boppard. It would probably be crazy with tourists earlier in the season; there were lots of hotels and restaurants and piers for river cruise boats but it was pleasantly subdued when we were there. It has one main square ringed by lovely old buildings with outdoor cafes and a long main street along the river lined with hotels and another paralleling that with eateries and shops.

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It was a clear chilly night but we had a drink and then dinner outside at a little restaurant in the square that thoughtfully had provided blankets. Cosy! I love sleeping on the river, sometimes getting up to lean out the window in the middle of the night, hearing the chug of a barge and watching its lights fade away down the river. Unlike car traffic, the sound of boats on the water is so timeless and comforting.

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Surprisingly, Boppard has a museum dedicated to the 19th C cabinet maker, Michael Thonet, known for his bentwood furniture designs. He was born there, the son of a master tanner. I was familiar with his name and iconic chairs but knew little more about him. He pioneered bending strong, light wood into graceful shapes using steam and designed novel, elegant, lightweight, durable, comfortable furniture, a complete departure from the heavy, carved pieces of his time.

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His 1859 chair Nr. 14, better known as the coffee shop chair no. 14, is still called the "chair of chairs", with some 50 million produced and still in production today. No. 14 could be disassembled into a few components which could be produced in work-sharing processes, and then exported in simple space-saving packages: 36 disassembled chairs could fit into a one cubic meter box. What does that remind you of? Chair no. 14 made Thonet a global company that still exists today and whose designs can be found in all interior design magazines. The cafe we frequented in Koblenz was furnished with these chairs. See them in the background of the photo below.

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Sadly, the museum was closed the day we were in Boppard. The poster below advertised what looked like another really interesting exhibit. I would have liked it get that poster Donna!

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The next day, still heading up the river from Boppard, there were more castles, the most interesting being two that are known as the Brothers' Castles, Sterrenberg and Liebenstein. The story goes that the lord of Sterrenberg who had two sons, took in his niece Angela when her father died. Both brothers fancied Angela. The older quiet one, Henry kept his feelings to himself while the other, Conrad, wooed and won Angela's promise of marriage. Before they could wed, the Crusaders passed by, recruiting volunteers to fight the Turks. Off went Conrad, leaving meek Henry to watch over his intended. Years past, and the old lord built a second castle, Liebenstein, on an adjacent hill to Sterrenberg, as a home for his younger son and niece when they married. Eventually Conrad returned but guess what? He had married a Grecian princess while away and brought her back home. Henry was furious and challenged Conrad to a duel. Angela begged them not to fight over her and went off to a nunnery. Henry had a wall built between the two castles so he could not see Conrad. After a cold winter in Germany, the Grecian princess fled south with a passing knight and grief-stricken Conrad threw himself from the battlements and died. And there the castles stand forever more with a high wall between them, a monument to family dysfunction.

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Our end point for this extra excursion was the town of St. Goar and 2 km beyond, Loreley Rock. This is a sheer promontory jutting out from the opposite side of the Rhine from our cycle path that forces the river to make a particularly sharp and narrow turn. The cliffs are 120 m high and there are underwater rocks and treacherous currents, leaving only a narrow navigable passage for the many large commercial barges and tour boats that go through here on their way to Rotterdam or Basel and places in between. Unfortunately, there is an RV park on the river bank that makes it hard to get a good photo,

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Turner painted a picture of the Lorelay that was included on an info kiosk here.

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The legend of the Lorelay tells the tale of a fair maiden who swore vengeance upon all river travellers, after being spurned by her fisherman boyfriend. She sits upon the cliff singing alluring songs to attract them to the rocks and their doom. There is a bronze statue of her. Another case of blaming women.

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It was fascinating to watch huge barges, some also pushing an equally long barge, and cruise ships proceed through these dangerous waters. A friend who just finished a river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest would have been through here.

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The cycle path continues to Basel and it was tempting to follow it although we have cycled on the Rhine on a previous trip and found much of it quite industrialized. In retrospect, we could have continued past the Lorelay and on to Bingnen, the next town and the end of the Middle Rhine UNESCO Heritage Site for more stunning Rhine vineyard/castle scenery and taken a train from there, had we already spent time in Koblenz, but we reversed course and cycled the 25 km back to Koblenz, the official end of our cycle trip, with a stop for kaffee and kuchen in St Goar to mark our visit to the Middle Rhine. Any excuse will do.

