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Mosel Valley

View from the railway bridge near Bullay

Alken and Thurant Castle

The Mosel valley is at least as beautiful and romantic as the much wider known Middle Rhine Gorge, and its landscape views are even lovelier. It has its share of castles, too. The river is less wide and more winding. In most places it has room for meadows and orchards on the inner side of the bends, while the outer slopes are steep and rocky.

In general, the Mosel it is quieter because it lacks the major railway lines the Rhine valley has on both banks, and there is only one semi-busy highway instead of two highly busy ones.

Traffic on the river, however, is dense. For freight barges, the Mosel is an international waterway that connects the industrial areas of Luxembourg and Lorraine with the Rhine and the North Sea ports.

River panorama at Cochem

Ripening Riesling grapes

The Mosel is one of Germany’s finest and most traditional wine regions. The Romans brought and planted the first vines almost 2000 years ago. Its beauty was recognized and appreciated already in those times. In the 4th century A. D. the Roman poet Ausonius wrote a long, rhymed praise of the river, entitled “Mosella”.


Remnants of ancient Roman wine presses have been excavated in different locations along the river. Two of them are situated near Ürzig along the B53. The one downstream underneath the Erdener Treppchen vineyard has been reconstructed (sorry for the bad photo). A second one can be found further upstream towards Machern monastery, covered by a red tile roof. They are free to access any time.

Ever since, wines have been cultivated on the steep slopes of the valley. Wine regions are always wealthy. The many beautiful wine towns and villages on the river banks give testimony.

Erdener Prälat

The hills mostly consist of slate rock, which absorbs the warmth of the sun and provides minerals in abundance. Southward slopes have been terraced to make room for vineyards. Two of the most spectacular are probably Erdener Treppchen and Erderner Prälat between Ürzig and Erden. Winemaking is a backbreaking job here. Many vineyards are too steep to use machinery. Everything must be done by hand.

Imagine working up there, in any kind of weather. The winemaker has to approach every single vine 19 times a year. After seeing these landscapes you'll appreciate the wine in your glass even more.

Erdener Treppchen

The modern means of transport in those vineyards are little monorack cars that run on a single rail. With these, they can transport heavy stuff up and down the steep hills much more easily. Such a thing transports approximately one vintner and two buckets and a sack of tools.


Vines for lovers

Mosel Cruises


A cruise is the nicest way to experience the landscape of the Mosel valley with its steep vineyards, castles, small towns and villages. Best with a glass of local wine in your hand, which the bar on board will happily provide.

Two large companies are running the cruise boats in the Middle Mosel valley. Check carefully which boat you need and from whom you buy your tickets. Both companies have their separate ticket booths and landings at each stop, and the staff of one company does not have the slightest idea about what the other company is doing. Tickets are only valid on that particular company's boats. There are also a few smaller ones with just one vessel that do local cruises.

In the river lock at Zeltingen

The boats stop at more or less all the villages along the river. They do not cover the whole length of the river in one go, though. Each of them does a certain stretch, for example Trier to Bernkastel-Kues, Bernkastel-Kues to Traben-Trarbach, Traben-Trarbach to Cochem, Cochem to Koblenz. The timetables usually allow round trips with an hour or two stay at the destination before the boat sets out for the return journey. For longer distances than these legs you’d have to change to another boat.

The Mosel is a regulated river. Barrages block the current at regular intervals. Boats and barges must pass through locks. This is part of the adventure, but can be time-consuming and cause delays if there is heavy traffic. Better not plan too tight schedules.


The Mosel is a rather busy waterway. Freight carriers transport coal, containers and other goods to the Saarland and further along the canals into France. Traffic jams in front of the locks happen. Some of these freighters are so big that they hardly seem to fit into the basin. They do, though, because both the length of the ships and the size of the lock basins are normed.

Several barrages regulate the Mosel and prevent - or are supposed to prevent - floodings. The part far left contains turbines to produce electricity.
The small ramp next to it allows the fish to pass the barrage. The local herons know very well that fishing is worthwhile at that spot, we've observed them several times. The lock for the ships is on the right. Since the existing lock is rather narrow a new, larger one is being built.
This photo was taken from my hotel room in Zeltingen. I'm glad I caught the rainbow! Is there a pot of gold at the end of the river lock?

Landscape near Plünderich, snapshot from the train



Bernkastel-Kues consists, like many towns and villages along the Mosel, of two originally separate settlements on the both ends of a bridge. Since our visit was a half-day trip during a family meeting, I only had time for a quick stroll through Bernkastel.

Bernkastel is a typical wine town of the Mosel region, located on the slopes of a steep hill. Wineries, pubs and cafes invite to rest and taste the local wine.

