Cycling The Mosel, Rhine and Main River Valleys
Great rivers have dominated the landscape of Europe since before humans wandered the earth. As time passed, these rivers became crucial for linking people together, providing both communication and goods to people who could not easily or safely travel from one place to another. This exhilarating bicycle adventure will hug the banks of three of these historic and vital rivers, the Main, the Rhine and the Mosel. Vineyards reaching for the sky, fairy-tale castles, well-preserved medieval villages, unspoiled riverbanks, meadows and forests – all these sights and more can be so perfectly viewed from the excellent vantage point of a bicycle seat. This bicycle route is mostly flat, almost entirely traffic free and on very scenic dedicated cycle paths.
The gently flowing Main River, one of Germany’s major rivers, guides the route out of Frankfurt. The trail weaves along its river banks, over an astonishing bridge built expressly for cyclists and walkers, to the town of Mainz and the meeting with the mighty Rhine River. Turning north, the path enters the spectacular Rhine gorge with its castle topped cliffs and mysterious Lorelei Rock. This is the Upper Middle Rhine, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Region, in part because of the dozens of castles and palaces that tower over the river in this area. Rheinfels Castle, once one of the mightiest of all German castles, offers its massive walls to climb, its dungeons and maze of subterranean tunnels to explore and its glimpses into the harsh realities of castle life during the 13th century.
The graceful town of Koblenz embraces the confluence of the rivers Mosel and Rhine at the deeply symbolic Deutsches Eck (German Corner), which commemorates the 19th century reunion of disparate German states. Here the trail swings west to wander beside the meandering Mosel. The cycling here is idyllic. Main roads are diverted elsewhere. Trains cut through hills rather than parallel the river. Towns and villages are generally uncrowded. Vineyards rise steeply on both sides of the river. This area is Germany’s most famous wine growing region and each village is very proud of its own unique and beloved wines. In fact, winemaking has been the only industry in this area for more than 2000 years. The excellent wines of each region are available in local restaurants and wine tasting is offered at many vineyards and wine cellars.
Like a string of pearls along the river, charming and remarkable, the towns of the Mosel will capture your heart and imagination. Near Moselkern, on a massive rock in a quiet valley, one of the best preserved and most beautiful castles of Germany towers over its domain. This is Burg Eltz, with its multiple tall, slender turrets, and it has remained in the hands of the family who built it for over 700 years. The town of Cochem languishes below majestic 19th century Reichsburg Castle. Beilstein, because of its location, had the unfortunate circumstance of being cut-off from the rest of the world for hundreds of years and so is the embodiment of authentic medieval Germany. Ediger-Eller brings a unique opportunity to experience a most extraordinary hike. Local townspeople, with the judicious use of ladders, ropes and stirrups, have made it possible to climb up through the steepest vineyards in Europe along the Klettersteig-Calmont and to experience a breathtaking panoramic view of the Mosel valley. Bremm offers the nostalgic ruins of an old monastery to explore. Bernkastel-Kues is bursting with unusual and interesting architecture, not to mention a stunning hike to nearby Landshut Castle. Neumagen is a fascinating place of Roman ruins, statues and reconstructed Roman villas.
A fitting finale to this incredible trip is the Roman city of Trier. Trier is Germany’s oldest city and is literally overflowing with Roman ruins and other classical sights including Roman baths and a Roman amphitheatre. More than two thousand years ago ancient Rome sent its armies north over the Alps to this lovely region of forests and rivers in its effort to expand its territories. Local residents of the time, the “Vandals”, kept the invaders from settling north of the Mosel and the Romans were forced to claimed only footholds along the river, beginning with Roman frontier encampments which flourished into settlements and finally matured into true Roman towns. Most awe-inspiring is the Porta Nigra or Black Gate, built by the Romans in 180 AD and still standing tall and imposing as the gateway into Trier today. It is said that in Trier a walk of 2000 paces reveals 2000 years of history.
