A Bicycle Ride Along the Saar and Moselle Rivers
The Saar is interesting and picturesque from the German/French border
until it conflates with the Mosel River near Konz. The Mosel is one of the best
cycle tours in Germany not only because the path is flat and nearly 100% away from
heavy traffic but also because of the number of lodgings and beautiful little villages.
There are also many wine tasting rooms along the Mosel.
June 2003. This is a 6-day, 162-mile,
261-kilometer bicycle tour along the Saar River to Konz, then along the Mosel (sometimes
called the Moselle in English) to Koblenz. With both the Saar and the Mosel rivers,
we are combining two bike tours into one on this travelogue. (The bikeline
guidebooks that we recommend split the two tours and in the guidebooks they both
start in France but we start at the border.) Our tour starts in Saarbrücken and
ends at the Deutsches Eck in Koblenz. The path is nearly 100% paved and
while you will encounter a few hills along the Saar, the Mosel is nearly flat. We
found of an information sign on the Mosel just east of Trier; the elevation of the
Mosel at the French border is 140.5 meters and at Koblenz the elevation is 60 meters
– an 80.5 meter drop or 264 feet. That is a less than 2 feet per mile. That’s not
flat but it is close enough for government work and for cyclist too.
We are riding this tour with our Seattle friends, Eckhard and Vivi-Anne. This
is our fourth tour with them. They are quite compatible with our own riding style,
which is to start out slow and then taper off. And, we all try to avoid hills. We
also like to stop and smell the roses – on this trip, roses means the fruit of the
vine. Fast riders can probably do this ride in much less time – but then think of
all the "roses" they will miss.
The German state of Saarland is depicted
in outline on the green Saar River cycle path signs. Starting out, the path is well
signed. Signage gets a little hit and miss beyond Saarlouis until you get to Konz
but you will not get lost. There after, you will be following normal looking signs
with an “M” for Mosel graphic along with the name of a city or location. If it is
a green sign without the "M" graphic it is not the designated cycle path
but rather simply a bicycle sign directing you to a bicycle friendly street or path.
So watch for the "M."
There are a plethora of Zimmer
and other accommodations along the Saar. The Mosel is even more tourist friendly
with many Zimmer and hotels. Some of the Zimmer are actually part
of Weinguts or vintners. As a choice, we like Zimmer (advertised
as Zimmer Frei) but there are also Gasthäuser (Guest Houses),
Pensionen (pensions or bed and breakfasts), Jugendherbergen (Youth
Hostels), and hotels. For a complete discussion of the different types of accommodations
and tips on reservations, see my Overnight
Accommodations page. The average cost per night for the Zimmer will
be about €40 for two people for one night but they vary between €30 and €60 (price
is no indication of quality - it only reflects competition).
Of the 17 or so tours in Germany, the
Saar-Mosel is my favorite. We didn’t spend much time in Saarbrücken so we cannot
say too much about it but we did enjoy Mettlach and Saarlouis on the Saar. Trier
on the Mosel is an absolute must see. Additionally on the Mosel several villages
are made famous by tourist posters and wine labels such as Piesport, Bernkastel-Kues,
Kröv, Traben-Trarbach, Zell, Beilstein, Burg Eltz at Moselkern, and Koblenz.
On this trip we used
bikeline’s Mosel-Radweg, von Metz an den Rhein, 1:50,000. We did not have
bikeline’s Saar guidebook but we did have a free map of the bike route
we picked up in the tourist office across from the Bahnhof in Saarbrücken.
It only covered the Saar to Saarlouis; but do not worry, you will find the Mosel
as long as you do not climb any mountain ranges.
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Day 1: Saarbrücken to Dreisbach
Today starts with another neat
experience. Although the mileage for today starts at the Bahnhof at Saarbrücken,
we arrived there in the late afternoon and rode to our first overnight stop at the
Private Zimmer of Frau Hilde Freund, in Völklingen. Her home is a little hard to
find. Once you get into Völklingen from Saarbrücken, take the second bridge and
ride southwest (left). You will be across from the mothballed ironworks. (The Völklingen
Ironworks is one of the World Cultural Heritage Treasures so designated by the UNESCO
a part of the United Nations.) We had made reservations by mail from the states.
