from Koblenz - Mosel and Lahn valleys - July 2006
In 2002 we had cycled along the route of the Rhine from Basle to
Ijmuiden and had passed through Koblenz on the way. While we had
enjoyed the trip, for one reason or another it did not figure as one of
our all time great holidays. First it rained most days, then the
scenery along the Rhine is very variable, with some stretches heavily
industrialised, while, to be honest, most of the larger German towns
that we passed through were prosperous and clean, but not particularly
inspiring. Having discussed this with other cyclists we were told
that a better ride was along the course of the Mosel, (German
spelling!) with nicer
scenery, more interesting towns etc. This turned out to be the case,
the Mosel cycle ride is most enjoyable with wall to wall vineyards and
a series of attractive little settlements and small towns that are a
delight to explore.
Koblenz is situated on the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers,
the Mosel being a tributary of the Rhine that flows in from the west. A
few miles south of Koblenz the Lahn also joins the Rhine, this time
flowing from the east. On this holiday we cycled up the Mosel
valley from Koblenz to Trier and then back again. We then cycled from
Koblenz to Nassau and back, this time using the valley of the Lahn. In
addition to this we also spent some time cycling around Amsterdam.
I estimate that the distance from Koblenz to Trier is about 120
miles while the return trip from Koblenz to Nassau was only 34 miles.
The furthest we cycled in any one day was just under 60 miles, and that
was a round trip based on Amsterdam, in Germany we averaged about 40
miles a day.
For our Rhine trip we made use of the European Bike
Express which featured a handy drop off point just outside
Basle. In this case we had to get to Koblenz. The DFDS ferry
crossing from North Shields to Ijmuiden provided a relatively painless,
if relatively expensive, crossing of the North Sea with the bikes and
then there is an excellent network of cycle tracks to take you to
Amsterdam. We had arranged economical overnight accommodation in
Amsterdam via the Dutch Cycling organisation "Vrienden op de Fiets" -
The friends of the bikes.
I had tried to book train tickets from Amsterdam to Koblenz over the
Internet and could have done so for the two persons involved, but the
Net based booking system does not allow you to book bikes. It does
allow you to check which trains take bikes, and has stern warnings that
bike places have to be reserved, but you can't actually reserve them!
All of this meant that we had to buy our tickets at Amsterdam railway
Along with a string of other foreigners I queued at the ticket office
in the station concourse only to be told that you had to buy
international tickets at the International Ticket Office on platform 2.
This time you queue in order to obtain a numbered ticket, rather like
those you get at your supermarket's deli counter, and are advised that
it will take about an hour before your number will be displayed. It
took rather more than an hour, but the system is fair and there is no
queue jumping. All of the ticket clerks appeared to speak excellent
English and the lady who sold me my tickets was both helpful and
patient. Getting bike reservations proved to be a long winded affair,
as the bike carriages are well subscribed and we ended up having to get
an earlier set of trains than we had ideally wanted. You can't take
the fast ICE trains incidentally.
The tickets were not cheap. The ticket clerk observed that I could have
bought a bike for the price and also told me that, had I booked a week
in advance, I would have been eligible for a sizeable discount. I did
tell her that I had tried to buy tickets over the Internet; she
said that the bikes were the problem!
The total bill for the two return tickets came to 354 Euros, of which
Euros were for bike booking fees. I reflected that our family of four
were all flying from the UK to Geneva for less later in the year! We
noted that quite a few people were travelling with folding bikes (which
can be carried like ordinary luggage and don't need special booking),
and with fares like this I can understand why.
Going there we had two scheduled changes of train, at Enschede and
Munster. However in addition to the humping of the bikes and luggage at
those places, we also had to change from one train to another at a
different station, while, due to the late running of the Munster to
Koblenz train it was diverted to a different platform and we had to
move our kit over (down the stairs, through the underpass and up
another set of stairs), all rather hard work and a tad stressful!
If you are young and fit this kind of thing is no problem, but when you
are getting on it becomes a problem. Coming back was not too bad, with
only one change, at Rheine.