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Back in Koblenz, we found our way into the old town and a promising looking small hotel. Hotel Weinstube turned out to be a family run business with a very traditional restaurant on the ground floor that seemed to start filling up with elderly locals drinking beer from about 3:00 in the afternoon and staying on for dinner. We enjoyed our stay there although the wifi was iffy and worked best in the bathroom.

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Koblenz is an old but not big town (population 112,000) , originally founded by the Romans in 8 BC. It was the seat of the archbishop and prince-elector of Trier from 1018 until 1794 when the French captured the Rhineland and deposed the archbishop. It was repeatedly fought over and occupied by the French and became part of Prussia after the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The electoral palace, the Residenzschloss was home to the crown prince, future emporer, and oversize equestrian (remember the statue from my last post?), Wilhelm I and his wife Augusta between 1850 and 1858.

The Prussians heavily fortified Koblenz, particularly the great Ehrenbreitstein citadel on the hill across from the city that we saw as we cycled in. It was the German military's headquarters during WW I. WW II resulted in the almost complete destruction of the Altstadt (old town) but it has been rebuilt, like Dresden, to its original design. Koblenz is currently the headquarters of the German army forces command, although we saw little evidence of a military presence while we were there.

The gargantuan bronze statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I on a horse at the confluence was erected in 1897 to mark the incorporation of the former French Moselle territory into Germany, a symbol of German unification after 1871. It was demolished by US artillery in 1945 but the pieces were kept and eventually recast to celebrate German re-unification in 1993.

Around it are the flags of all the German Länder (states of the German republic) with those for the former East German states added after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It's not a graceful or beautiful monument, blackened and looming, imposed upon the river landscape as if to emphasize how man can dominate even two great rivers merging.

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We stayed two nights in Koblenz, just exploring the streets and walking along the river. Koblenz has also suffered from flooding as these photos of the area around the Kaiser statue show.

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We continued our program of comprehensive kuchen sampling just to keep our strength up.

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We also found a great café/restaurant with the tricky name of Kaffeewirtschaft, in business since 1911 but reinvented in a modern way, where I enjoyed one last bowl of goulash soup and glass of Mosel Riesling before departing for France and Colmar.

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Consequently, you will be getting a few more blog posts. I write the blog mainly for myself as a way to remember what we did as I find the days get blurry. I picture myself as an old lady maybe using virtual reality technology, to experience these great trips all over again. Thanks for following along - I have really appreciated getting comments from some of you.

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Posted by Jenniferklm 19:54 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

Mission Moselle/Mosel Accomplished

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Winnigen, 25 km away from Moselkern would be our last stop before Koblenz.

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More castles guarded this route, near and far. One unusual sight we encountered on this stage was a former palace called Schloss von der Leyen, that we actually cycled right through. It is the only waterside castle on the Mosel, the home of the von der Leyan family who provided a number of 18th C prince-archbishops of Trier. It's a lovely structure but one can image the prince-archbishops not being very happy with the fact that the road and railway now run right through this palace. Hardly defensible! Whose great modern idea was that?

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Yet another big turn of the river brought us to Winnegan, another sweet little wine town. Just before town, the landscape featured another modern contribution to the landscape, a Moseltalbrücke, a slender but towering motorway bridge that spans the entire gorge.

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Winnigan's old town streets have archways of grape vines and the grape motif is everywhere, including beautiful flag holders with golden grape bunches attached to buildings. It hosts Germany's longest running wine festival in August and there were still lots of tractors rumbling up and down the streets on their way to or from the vineyards.

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It also has the regrettable distinction of being regarded as a centre for witchcraft in the 17th C and sentencing 21 people to death between 1630 and 1661 for being witches and wizards. The fountain in the main square features a woman on a broom.

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It's now a very pretty small village with quite a few eating options. We were again looking for a change from German food so were happy to find a little Italian restaurant that seemed very popular with the locals and had a good feed of pasta.

As we headed off the next day, it was hard to grasp that after all those cycle kilometres - 820 to be exact - and all the intoxicatingly beautiful landscapes we had been through that we would finally be saying farewell to our constant companion these past 4 weeks, the Moselle/Mosel River. We greeted it at its source, a mere trickle from an underground spring, at the Col de Bussang in the Vosges Mountains of France, followed it through the Alsace into Luxembourg and then into Germany in the Hunsbrük Mountains and would now see it merge with the mighty Rhine in Koblenz, Germany. The dreamy, misty, languid Mosel would be no more.

