Where the Rhine and Mosel converge
By Ron Stern
It would be hard to find a lovelier off-the-beaten-track city to visit in Germany than Koblenz.
Ideally situated where the Mosel River flows into the Rhine, this city has a history dating back 2,000 years starting from when it was a Roman settlement. Today, it is a top tourist destination of stunning beauty with a rich history and culture and a thriving culinary scene.
A strip of land marks the confluence of both rivers at the popular Deutsches Eck or German Corner. Visitors can gaze upon the colossal bronze statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I on horseback, triumphantly towering 120 feet above the city and affording grand views from its pedestal.
Another sculpture, a 10-meter pillar located within a fountain in the center of the Görresplatz, depicts the history of Koblenz starting with the Romans at the bottom of the sculpture and moving up through the Crusades, the French Revolution, World War II, and up to present day.
The area along this part of the Middle Rhine region is buzzing with activity. Pedestrians or cyclists (you can bike all the way to Basel, Switzerland.) can explore miles of scenic beauty along the river’s banks, but one of the best ways to see this area is to take a riverboat cruise. For as little as €9 (the Euro equals $1.11 US dollar), you can cruise for around 90 minutes with grand views of the river, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For a little more, you can go further, stopping off at small towns along the way including picturesque Rüdesheim and Boppard.
But that is just for starters. Along your route, you will see lush terraced vineyards, cruise ships moving back and forth, and some of the 40 or so historic hilltop castles. These include Schloss Stolzenfels, also known as the Neuschwanstein Castle of the Rhine; Martinsburg; and Marksburg, the latter of which is perched majestically above the town of Braubach in Rhineland-Palatinate.
Not to be missed would be the cable car ride to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress that overlooks the town (€11.80 for the cable car ride and castle visit). The cars float silently over the Rhine and are one of the largest in Germany in terms of capacity, able to transport 7,600 people per day. The fortress, the second largest in the world, was constructed by the Prussians as part of the area’s fortification system between 1817-28. At the top, you can stroll through the passageways, enjoy cultural exhibitions, and have a meal at their Casino restaurant. A local beer called Festungs Bräu is also brewed just for the fortress, and you can enjoy this with a bird’s-eye view of Koblenz.
There are a number of other interesting attractions in and around the city. At Kauf-und Danzhaus (Old Merchants and Dance House), the exterior clock has the face of the Eye Roller, which commemorates the robber baron Johann von Kobern. At certain times of the hour, he also sticks out a red tongue.
Located in the Forum Confluentes building in the city center is the Romanticum. More than a typical museum, this is an interactive, highly imaginative educational center for the entire Middle Rhine region. You’ll find books that speak to you as you pull them off of the shelf, an old-fashioned silhouette theater, a touchscreen that lets you explore a map of the Rhine, and nearly 70 other exhibits.
What’s even more unique about the Romanticum is that upon entering (€6 for adults, €1 for children up to 12 years of age), you are issued a pass about the size of a credit card. Hold this up to any of the appropriate logos on the displays and the QR code on the card will capture all of the information and store it for your future retrieval on a computer or smartphone. Ingenious? Indeed it is, and you won’t find another museum quite like it. Furthermore, this cultural building also houses a library, art museum and tourist information center.
Koblenz has a wide range of shopping opportunities. This includes the modern looking Forum-Mittelrhein with around 80 retail shops and restaurants, and another 130 independent retail establishments or so along Löhrstraße in and around the downtown area.
Gastronomically speaking, Koblenz is a culinary gold mine. Here, you can find pubs, ice cream and konditorei (pastry shops). In one area, you almost have a side-by-side selection of Indian, Mexican, Italian and Chinese restaurants.
At Baumann Kondetorei/Confiserie (confectionery)/Café, you have 200 years of a family-run pastry and confection business. The truffles are made by hand, and this is a great place to relax and have a slice of cake and coffee.
Koblenz is the only city in Germany where you can enjoy wines from both the Rhine and Mosel regions. There are some 16 family-owned wineries here, some more than 100 years old.
One of the best ways to learn about wine is directly from the grower. At Weingut Karl Lunnebach, you can do just that. Located an easy cab ride from the main part of town, this family-owned winery is situated on the Mosel River. With advanced small-group reservations you can partake in wine tasting as well as authentic regional foods prepared by the vintner’s family.
Typically, a three-course meal might feature dishes such as roast port, au gratin potatoes, spaetzle, chicken in riesling cream, and dessert for a price of around €20-25. Or, for €50, you can include wine tasting. You can also purchase a nice bottle of wine for as little as €6.
As you stroll around town, try the cappuccino at K3, located inside the Forum Confluentes. For ice cream, locals visit E Gelosia for some of the best in Germany. You’ll be able to tell how popular this place is with lines stretching as far as 200 feet past the cathedral on weekends.
If you end up taking the Rhine cruise, then disembark at the small village of Boppard. There, you will want to make your way to the Konditorei Café Hahn. Another small family business, this is operated by the 80-year-old man, his wife and daughter. The father has been making mouth-watering cakes for 50 years.
Once you arrive back in Koblenz, if you are still hungry for lunch or dinner, try Wacht am Rhein right on the waterfront. The inside looks like the owner’s house with everything from cupboards, couches, trinkets, and whatever else he felt he couldn’t live without. But for the best experience, sit outside and enjoy Italian or traditional German cuisine such as sauerbraten in a sour sauce with red cabbage.
Koblenz is a city to which many people might just give a cursory look while passing through on a river cruise. But, there is much more here that blends the old with the new and that begs for some serious time exploring its rich treasures. However long your visit, however, Koblenz is sure to leave a lasting impression.
—Contact Ron Stern at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at originalglobalgumshoe.blogspot.com. This was a sponsored visit, but all opinions are solely the author’s.