German railway stations normally show a diagram of the trains
indicating where the different carriages are and their positions
relative to marked zones on the platforms. Thus it is possible to
position yourself and bike in the region where the bike carriage will
Travelling during the first and second weeks of July we had no
difficulty in finding suitable accommodation. Apparently the high
season occurs later in the year when the grapes are picked and there
are wine festivals along the valley. We chose to stay in places
describing themselves as a "GastHaus" which ranged from a bed and
breakfast arrangement in someone's home to a small hotel with a
restaurant. It might have been coincidental, but the two places we
booked through the Tourist Information offices were the most expensive
on the trip. Otherwise accommodation was obtained by knocking on the
of buildings displaying a Gasthaus sign.. None that we tried were
Prices were very reasonable compared to British hotels and B&B
accommodation. The most we paid to stay in someone's home was 28 Euros
per person, while the least was 35 Euros for the two of us. The one
small hotel we stayed in, located in Koblenz, was more expensive at 70
Euros for the room. All were spotless and with good ensuite facilities.
The typical breakfast comprised a semi hard boiled egg with some ham
and cheese and a selection of breads, all washed down with black coffee
- not my first choice but perfectly acceptable. One lady provided us
with chilled sparking water on our arrival, followed by a bowl of fresh
strawberries once we were settled in. For breakfast there was, in
addition to the normal fare, fresh raspberries - very nice. The
characteristic host was a plump late middle aged jovial lady, who
could not speak English. The hotel that we stayed in provided
a wider choice for breakfast including cereals, fruit juice and
Following a generous breakfast you can get by with fruit at
lunchtime possibly reinforced by a ration of coffee and delicious
cake in mid afternoon (Kaffee und Kuchen) which can be had from
about 3.5 Euros.
Evening meals we took in small bars/restaurants where the prices were
very reasonable. Every time we ate we were served with a salad before
the main course arrived. Generally the main course appeared before you
had a chance to eat the salad, so I was never sure as to whether they
were intended to be eaten simultaneously or consecutively! We
found the meals to be too salty for our tastes (ours is a salt free
generally over seasoned. The first few mouthfuls are delicious, but
then the condiments kick in and you begin to struggle. Portions are
generous and normally include roast potatoes or chips. On one occasion
such was the amount served that we saved half of our meat for the
One of the joys of travelling through this region is the chance to
sample the local wines. The principal grape variety is Riesling and the
wines are full bodied. The dry (trocken) wine is not dry by the
standards of say Muscadet, but lightly chilled it is truly nectar. If
you are feeling indulgent you might sample the semi dry (halb
trocken); indeed sample them all! The local beer (Bitburger) is
good - "Bitte ein Bit" - we saw more Germans drinking beer than wine.
a couple of occasions we encountered local festivals with live music
being played and stalls selling food, wine and beer. Despite being over
fed the previous evening it was very hard to resist the food on offer
and we found it completely impossible to resist a single glass of that
beautiful chilled wine. Having been introduced to wine many moons ago
by some very debatable brews such as Blue Nun, I had a rather negative
view of the German product, but this trip has been a most enjoyable
education. Had we not been cycling we would have brought back a case or
two, and we have taken to scouring the supermarket shelves for some
While on the subject of drink I should observe that the day time
temperature throughout our visit hovered in the mid thirties and with
heat like that you have to take on board a lot of liquid when cycling.
Fizzy water is perhaps the most refreshing, but we also got through
substantial quantities of orange or apple juice which is both cheap and
very palatable. I would recommend against keeping fruit juice in your
water bottles however, it starts to ferment and it is very difficult to
clean the bottles - a sure fire route to an upset stomach.
The converse of all of this drinking is that you do need to find
toilets on your travels. I don't think that many of the small towns
that we passed through had a free public bog, and only the larger
places had a staffed toilet that charged between 30 and 50 cents. You
are therefore driven to patronising small cafes or hiding behind trees
whilst on the road.
You are not allowed to cycle on the main roads in Germany, but there is
generally a safer alternative provided. This can be a separate path
some distance from the road, or a clearly marked path along the side of
the road. The path surfaces are of a variable quality but are generally
OK, certainly acceptable for a touring bike. Tree roots are sometimes a
problem, as are uneven sets of block paving. There must be a motorway
that by-passes the valley as the on-road sections that we encountered
were not busy, although we preferred the off road paths that were
completely devoid of motorised traffic.