German hospitality is among the finest in the world. Distances between villages are short and most towns offer a variety of mouth-watering bakeries, inexpensive sandwich shops, quaint outdoor cafes, traditional beer gardens and full-menued restaurants. Overnight accommodations offer the cyclist extremely comfortable rooms in buildings steeped in history. Breakfasts are of a hearty traditional German fare and include varieties of fresh breads and pastries, honey, jams and jellies, meat, cheese, eggs, fruit, cereals, yogurt, juices, milk, tea and coffee. Germany is famous for its beer and fine wines with each region offering its own unique varieties to be enjoyed. Weather in this region of Germany is very similar to that of Southern Ontario with July and August typically very warm and dry. The route planners of German cycling routes have done an excellent job of providing very enjoyable, mostly paved off-road cycling paths combined with some low traffic volume roads when necessary. This river based route is almost completely flat. All this makes for a very relaxed, carefree and varied sightseeing bicycle experience.
Day 7 | 43.5 km
Ride through Cochem to Beilstein,
Lunch in Beilstein then on to Ediger-Eller and Bremm
Optional route to the Roman graves in Nehren (5 km)
More than two thousand years ago, ancient Rome sent its armies over the Alps with the goal of seizing more territory for the Roman Empire. Germanic tribes in the area managed to block the Roman advance here at the Mosel and so Roman encampments sprouted up along the banks of the river. These encampments eventually matured into true Roman towns. This is the area that we are riding through, abounding with Roman bridges, roads, villas, public baths, theatres and, of course, ubiquitous Roman vineyards, the descendents of which line the riverbanks today.
From the hotel, find your way back to the Mosel cycle trail and continue southwest along the trail.
- 2.4 km – Village of Müden
- 5.8 km – Pass a bridge over the Mosel at Treis-Karden
- 7.6 km – Pass village of Pommhern
- 13 km – Observe castle ruins on the hill to the right
Above the small town of Klotten rest the ruins of Coraidelstein Castle, built in 960. The castle was expanded in 1338. It was never destroyed even though it was sold for demolition in 1830. The ruins can be reached via a path from Klotten.
- 13.6 km – Reach village of Klotten
Klotten was a prosperous town due to the slate that was quarried nearby and used for railroad construction.
- 15.7 km – Pass a bridge leading to Cond on the other side of the Mosel River
- 16.8 km – Pass a bridge to the other side of the Mosel at Cochem
If you desire, take some time to walk around the well-preserved old town of Cochem.
Cochem, like most towns in the area, grew up below its castle. It boasts medieval streets, a delightful riverfront promenade and a life-size chest game. The Sesselbahn chairlift culminates at a hilltop restaurant.
Reichsburg Castle is situated on a prominent hill above Cochem. This castle was built around the year 1000 by a family who miserably disputed its ownership for over 100 years. In 1151, King Konrad III occupied the castle and turned it into an imperial fiefdom, thus ending the disputes. In 1294 the castle was pledged to the Archbishop of Trier who blocked the river with a heavy chain and demanded tolls from passing ships. This money enabled him to expand the castle and improve the city’s defenses. In 1688, when the troops of French king, King Louis XIV, invaded the Rhine and Mosel area, Reichsburg Castle was occupied, then set on fire and blown up. The castle remained in ruins until 1868 when a Berlin businessman bought the grounds and the ruins. He rebuilt the castle in the then popular Neo-Gothic architectural style and used it as a family summer residence. Since 1978 the castle has been owned by the town of Cochem and is open to the public.
- 18.2 km – Pass village of Sehl
- 22.7 km – Reach a bridge to the other side of the Mosel at Bruttig-Fankel. TAKE THIS BRIDGE TO THE OTHER SIDE.
Stay on the southeast river bank cycle trail into Beilstein.
Stay along the riverbank trail even when the bike signs direct a left turn uphill to Beilstein.
- 27 km – Beilstein. This is a good place to have lunch and take some time to explore ancient nooks and crannies.
Beilstein once rivalled Cochem as the most powerful town on this part of the Mosel. It was ruled by various family lines for centuries until it was destroyed by French armies in 1688. Beilstein then existed under French rule until it was taken over by Prussia for a time. Today the small village has one of the best preserved historical appearances on the Mosel due to its lack of connection to the world. Roadways did not appear here until about 1900. Even railways did not reach this town. With the end of World War I leaving the area in the hands of France as a part of Alsace, plans for new railways were scuttled. The road along the east river bank was not built until 1963 leaving a small cable ferry as the only way to reach Beilstein. Historically the Mosel was a swift flowing river with difficult currents and occasional massive flooding - a daunting waterway to traverse. This current, with the help of an angled rudder, once powered the ferry. More recently, locks tamed the fury of the river and the ferry’s power now comes from a motor.
