Author: Jay Leavitt
Date of Trip: August 2004
Business trips are sometimes tedious, but as often as I travel to central Europe (a few times a year), it never gets boring. of course, the first trip my wife and I took to Germany was to pick up a new car, but that is another story.
In the summer of 2004, I traveled to the Ruhr Valley for the entire month of July. My wife came along, and we enjoyed apartment living, shopping and dining as the Europeans do. We did manage to take a long weekend and drive the 2 hours south to the Mosel Valley– the wine country of Germany.
Joan and I usually avoid the large cities of Europe and prefer the small towns and hamlets throughout the countryside. Although this requires a rental car, driving is never a problem, and there is no better way to get the feel for European life than on the backroads. So it is, from Dusseldorf to Koblenz– small towns and rural coutryside.
The Mosel is a serpentine river that flows west to east and joins the Rhine at Koblenz. During the middle ages, the river was a major commercial artery, and landlords became wealthy by levying tolls on the river shipping. Thus, the valley today is dotted with Castles in various stages of repair, restoration, or demise.
At the Cochem Bend, Schlosse Cochem is one better examples of a fully restored castle (mid 1800s restoration). Perched high above the river, the castle provides wonderful vistas of the riverside wineries below. The town itself is replete with wine tastings, river tours, restaurants and shops in an authentic Old German town.
Set back from the river is Burg Eltz, an thousand year old castle in original, unrestored condition that John Steeve calls the best Castle tour in Europe. This place is amazing. Laid siege by the King of Belgium for 5 years in the 13th century, catapult boulders are stacked in the courtyard. The armory is full of ancient pikes, spears, shields, and the like. Wonderfully historic – a must see.
Driving west along the river road, we finally arrived at Trier, the oldest city in Germany. The Capital of the Western Empire at the time of Valentinium, Trier boast some of the finest Roman ruins outside Italy, including the ancient gate (Porta Negro), Basillica, and Roman Baths.
And the final treat are the flea markets. Called Troedle or Flo Markt, the stuff you can find is amazing. Europeans don’t consider anything less than 200 years old as collectible, so you can find great deals on pottery, ceramics, and small desktop items that are hundreds of years old for pretty cheap. Vases, pickle jars, and onion pots are easily put in your luggage for the trip home.
So, set your sights on central Europe, hire a rental car, see the countryside, and taste the wine of the Mosel Valley. You won’t be disappointed.