The narrow streets with their old, partly half-timbered houses look like an illustration in a picture book, with cobblestone lanes and half-timbered houses. For my German taste there is even a bit too much 19th century romantic in the appearance of the place...


Note the pretty details on the old merchant houses. Producing wine has always meant wealth, trading wine even more. When tourism started in the 19th century, the era of romanticism, the landscapes, castles, towns and villages along the Mosel met exactly what visitors were looking for. With a little refurbishment and some 19th century addition Bernkastel became a picture-book “romantic” town that still meets the taste of many guests.


The town looks extremely busy on my photos. We happened to visit on the weekend when the town's wine festival took place which attracted countless visitors. Bernkastel is celebrating its Weinfest the first weekend in September. Activities consist mostly of eating and drinking (wine, what else?) in the streets and listening to bands. Food and drink stalls continue all over town and along the river bank.

Normally the place won't be that crowded. Still, Bernkastel-Kues is one of the larger, more famous and more touristy places along the Mosel.

All of these villages and towns have a wine festival at least once a year. There is something going on somewhere every weekend between April and October…




The two neighbouring wine villages of Zeltingen and Rachtig form one municipality today. Their history is particular: Zeltingen and Rachtig were property of the Archbishop of Cologne till 1806, while more or less the whole surroundings belonged to the Archbishop of Trier.

River promenade, the village and the steep vineyards of “Zeltinger Sonnenuhr” in the background

The promenade along the river bank offers a nice little walk. The sealed path is part of the bike trail that leads along the whole Mosel valley.

The manor on the river front belonged to a noble family. The baroque house with its dominating facade was built in the 1760’s.

Houses in market square

Behind the river front, some romantic spots are waiting to be discovered, with half-timbered houses and a number of 19th century houses, wineries and villas.

People in Zeltingen have put up funny figures in front of their houses. The tired hiker with his satchel is resting on a bench in front of a winery in Uferallee. The winemaker is looking out from a porch a block further down the road. There are more of these figures also in the back streets, like the chemist having a lunch-break sandwich in front of the pharmacy (unfortunately I didn't take a photo of that one).


A footpath through the vineyards begins behind the church at the upper end of the cemetery. The path is easy to walk except the last bit up to the ruin which is steep and narrow and will be slippery in wet conditions - no high heels please. It leads to the ruins of a castle on the hillside.

Castle Rosenburg aka Kunibertsburg once secured the exclave of Zeltingen and Rachtig, the two villages that belonged to the Archbishop of Cologne. Not much is left of the castle. The view of the valley, however, is worth the climb.

Landscape views from the castle ruin




Ürzig is one of those many, many wine villages along the Mosel valley, situated between Zeltingen and Erden, halfway between Bernkastel-Kues and Traben-Trarbach. It is not one of the well known romantic tourist places, but it is the producer of top-class wines. The main vineyard, which elevates above the village like an amphitheatre, is named “Ürziger Würzgarten”, herb garden.

The vineyards rise above the village in the river bend like an amphitheatre. The steep slopes of the valley catch the sunlight and its warmth.
The wines that grow here are whites, mostly Riesling, dry or semi-dry, fresh and fruity. Quality and taste differ a lot, according to the skills (or lack thereof) of the respective winemaker.


On the slope above the church you'll notice a walled area among the vineyards where different plants grow. This is the real “Würzgarten”, a garden of herbs. Different types of herbs are grown there which were used during the centuries, both in the kitchen and for medicinal purposes. The vineyard was named after it. In late spring the different shades of yellow are especially beautiful.


Visitors to Ürzig will notice this beautiful building near the Eastern end of the village. This is the Mönchhof, home to Ürzig's best winery: Robert Eymael and Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben. These two wineries were united by heritage but still operate under two different names. The winery is, according to my father, first league among the wineries of the whole Mosel.

The Mönchhof does not do paid 'tourist tastings' for passers-by, and they do not have a shop with regular opening hours. The do, however, free tastings for clients who want to buy wine there. An appointment should be made before visiting.

Zum Wohl!

Dad had arranged a tasting for us. Their wines are indeed fan-tas-tic.

We were horrendously lucky: Just the day before they had done a tasting with two renowned wine critics, to whom they had offered their very finest and dearest Beerenauslesen and Trockenbeerenauslesen from their treasure chamber. The bottles were open and still half full, and the leftovers would spoil soon… so they let us taste these extraordinary drops.

Summer morning on the Mosel near Ürzig




Zell is another of many romantic little towns between the river and the steep vineyards of the Mosel valley. The old town invites for a stroll, a stop in one of the many cafes and restaurants, and wine tasting in one or more of the wineries. Zell's river front has got a nice promenade walk along the bank of the Mosel with flowerbeds and benches.