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It wasn't a long ride from Winnigen before we reached the outskirts of Koblenz and passed under several of the bridges spanning the Mosel as it moves towards its rendezvous with the Rhine.

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Soon we could see the huge Ehrenbreitstein fortress on the hill across from the city on the east bank of the Rhine, with its gondola cablecars going back and forth across the Rhine, located strategically at the point where the two rivers meet. And almost too suddenly we had arrived - in a huge triangular square projecting out into the confluence, Deutsches Eck (German Corner) and dominated by the overwhelmingly massive bronze statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I, the world's largest equestrian monument. Also impressive were giant-sized elaborate stone bollards for boats along the water. Koblenz, from the Latin "confluentes" (at the merging of rivers) - we made it!

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Posted by Jenniferklm 06:44 Archived in Germany Comments (7)

The Eltz Castle Biathlon

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Instead of walking cross-country to Cochem as we did yesterday, we continued on our cycle path down the Mosel from Beilstein after a sad farewell to our uber-comfortable accommodation. We were the only ones breakfasting in grand splendour that morning; as it was Saturday, I guess everyone else was sleeping in.

Jim had seen a good bike store in Cochem the day before and decided to pay them a visit to see if he could get new tires, something he realized he should have done before we left on our trip. Imagine my delight when we cycled over the bridge into town, to see that there was a big brochant market (antiques, collectibles, stuff) that morning. So I spent a blissful hour or so wandering from booth to booth while Jim dealt successfully with his tires.

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Newly shoed, his pony was raring to go and we headed out for Moselkern, about a 30 km ride from Beilstein. This part of the river continues to offer castle after castle on the tops of the Hunsrück and Eifel Mountains, some ruins, some restored. Castles are a bit like cathedrals - you can see too many - and they usually require a significant climb on the bikes. But we had decided to stay in Moselkern in order to visit Burg Eltz or Eltz Castle, recommended by our book as possibly the most beautiful castle in the Mosel, and by Rick Steves as one of his favorite castles in Europe. This 850 year old castle has remained in the same family, the Lords and Counts of Eltz for more than thirty generations.

Surprisingly, Moselkern was tiny and there was not a lot of accommodation but we checked into a funny little Gästhaus on the main street, definitely a step down from our Beilstein digs but adequate. Not much else was happening in Moselkern, so we decided to head for the castle that afternoon.

It was an interesting hike, first through the seemingly deserted village and then into the forest on a narrow muddy trail along a briskly flowing stream, the Eltz River, a small tributary of the Mosel. There were few others on the trail, the odd hiker heading back to the village or the car park we passed. On we went, the trail meandering through the trees, gradually gaining altitude but no massive castle in sight, not even a hint of a tower or wall. It seemed like a very low-key approach to a major edifice.

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When we seriously began to wonder if this really was the right path about 5 km along, the sharp spires of Eltz castle suddenly appeared above the trees. It was an impressive sight. It has countless towers, battlements, windows and rooflines above its sheer walls. It looked very defendable. We seemed to be at the back door as it were, perhaps the service entrance and climbed up several long flights of worn stone stairs to reach the main castle gates where there was a small cafe.

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Not only has this castle remained in the same family since its construction but it has sustained no damage over centuries of various wars, so the original architecture and interiors from over 8 centuries are virtually untouched. Apparently, the Eltz family was very good at strategically aligning itself with whoever was in power and so protecting their assets. Sounds very modern.

To see most of the castle you must join a tour and fortunately there was an English one starting a short time after we arrived. In the meantime, we toured the Treasure Chamber with its various collections of ornate ancient guns, lethal-looking crossbows and miniature cannons; beautiful medieval goldsmiths' work and some gorgeous pieces of jewelry.

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At one time, the castle housed three different branches of the Eltz family in separate houses within the castle walls. Apparently this caused the castle to grow in height as various wings and courtyards and towers were added to create the complicated structure we see today.

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Led by a very articulate and knowledgable young guide, we were guided through the various room of one family's house - the sleeping areas, kitchen, armoury and knights' hall, the hunting room decorated with original wall paintings, huge tapestries, suits of armour and very old furniture. He even pointed out that the castle had toilets early on, a lot of them, 20 or more, flushed by rain water. It might have been more sanitary than some castles but I can't imagine it was any warmer in spite of enormous fireplaces and some tiled stoves. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take photographs on the tour but it really was worthwhile.