Frau Freund was so proud of having American visitors I think she had told the whole
village. She served a breakfast that is still unrivaled on our many bike tours.
And talk, she can talk the leg off a Baptist preacher. This is an older home, built
around 1900. The stair case is steeper than a cliff and extremely narrow. Our beds
are on the top floor, the shower is in the basement next to the root cellar. To
get to the shower, you have to walk past the kitchen where Frau Freund holds court
to anyone who is not walking real fast. Her address is: Frau Hilde Freund, Hostenbacher
Strasse 58, 66333 Völklingen - Wehrden 06898-26729 cost €30 for two people for one
night including breakfast. We recommend her to our fellow budget conscious riders.
Riding today is along mostly paved path with only a few minor hills (not counting
the 60 foot high hill up to the youth hostel in Dreisbach).
Saarbrücken Bahnhof. We stock
up on tourist information just across the street then we cross the river and start
riding toward Völklingen and Wehrden.
This village, the cultural capital of this micro-region, was designed and built
by the “Sun King” Louis XIV of France. This would be a nice place to overnight.
We enjoyed our precious night’s experience with Frau Freund, but Saarlouis would
be my second choice – especially if I were not budget conscious.
At Dreisbach, we leave the
path and climb the hill to the youth hostel. This Deutsche Jugendherberge
(www.djh.de) charges €21.80 per person per night. This is a newly renovated hostel
and everything is nice and shiny. The bathrooms are in the rooms so we do not have
to share as in some older hostels. This is Maxa and my first experience with youth
hostels. We tried once before in Bavaria but in that state, unlike the rest of Germany,
you have to be under 26 years of age to stay in a hostel. Both of us are members
of the OFBK Club (Over-Fifty-with-Bad-Knees Club) and we just could not convince
them to let us in (too old). In Dreisbach, we drop our panniers in the room and
ride the 4 miles into Mettlach. (I call riding without panniers riding naked bikes.
Mind you, this is different that riding bikes naked – which is a scary thought,
especially at my age. Wearing Spandex is pushing the esthetic envelope enough already.)
Mettlach is the home of porcelain manufacturer Villeroy and Boch. In addition
to dishes, they produce bathroom fixtures and beer steins. Actually, some of the
most expensive German beer steins are (or were) made here in Mettlach. If you find
an old one, you can expect to pay several hundred Euros for it. After doing some
window shopping, we decide not to buy any sets of dishes since we would have to
carry them for the next 6 days on our bike. And you thought my mother raised a dummy.
(She may have, actually, but it was not me.)
Day 2: Dreisbach to Trier - Pfalzel
take in a lot of history today. The path is in great condition but there are a few
short stretches of gravel. Unfortunately, there are a few hills too; a couple of
them I would class as steep pitches meaning that they are short but steep. We start
riding along the beautiful Saar Schleife. Schleife in German means an oxbow or a
place where the river almost doubles back upon itself. The photograph on the right
is by permission from Saarschleife Touristik
The trail in Dreisbach at the
bottom of the hill leading to the youth hostel.
Here is the trailhead for
the footpath up to the lookout point. From there one can see the beautiful view
of the Saar Schleife. Many of the travel brochures of this area feature a photograph
of this view. The hike, at a leisurely pace will take about an hour.
This is Mettlach. There is
a Seventh Century monastery here along the bike path.
We join the Mosel Bike Path
(Radweg) in Konz.
Trier is one of the oldest
communities in Northern Europe. First established by Romans in 16 BCE and became
the capital of the Roman Empire West. Six different Roman Emperors held court here
and in the Third Century, the population surged to as many as 80,000. Early Fourth
Century the Romans abandoned it to those darn barbarian Germanic tribes.
The Germans learned to behave better because in the Middle Ages Trier continued
to be an important power center for both church and government. During those years
it was difficult to tell the two institutions apart. (Some say it is still difficult.)
