travel germany's rhine & moselle regions
wine, welcome & engines on song
With Some Of The World's Greatest Performance Cars At His Disposal, Jonathan Crouch Tried Them Over Some Of The World's Greatest Roads in The Rhine and Moselle Regions of Germany. And Took Time To Appreciate One Of The Most Beautiful - And Accessible - Parts Of Middle Europe
Over two hundred years ago, the first visitors to the Rhine and Moselle valleys in South Western Germany were British. Itinerant painters who moved from village to village trying to translate the breathtaking landscape onto canvas. And still the English come.
Today, the draw is still the area's beauty but it's a beauty that for many visitors is but a backdrop to the real reason for their journey. Here, in the valleys and around the rolling hills of the Eifel region, lie some of the greatest driving roads in the world nestling around the greatest driving road in the world - the Nurburgring Nordschliefe.
You and I would call this 20 kilometre rolla coaster road a racetrack but in fact it's classified as a public toll road. A toll road that draws people from all over Europe to pit their skills against it. A short, sanitised ultra-modern racetrack sits next to this legendary course, the venue these days for Formula One Grand Prix races since the good bergers of the area decided that the Nordschliefe course was too dangerous for the finest drivers in the world but quite acceptable for use by the general public.
Hotels are everywhere around both circuits of course but those fortunate enough to have more time (or the convenient use of a helicopter) tend to ignore them and stay further afield in one of the villages scattered up and down the nearby Rhine and Moselle valleys. As we did on this visit, bringing five of the world's greatest Performance cars for a spell around roads that would do them justice.
We chose two bases for our visit, Cochem in the banks of the Moselle, and the pretty little town of Braubach, whose castle guards one of the Northernmost sections of the Rhine, just south of the city of Koblenz where the two great rivers meet. In Cochem, we based ourselves at the 'Moselromantik' Hotel Panorama on the Klostergartenstrasse, chosen for its view out over the town and the river. After a five hour cross-continental journey from the Channel ports, you need somewhere reasonably priced but with enough luxury to enable you to stretch out and rest. We'd chosen Stena Line's Harwich to Hook of Holland overnight service which makes the whole journey a lot more relaxed. Great food helps too, so we appreciated Chef Ismajl Aruqaj's efforts in the Sehler Mark restaurant.
Stroll down into Cochem itself and history is all around you, with buildings dating back as far as 866, these including the Castle which dominates the town. Across at the Rhine, an hour or so away, the town of Braubach 10kms south of Koblenz, is also dominated by a castle, this one nearly as old, Marksburg having been as defensive stronghold since the 11th century. Surrounded by vineyards and roses and made up of narrow streets and medieval buildings, Braubach sits peacefully watching the tourist traffic creep up and down the Rhine.
For our base, we chose the Landgasthof Zum Weissen Schwanen (the 'White Swan'), a cosy 17th Century half-timbered inn and 14th century watermill, run by its owners, the Kunz family, situated in the old town on the Brunnenstrasse. There's a feeling here akin to an English country inn - but the kind you imagine you'd like but don't often find. Mrs Koenig-Kunz bustles out to meet you at reception while Chef and patron Erich Kunz busies himself in an award-winning restaurant that sits next to a pretty little garden.
A tour round Marksburg Castle is easily arranged and surprisingly interesting, even for non-historyphobes, since this is the only castle on the Rhine which has never been destroyed and therefore the only one at which you can really appreciate what living in medieval times was really like. The beds for example, are tiny, not because the people were necessarily small but because they slept sitting up. If you lay down apparently, people might assume you were dead.
From Braubach, it's but a short drive to the shops and sites of Koblenz to the north but we'd recommend turning the other way and, as we did, heading south down the Rhine to the pretty towns of Boppard, Oberwesel and Bacharach, each with their own castles, histories and acres upon acres of neatly planted vineyards. Too soon, it was time to turn west and point our convoy of cars towards the Nurburgring, leaving behind the peace but not the memories gained from one of Middle Europe's most beautiful regions.
If you're a driving enthusiast, a visit to the Nurburgring Nordschliefe is a must and if you do go, take an extra day or two and visit properly, taking in the Rhine and the Moselle. The combination of peace and performance is a heady one.
TRAVELLING IN GERMANY'S RHINE & MOSELLE REGIONS
- FACTS AT A GLANCE
HOW TO GET THERE?: Stenaline - Harwich-Hook of Holland
WHO TO HELP PLAN YOUR TRIP?: General Rhineland area info - www.rlp-info.de or email: firstname.lastname@example.org) / [for Braubach, try www.stadt-braubach.de or use StadtBraubach@t-online.de] / [for Cochem & Moselle area, try www.cochem.de or email@example.com ]
WHERE TO STAY?: [suggestions based on this itinerary] Hotel Panorama, Klostergartenstrasse 40-44, D-56812 COCHEM/Mosel (0049-2671-914140) / Landgasthof Zum Weissen Schwanen, Brunnenstrasse 4, BRAUBACH 56338 (0049-2627-9820) /