Hurrying Slowly: The Mosel in 22 Days

Traversing the twists and turns along one of Germany’s most beautiful river valleys.

By Joe Gartman • Photographs Courtesy Patricia Gartman

In the small hours of a rainy night in Neumagen-Dhron, Germany, peering idly from our hotel window, I saw something that looked like a shadowy train, with an occasional lighted window, passing slowly and silently beyond a thin screen of trees lining the river. There are no train tracks by the river in Neumagen-Dhron, so I watched for a full minute, mystified, as the long apparition glided by and finally out of sight.

It was a cruise boat, I finally realized, one of those narrow, lengthy, luxurious vessels that carry tourists in comfort along the major waterways of Europe, stopping at historic towns and cities for guided tours of the local highlights. I confess to a twinge of envy. Like the ship’s sleeping passengers, we too were traveling the Mosel, from Koblenz upriver to Trier; but our trip was hardly a posh, all-inclusive float on placid waters.

You can, if you are in a hurry, go from Koblenz to Trier by train in an hour and a half. If you prefer to drive, allow a couple of hours. You can bike the Moselle Cycle Route (250 kilometers or 155 miles) in less than a week, averaging about 40 kilometers (25 miles) per day—and you’ll have plenty of company. The route, signposted with a white “M” and bike pictogram on a green background, follows the meandering river most of the way, and is extremely popular. If you are definitely not in a hurry, you could even walk, I suppose. There is a long-distance hiking trail called the Moselsteig, which, beginning at the river’s mouth at Koblenz, will deposit you in Trier after about 365 kilometers (226.8 miles). Our plans called for a leisurely 22 days, arranging boat rides along the way, which would allow us to stay several days in each town or village.

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