We visit Porta Nigra or Black Gate. This portion of the old town wall was
built without mortar by the Romans out of black basalt stone. It dates from the
First Century. The Cathedral here is the oldest in all of Germany and was built
in the Fourth Century. This town reminds me of Rome itself. There are bits and pieces
of Roman ruins and castles scattered all over the downtown area. The parks are neat
places many sporting some of the bits and pieces but covered with grass and flowers.
The parks are at the same time both romantic and Romantic (giggle). The locals are
lounging, reading books, eating lunch, hugging, conversing, etc.
stop for the night right on the bike path at the private Zimmer of Family Oberhoffer,
Kloster Str. 12, 54293 Trier-Pfalzel, Telephone 0651-69370. The two rooms are clean
and nice with a bath in hall which is clean as well. The cost is €41 for double
occupancy (the cost for two people to spend one night). This town dates from the
year 350 CE and was originally just a palace and only later became a village. It
was walled during the Middle Ages when one had to build walls against the many invaders
that were afoot at the time. I note that we are across the river from the confluence
with the Ruwer River. Wine from this region is famous and is labeled as “Mosel-Saar-Ruwer.”
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Day 3: Trier-Pfalzel to Bernkastel-Wehlen
Today is flat except for a couple
gentle rises. I think there was one gravel stretch but it is probably paved by the
time you read this. The river is lazy, and so are we. What with sightseeing and
wine tasting, we only ride 35 miles. But 35 beautiful miles they are.
Crossing the Mosel on this
auto bridge we begin to follow the old Roman highway that was the Roman supply route
from the Rhine to Trier. We see several Roman antique mile markers. This road, of
course, was also used to transport the wine the Romans cultivated here. So, the
wine industry of the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer is 2,000 years old and still going strong.
For more on German wine click the link.
After a gentle 40-foot climb
and a nice drop into Köwcrich, we stop for our first Mosel Wein Probe or wine tasting.
established prior to 371 CE it is the oldest wine town in Germany. There are also
the ruins of a Roman fort here and a stone carving of a wine cargo boat.
This is Piesport, the home
of Piesporter Goldtröpfchen, a popular German wine sold in America and I presume
world wide. We stop and check out the Kelter Anlage which is a wine storage and
manufacturing facility that was used during the Sixth Century. Some of the pipes
were lined with lead. That would have made the wine slightly poisonous. Not that
the alcohol does not make it poisonous enough, they add lead to it too?
This is Bernkastel-Kues. The
double name comes from the community of Bernkastel on the right bank and Kues on
the left bank. Bernkastel is first mentioned in the Seventh Century. Before entering,
we passed the ruins of Landshut Castle, which was completed in 1277. This little
village is so darling it cannot be adequately described in words. It is simultaneously
medieval and modern. The people are friendly and the streets and buildings are photogenic
- offering unending opportunities to amateur photographers like me.
At the bridge to Wehlen,
we leave the trail and cross into Wehlen in search of another Zimmer for the evening.
We are in luck. First of all we find a sign outside a vintner, second, we discover
that our hostess is an American expatriate from Arkansas. She and her German husband
run a wine business in addition to working regular jobs. Family Bäumler operates
the Gasthaus Halfenhof, which seems to have several rooms. They charge €27 per person.
This establishment is not listed in the guide but it is just south of the bridge
right next to the river.
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Day 4: Bernkastel-Wehlen to Neef
It is all paved today and mostly
flat but a little up and down about 10 or 20 feet now and then. Today is hot and
we only ride a short distance just because we … well, because we can.
I start my cyclometer on the bike
path at the bridge.
We ride past the bridge between
Kindel and Kinheim. Eckhard tells me that he and Vivi-Anne have visited Kröv just
across the river. It is a neat little community that welcomes tourists. Tour guides
explain the several legends behind the name of their world famous Kröver Nacktarsch
wine. One legend has it that the name, which in English literally means naked ass,
stems from monks of the Wolf monastery who planted new vines on a hillside that
resembled an unclothed derriere. The monks called the hill the nackige Arsch
or naked hindside. The name had a certain panache and therefore marketing appeal.
That and the quality of the wine made this winegrowing region famous.