Signage is good along the Mosel valley, but we noticed that while
distances were displayed at the Koblenz end of the route they were not
as we approached Trier. Uniquely on the German part of this holiday we
did not get lost!
The Mosel is a navigable waterway, a river that has been tamed and
turned into a canal. There is a distinct flow to the Rhine, but at this
time of year the
Mosel seeps down via a series of locks and there is no perceptible
current. The cycle path is therefore largely flat with only local
perturbations where locks are encountered or where it
uncharacteristically climbs the side of the valley away from the river.
It is therefore easy cycling country, but despite this we found it
markedly easier cycling down the valley rather than up. Perhaps the
wind was also a factor. There are many cyclists making this
journey, but the majority start at Trier and come down the slope. We
went both ways!
There are companies offering package deals including the carriage of
your luggage between stops, a ferry trip on the Mosel, all
accommodation, wine tasting and one evening meal, and they typically
start in Trier and end in Koblenz. We found that independent booking
was a good deal cheaper, but if we could have hired bikes as a part of
the deal and flown in, rather than having to use trains and the North
Sea ferry, the overall cost of the package solution might have been
From The Trip
For this holiday I decided to go photographically retro and I used my
aged Pentax SLR along with a collection of manual focus lenses. The
film used was consumer grade Fuji Sensia, chosen because it is
relatively insensitive to extremes of temperature, even if it is not
the best Fuji film in terms of image quality. I have tried using
and shoot digital camera when cycling but have been frustrated by the
control, particularly with regard to focusing, while my digital SLR and
one modern professional quality zoom lens weighs more and takes up more
space than all of my Pentax kit, a major consideration while cycling.
I enjoyed the photography, and, overall, am pleased with the outcome,
but the results are not as technically good as those that could have
been had using more modern equipment or better quality film. For
the technically minded the lenses used were a 28 mm f3.5 SMC M, a 50 mm
f1.4 SMC M and a 75-150 f4 SMC M zoom.
We start with a view of Koblenz across the Rhine, the major part of the
city is on the other bank. Koblenz is a typical large German Rhine
city, affluent, a good shopping centre, and with some nice buildings
but not particularly beautiful, in my opinion.
However as you travel up the Mosel valley things take a turn for the
better, here is a view of Cochen castle.
followed by a shot in the town square
travelling up the valley you are left in no doubt that this is wine
producing country, as this shot near Winninger demonstrates. How do
they cultivate those vines??
Supporters of Sunderland AFC will be heartened to see that there is a
branch of their supporters' association based in these parts!!
While at Punderich there is this attractive small group of buildings
dating abck to 1621.
We were treated to a performance of a song by an
elderly local gent who came out and gave a solo performance, not the
sort of thing that you encounter on the UK coast to coast route! The
next shot shows a detail from the house above.
Several of the vineyards have installed large sun dials, such as this
one near to Krov
There are hardly any hills on the route but we did encounter this one
Bernkastel is one of the larger towns on the route
and I could not resist a close up of those window boxes
Some villages appear perched on hillsides, as in this shot of Kesten
while some nestle down in the valley, for example Enkirch
Beilstein is a gem of a little town with plenty of photographic
We stayed overnight at the little town of Mehring, with its simple but
attractive white painted church
before pushing on to the ancient Roman city of Trier where we were
entertained by this splendid band
I am fascinated by doors in photography and Trier has a beauty
while this darker image shows the door knocker from the Dom or cathedral
Thus endeth the jaunt to Trier and the Mosel Valley.
The next expedition was from Koblenz heading east to Nassau. The
first large settlement to be encountered is Bad Ems, a long established
spa town whose visitors' book boasts the names of many famous heads of
state, composers and writers. One such person was the Russian Czar
Alexander II who oversaw the construction of the Russian church in the
latter years of the 19th century.
While there is also a very attractive alternative place of worship. The
oval window is not due to perspective correction, it was made that way!
I believe that this used to be the casino but is now a restaurant and
You can continue further up the Lahn, but we terminated our journey in
Nassau where we enjoyed a Kaffee und Kuchen. The final
photo shows the Rathaus or town hall.
All images (c) B. Attewell 2006
For details of more cycle tours that I have documented, please look here