The vineyard sites along the Mosel often have funny names that refer to old local names, legends or whatever (the highlight is probably „Kröver Nacktarsch“, naked a** of Kröv, with an appropriate picture on the label, of course). The slope above Zell has been named „Schwarze Katz“, Black Cat - this is the name you'll find on the local wines. There are several wineries in town; quality may differ widely according to the talents of the resp. winemaker.


Zell's landmark is the Pulverturm, a remnant of the town's fortification which was mostly destroyed in 1689. The bell-shaped baroque roof was added after that. Situated among the vineyards above the old town, the tower overlooks the valley - quite romantic, isn't it?

The town palace was built in the 16th century as residence and office for the local administration, the civil servants of the Archbishop of Trier. Nowadays the renaissance building hosts an upscale hotel.


Someone, probably the inhabitant of a nearby house, has built a number of little houses out of used wine corks and put them up in a flower bed along the river promenade. Here is the church of the little cork village.


Arriving by cruise boat

Gate tower of the Mosel bridge

The double name indicates that Traben-Trarbach actually consists of two different towns: Traben on the left, Trarbach on the right bank of the river Mosel. In 1904 they united and have formed a single municipality since.

Our visit to Traben-Trarbach was short, just a 1.5 hour stopover on a boat cruise from Zeltingen. There wasn't enough time to explore the town thoroughly, especially since it was a family trip with elderly Grandma. Here is what I discovered during a quick walk round the town.

Nowadays a modern post-war bridge connects the two town halves. Only the bridge tower on the Trarbach side is left of the old bridge of 1898-99. The gate tower recalls medieval city gates. The two storeys above the gate host a wine tavern.


Attention cruise passengers: Boat landings are situated both on the Traben and on the Trarbach side of the river.

If you arrive on a river boat cruise, enquire a) on which side your boat will be landing and b), more important, whether the return cruise departs from the same landing or from the other side. Some cruise ships arrive in Traben, stay there for the intermission and then move over to Trarbach to begin their return journey from there.



Traben on the left river bank is the slightly smaller and slightly less touristy of the two halves. Some pretty hotels and cafes are situated right along the river promenade.

The centre of Traben has got a number of romantic hotels and cafes, some pretty lanes and a lot of 19th century architecture. This town obviously ghot rich in the era of the industrialization, when new technologies were introduced also in wine making, and when the wealthy bourgeoisie in the cities became good customers of the lcoal wineries.

Note the beautiful villas along the river bank further south.


Weißer Turm
Haus Boecking, the museum
Haus Kayser

Trarbach, situated on the right resp. southern Mosel bank, is the larger of the two parts. The ruin of Grevenburg castle on the hilltop above dominates the landscape.

Trarbach is located on the outward side of the river bank at the foot of steep hills, so there isn't much space. The town is squeezed onto the river bank and in the little side valley that opens here. The river promenade unfortunately has been turned into a parking lot, and the main Bundesstraße runs between the town and the Mosel. A walk along the river is more pleasant on the Traben side.

The old town of Trarbach has some romantic spots that are worth discovering. Most of the old buildings were destroyed in the fire of 1857, but some have survived.

The „white tower“ (Weißer Turm) is the only remaining tower of the town's fortification. Parts of the medieval town wall are preserved between church, cemetery and castle.

Mittelmoselmuseum, the museum of the central Mosel valley, shows the history of the region, a collection of Mosel paintings and drawings and 18th century furniture. The impressive baroque building, the Haus Böcking, was erected around 1760.

Haus Kayser is one of the prettiest rococo houses along the Mosel. It was built in 1762. The upper storey was added after the town fire of 1857 to substitute the former kerb roof.

Traben-Trarbach has quite a number of art nouveau/Jugendstil buildings. Anyone interested in that style will find a lot to discover here. One of the most striking is Kellerei Julius Kayser & Co. The distinctive art nouveau building is facing the river in Trarbach. It serves as cellar, storage and office of a winery that produces champagne. The building was designed by the architect Bruno Möhring from Berlin, who also planned the Mosel bridge, and erected in 1906-1907.

The beautiful Villa Breuker on the river bank was also designed by Bruno Möhring in 1905. Here the architect combines Jugendstil, neo-classicism and oriental elements.

Kellerei Kayser (left and centre) and Villa Breuker (right)



This here is by far not complete. It describes those few places that I have actually visited. There are many more wine towns and villages of similar beauty and value waiting to be explored and tasted.

Then there is of course Cochem, the most famous and most visited place on the Mosel. Due to the length this report already has grown to, Cochem will receive a separate entry…

Posted by Kathrin_E 12:36 Archived in Germany Tagged wine mosel rheinland-pfalz

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