We stop for the night in
Neef and stay in a Zimmer that also happens to be a Weingut (Vintner)
Eward and Frau Kreuter, Gästezimmer, Eigener Weinbau - Versand, Fährstrasse 9 telephone
06542-21589 in the center of town. Our host and hostess sold us two bottles of their
own wine for €2.80. The Lieblich (sweet) was quite good but the Halbtrocken
(half-dry) was only fair.
Day 5: Neef to Moselkern
It is all paved again today. No
hills worth mentioning; although we did share the road with automobiles for a few
kilometers. The highpoint today was our tour of Burg Eltz. Rick Steves (host of
PBS’s Travels in Europe, author of Europe Through the Back Door,
and www.ricksteves.com ) says that Burg
Eltz is his favorite castle in Germany and we can see why. The castle is situated
4 kilometers from Moselkern and while you can ride some of the way, you will hike
the last 1.5 kilometers on a footpath. We just chained our bikes to a tree while
we hiked up and took the 30-minute tour.
I start the odometer on the bike
path in Neef.
Just past the ruins of Burg
Metternich in Beilstein. Picture postcard beautiful and topped with a former convent
of Carmelita nuns. Inside the church you will find great paintings depicting the
Twelve Stations of Christ. Also note the Black Madonna sculpture, which is the most
prized possession of the parish. The construction of this church began in 1691.
Note: The ferry at Klotten only runs on the weekends.
We learn about the ferry
schedule after having crossed the bridge to the left bank at Cochem because we can
see the ferry depicted in the guidebook. Ferries are romantic perhaps, but bridges
are free and that’s better for members of the OFWBK Club. Then we learn that if
we had not taken the bridge, we would have been stranded like the people we see
on the other bank waiting at the ferry dock. What they will soon realize, is the
wait will be until Saturday morning and today is Friday. At least, they won’t starve
to death waiting. More than likely, they will just pedal back to the closest bridge.
In Moselkern, we leave the
path in search of a place to stay the night. We want to take time to visit Burg
Eltz. We also want to distance ourselves from the noisy, runs-all-night, train tracks.
So we ride up Eltztal toward the castle. We decide upon Gästehaus Grolig,
Eltztal 27, Moselkern 56254, telephone 02672-1567. This former restaurant has a
large comfortable common room and the guest rooms are quite nice. We think the owner
is a little lax with her housework though. We find the floor a little gritty and
the dusting needs attention. Still, we are satisfied. The price is €37 double occupancy
(the cost for two people to spend one night) for her largest room. We ate at Hotel
Anker Pitt, Moselstr 15-16, in town and the service was wonderful, food was great,
and the wine was affordable, a nice Spätlese for €3.60.
Day 6: Moselkern to Koblenz
Today is short because the end
of the ride at Deutsches Eck (German’s Corner (?) that is a literal but poor translation)
is only 21.5 miles down river. The path while paved the whole way does have some
minor hills. About half of the path is on or next to streets. Still, it is picturesque.
The valley narrows before Koblenz and you will notice some very steep vineyards
again. We are planning to continue down the Rhine but if you are stopping here,
try to work in a visit to Festung Ehrenbreitstein. A Festung is a fortress. We’ve
never been but we understand that not only can one rent rooms there, but it is also
a good museum. It is certainly one of the largest castle-type buildings in Germany.
Back on the path at Moselkern,
I start the odometer.
After crossing the Mosel
at mile 18 (29.0 km), we ride along the bike path to the Deutsches Eck.
The word means German Corner.
This is the end of our Saar-Mosel bike tour. The land under the Deutsches
Eck was originally gifted to the Order of German Knights of the Rhine by the
Archbishop of Trier in 1216. But since 1897 it was used to memorialize Kaiser Wilhelm
I. In March, 1945, during WWII, it was destroyed by artillery bombardment. After
the war, a giant German flag was displayed until 1990 when a copy of the original
statue of Wilhelm I riding on his steed was reinstalled and the monument was rededicated
to the reunification of East and West Germany. It is a place of national pride and
significance familiar to all German school children.
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