Having seen our Mosel castle, we walked the 5 km back to our hotel, hoping desperately there would be a restaurant open for dinner in this little burg. We didn't think our Gästhaus facilities looked too promising. We were dubious about the one other hotel being open but it was and while initially the only customers in a large dining room with a large menu, we had a surprisingly good dinner. Schnitzel and spätzle seemed just the thing to round out our 30 km cycle, 10 km hike Mosel biathlon. There could even have been a little crossbow competition thrown in.

Posted by Jenniferklm 14:38 Archived in Germany Comments (3)

Over Hill and Dale

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We had one full day in lovely Beilstein and asked our hotel host for a hike suggestion. She recommended taking the small ferry that pottered back and forth across the river all day, practically below our terrace, to the other side and then walking up into the vineyards, over the hill and down into another town up the river called Cochem, about a 10 km walk. This route was possible as the Mosel made one of it's great bends right at our location. She said we could get one of the day tour boats back in the mid-afternoon so it would just be a one-way walk.

So we carbo-loaded at the frühstück buffet (the Germans and the French) don't subscribe to "wheat-belly"), hopped on the ferry for 1.5 E each and together with two other passengers made a slow and sideways passage over to the other side.

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From there we followed the zigzag vineyards roads as they climbed towards the mixed forest of fall colour on the top of the hill. The views from on high from that side of the river were as gorgeous as from the other side.

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We only saw one other older couple who were taking shelter from the brief bout of rain in a little hut by the road. As we moved out of the vineyards and then out of the forest, we found ourselves on a dirt road through a farm and the signage pointing us to Cochem got a bit confusing. We ran into the other couple again when we had to backtrack to a crossroads and they pointed us in the right direction, their destination too.

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Faster walkers, we got some distance ahead of them, stopping to converse with the odd horse and donkey.

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We were suddenly aware of a woman shouting, and saw our fellow hiker gesturing to us to come her way. She had seen us take a wrong turn and had taken the trouble to go some distance out of her way to set us straight. We ended up walking the rest of the way with the two of them, chatting mainly with her as she had some English, while her husband had none. They were Germans who came to vacation in that area every year and had hiked this route many times.

I think our route would have taken us the rest of the way by road; theirs took us on a trail that was remarkably like hiking down Mt Galiano.

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We finally emerged from the woods on the river again and made our way into Cochem.

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By this time we had covered all sorts of topics of conversation. Their 30's something daughter was completing an advanced degree in an art-related field and had worked with Christo on his 2016 "Floating Piers" installation on Lake Iseo in northern Italy. By the end of the event, 1.2 million people "walked on water", polyethylene blocks covered with fabric. We had lunch with them in Cochem; a very pleasant and interesting encounter with strangers. Coincidentally, she was wearing a sweatshirt made from an unusual fabric identical to the pants I was wearing!

After lunch we said our goodbyes, and Jim and I had a wander around Cochem. It has a large and well-preserved old town - that was packed with tourists. According to our book, it is the most popular tourist destination on the Mosel. There is a big castle on the hill above the town. The original structure was built in 1020 and in the 14th C, a heavy chain was used to block the river and collect tolls from passing traders in order to expand the castle and fortify the town. The castle was blown up in 1689 during a brief period of French occupation and remained a ruin until 1866 when a rich industrialist bought it and rebuilt it in a Gothic revival style as his summer residence, and it is now open to the public.

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We skipped the castle and were glad to board our boat heading back up the river to little Beilstein. The trip lasted about an hour and was really pleasant. Not very many people were aboard and we sat on the open top deck in the sun watching the vineyards slide by.

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We also got to go through a large lock. From the shore, we've watched lots of boats and barges go through locks so it was interesting to have the experience ourselves. It was amazingly how fast the water rushed in and elevated our large boat to the next level of the river.

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Back in Beilstein, we had dinner at a busy small restaurant near our hotel and were asked if we minded sharing our table with "other Americans" who came in after us. They were from Edmonton and we let our server know we were all in fact, Canadians. Ha!

Posted by Jenniferklm 07:51 Archived in Germany Comments (5)

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