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The Moselle is a charming river that runs through France, Luxembourg and Germany. Blogger Jessica de Korte traveled with the Magnifique III from Metz to Cochem and enjoyed plenty of beauty, wine and friendly encounters:

“Come on, we’ll treat you to some wine!” I’m just taking a picture of the St. Michael winery when a few Canadians from the group arrive by bike. Not much later, we’re sitting in the sun outside a café. Far below us, the mesmerizing Moselle River flows between its steep banks, where the vines stand in neat, dense rows. The landscape seems straight out of a fairy tale. “My favorite is the Piesporter Treppchen riesling,” says the waitress, Anja Mechtel. “It comes from very old vines, more than 100 years old, and has a deep, rich flavor.”

It’s my first time in this area, which is quite odd, really, for an avid Dutch cyclist. After all, the cycle path along the Moselle is one of the most popular routes in Germany, and I now understand why. You pedal through a spectacular river landscape, where every now and then you come across a medieval town, a charming wine village, a picturesque castle or traces of Ancient Rome. While cycling and sailing, I can take in everything at a leisurely pace. Tasting a glass of wine every now and then completes the experience.

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Never lonely

With Boat Bike Tours, I travel from Metz in France to Cochem in Germany in a week. On board the ship Magnifique III are mostly Canadians, with a few Americans and Australians … and Dutch: the crew and I. What makes cycling together so beautiful is that the distance between us all instantly blurs. I’m on my own, but I don’t feel lonely for a single moment. There is always someone who will have a chat or, as at the St. Michael winery, invite me for a drink.

Metz is an attractive French city, with plenty of cafés and young people sitting on the quay. On the first day of cycling, we bike through three countries: France, Luxembourg and Germany. First, we’re greeted with “Bonjour!”, later with “Moien!” then “Hallo!” The route passes through Schengen, the three-country point where the famous Schengen Agreement was signed in 1985. Since the agreement, people can travel freely between participating countries without showing their passports.

Roman winemakers

The first vineyards soon come into view. The Ancient Romans grew wine here and settled on the banks of the Moselle. In the village of Nennig we visit a reconstructed Roman villa, where the original mosaic floor can be admired from a balcony. The artwork consists of no fewer than three million tiles and shows scenes from the gladiatorial games that took place in an amphitheater.

That evening, a barbecue on the deck of the Magnifique III becomes a spontaneous dance evening, and everyone laughs and sings. Later, I step into the jacuzzi on the deck. With a delicious glass of white wine in hand, I look out over the calm water, where swans swim. Above me, stars glitter in the dark sky. Such a beautiful contrast. One moment I’m in a wonderful party mood, and then I feel completely zen again, surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature.

Saarburg and Trier

In the days that follow, we cycle and sail through the strikingly green landscape, with plenty of historical places along the way. In the middle of the medieval town of Saarburg, a waterfall flows, powering the old mills. From the castle tower above, I look out over the valley.

Trier, the oldest city in Germany, has plenty of ornate houses in pastel shades and rococo style. I visit the cathedral with the group, then walk through the palace garden and visit the Roman baths.

The most beautiful part of the route goes through the “Romantic Moselle,” the nickname for the Middle Moselle. Here the banks become seriously steep, and vines can be seen as far as the eye can see. The sun exposure is perfect here for the ripening of the grapes. The quiet cycle path first follows the river, then goes upward, straight through the vineyards. I hit the brakes when I see a group of laughing men and women picking grapes. “Family, friends, everyone helps for free,” says the youngest of them. “We’ll have lunch together later, at a picnic table. With wine, of course.”

Gemütlich = cozy

It may be October and quite chilly, but I see full outdoor cafés everywhere, where guests can taste the local wine – think of Piesport and Trittenheim. In some places there’s a stall with wooden benches and folding tables. Very gemütlich, German for “cozy.” The tourist town of Bernkastel-Kues is full of half-timbered houses painted in candy colors – red, yellow, green, orange – with turrets, shell-shaped roofs, or round decorations. The narrow Spitzenhäuschen from 1416 is especially cute, and has a wine bar in the cellar.

On one of the last days, I decide to stay on board for a day. From the water, I experience the landscape completely differently. In the morning, a layer of mist hangs in the valley, making the castles on the hills look even more romantic. I stare at the soothing waves in the Moselle. The captain invites me to the wheelhouse, from which I can see 360 degrees around me. “I’ve been sailing all my life, but this is my first time here this year,” says the captain, Henk Keizer. “Wonderful. Every time you turn the corner you see something new.”

A 7-meter lock

It looks like I’m in an amusement park, but this is real: we enter a lock. As soon as the doors are closed, the water drops fairly quickly. “The height difference here is seven meters,” the captain explains. That’s 23 feet! There’s a lock about every twenty kilometers, which is 12.4 miles. Canalization of the river began in the 1960s, making it possible for larger ships to sail here. The Moselle has fourteen locks between Metz and Koblenz, covering a height difference of 90 meters or 295 feet!

That afternoon we have a tasting at Weingut Weis in Zell, a town best known for its Schwarze Katz wine, German for “black cat.” In 1863, when merchants couldn’t choose which wine was best, a hissing cat suddenly jumped onto one of the barrels. They decided that that had to be the best wine – and indeed, it became a bestseller. “Smell the wine first,” says winemaker Peter Weis. “Then take a sip and hold it in your mouth. Next, do what your mother always forbade when eating soup: slurp it. This is how the aroma is released. Cheers!”

Sleeping Beauty of the Moselle

The journey continues via Beilstein, the Sleeping Beauty of the Moselle, with the ruins of Metternich Castle at the top. As Cochem approaches, our final destination, I realize I don’t want to end this journey just yet. I’ll not only miss the landscape and leisurely pace, but also my traveling companions, whom I have gotten to know better and better this week. Once more, we’ll go out together, walking through the historic wine town full of half-timbered houses, towards the fairytale castle. Phew, this is quite a climb! But what a view!

Back on board, at the Captain’s dinner, we make a toast for the last time, this time with sparkling wine. “Look outside, how beautifully the castle’s lit up!” one of the Canadians calls out. I step onto the deck for a moment; the castle glitters above. French troops destroyed the building, but the Berlin businessman Louis Ravené rebuilt it in the neo-Gothic style at the end of the nineteenth century. A gem. Schönheit, German beauty: we saw plenty of that this week. Pur Genießen. Pure enjoyment.

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