Use the Map of Beilstein for a quick tour as follows:.
Enter Beilstein along Bachstraße. Notice the blue plaques on the left that mark historical Hochwasser (high water). At the first corner (Weingasse), detour left to a picturesque corner. The synagogue dates from 1310 with its adjacent rabbi’s house. The medallion above the door shows the Star of David embedded in the double-headed eagle of the Holy Roman Empire symbolizing the emperors’ pledge to protect the Jews. One quarter of Beilstein’s inhabitants were once Jewish but the majority left for the US during the late 1800s. Continue along this lane uphill, heading right and then right again to reach the long flight of stairs marked Klostertreppe. These lead to the monastery.
Continue back to Bachstraße which continues straight inland through Beilstein, covering the brook that once flowed here. Bachstraße is lined with wine cellars where local vintners sell wine directly to their customers.
On the other side of Bachstraße is the Marktplatz (Market Square). This is where neighbouring farmers have for centuries sold their produce. The Zehnthaus (Tithe House) collected the tax, one tenth of their produce, which was paid to their landlord (either the church or the earl). Haus Lipmann was built in 1727 by the earl as a residence after the French destroyed his castle. Its main dining hall was once the Knights’ Hall. The stepped lane leads uphill, past the Zehnthaus, to the castle – follow signs for Burgruine Metternich.
Beilstein is a pilgrimage site. In Saint Joseph’s Monastery Church a statue of Spanish origin from the 12th or 13th century called the Miraculous Black Madonna is displayed. The Spaniards who came to take over Beilstein in 1620 arrived with this statue in their arms. She is attributed with the peaceful takeover and the ensuing years of friendly relations with Spaniards during a time of rampant violence. The organ in this church was built in Cologne in 1738.
Town fortifications were begun during the early 14th century and were originally tied in with the castle by five gates and towers. Some gates are still left standing. Remnants of the old fortifications run down to the Mosel waterfront.
The ruins of BURG METTERNICH tower over the village of Beilstein. This castle was built around 1200 and destroyed by the French in 1688. The keep is from the original building; the southwest tower is from the 14th century.
Burg Metternich is open to the public. The tower can be climbed for an excellent view. Cost is 2 euros per person.
If you exit through the rear turnstile and continue uphill 100 yards you will find the ultimate castle-riverbend-vineyards photo stop. Two hundred yards farther up the road is a Jewish cemetery. You can reach the cemetery without going through the castle by continuing up the road past the castle entrance and follow the signs for Jüdische Friedhof.
After lunch, continue along the Mosel cycle path
- 34 km – Seinheim
- 35 km – Just past Senheim, CROSS THE BRIDGE TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOSEL RIVER
(Optional route to Roman Graves – After crossing the bridge, find the cycling trail that travels under the bridge, follow it north, back along the river until it crosses the roadway; cross the road onto another cycle trail that leads to the graves - See info below)
Nehren is one of the oldest places in the Mosel area. It has official records dating back to the year 634. Burial chambers from the 3rd and 4th century are located high up in the vineyards above Nehren. They are a short walk away from the town along the Römergräber (Roman grave) cultural trail. Along the trail is an original Roman wine press stone and a small church dating from the 16th century. The original wall paintings in the two chambers are the best preserved vault paintings north of the Alps. The upper part of the monuments have been reconstructed.
- 43.5 km – Arrive in Bremm and our hotel for the night.
Ediger and Eller first joined together as early as 1794.
Ediger has retained much of its historic character and more than sixty of its houses date from the 16th and 17th centuries. There are also seven houses from the 18th century and many from the 19th century. Ediger is a good example of a typical river village found along the Mosel with a main street that runs parallel to the shoreline crossed by many short alleys that run to the river.
Since 1877 Eller has lain near the end of the 4.2 km long Kaiser-Wilhelm-Tunnel which begins in Cochem. This tunnel was Germany’s longest railway tunnel until 1987. The Ediger-Eller railway station stands not far from the tunnel portal.