I ‘heart’ the Moselle Paul Bloomfield, Guest blogger | Posted: 22 June 2016
Self guided walking holidays in Germany
Self guided walking holidays in Germany
Self guided walking holidays in Germany

Real ale fan, Paul Bloomfield, discovers a hitherto unknown love for white wine on a wander along the Moselle Valley...

Generally speaking, I’m an ale kind of chap. A good long walk in the hills, a cosy pub, a comfy bench and a pint – that’s my recipe for a perfect day. If there’s a ruined castle somewhere along the way, a slap-up dinner and a homely bedroom at the end, so much the better.

The Moselsteig, then, was a bit of a game-changer. Not because this 365km-long waymarked trail is short on beer – there’s a frothing glass at every corner, should you wish for it. And the rest those ingredients it has in spades – ruined castles on nearly every river bend, tasty regional fare and welcoming hotels and guesthouses. The strange thing was that in this West German borderland I developed a hitherto undiscovered taste for white wine.

It shouldn’t have been much of a surprise. The Moselle Valley is wall-to-wall vineyards – and those walls are mostly medieval stone encircling charming towns and villages in which every other house bears a sign advertising a Weingut (winery). The boon for walkers isn’t just that the vintages are good – and on my week-long peregrination the wines I tasted, mostly Rieslings, were uniformly delicious – but also that they’re relatively low in alcohol. With levels often as low as 8%, pausing for a refreshing tipple at lunchtime doesn’t unduly impact on the afternoon’s walking. Whether trocken (dry), feinherb (medium-sweet) or süß (sweet), they were all chilled and fruity. No wonder they slipped down a treat on a sunny afternoon.

The wine isn’t the only taste sensation along the Moselsteig. My girlfriend and I began our boots-and-bottles odyssey in regional capital Trier, founded by the Romans in the 1st century BC and bearing the marks of those origins. Not only does this lively city still boast numerous Roman remains – from the massive, blackened gate called Porta Nigra to bath complexes, Constantine’s throne room and an amphitheatre that once seated 20,000 spectators – but there’s a bit of a Mediterranean vibe to the dining. Plentiful gelato stands add to this impression, as do the many alfresco café and restaurant terraces.

When we visited in late spring, market stalls and menus were dominated by two seasonal ingredients: white asparagus and strawberries. A bowl of creamy asparagus soup and a glass of Maibowle – a wine punch topped with chopped strawberries – were the perfect bookends to a hearty pre-walk dinner on our first evening.

Related Holidays & Further Information

Meanders of the Moselle Valley

In this quiet corner of Germany, the serpentine River Moselle winds its way through vine-terraced hills and historic villages. Here, you can enjoy splendid walking and fabulous views, delve into Germany’s Roman past and savour excellent wine-tasting opportunities.

More about our walking holiday in the Moselle Valley >

Catching the train to Ürzig brought us into the Moselle’s winemaking heartland. And that’s not just a figure of speech. The many family run, traditional artisan winemakers here train the vines into cute heart shapes, mostly to increase the sunshine they harness but also as an emblem of the region – hearts are everywhere. And you’d need a strong ticker to manage vineyards here: the slopes are vertiginous, some as steep as 68%, so hand-tending the vines is quite a task.

Unsurprisingly, then, we built up both a thirst and an appetite on our six days walking. The Inntravel itinerary stitches together some of the finest stretches of the Moselsteig, using occasional trains and scenic boat rides to link the various centres. Each day’s walk invariably began with a climb through those sheer vineyards, but often delved into verdant mixed woodland – watch for red squirrels – emerging now and again to viewpoints, many with wonderfully shady Schutzhütte (shelters), perfect for picnics.

And nearly every day ended with a castle. They varied from the delightfully dilapidated – the romantic ruin of Grevenburg above Traben-Trarbach being the most notable, for its views and bustling cafe as much as the monument itself – to the imaginatively renovated.

The Reichsburg in Cochem looks from the outside every bit the lair of a vampire, with its looming turrets and battlements. Like so many others, it dates from early medieval times but was destroyed a few centuries ago; many were victims of French troops during one of the succession of border disputes. Cochem’s talismanic bastion was bought by a wealthy industrialist and restored according to original plans, with added medieval whimsy; today it’s a magical place to explore on one of the regular guided tours (in German, but with English translations available).

So our week passed in a cycle of lazy breakfasts, sunny walks past vineyards and Roman remains and vistas of the meandering river, followed by hearty meals, plentiful wine and charming guesthouses. We greedily drank in the knowledge imparted by Karl Derkum during our wine tasting at Ürzig. We sipped Spätlese (sweetish ‘late wine’) on the sunny terrace at stylish Hotel Trabener Hof, before heading to the gorgeously art nouveau bar at Hotel Bellevue for a kir Moselle – Sekt (Germany bubbly) tinted with red vineyard peach liqueur. And we wandered the impossibly cute streets of Beilstein, its medieval half-timbered houses squeezed between the inevitable ruined castle and massive Carmelite church – before settling in for a feast of asparagus and schnitzel and strawberries.

I ‘heart’ the Moselle, indeed.

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