So yes, we are back on the road! Our loose itinerary is: visiting family around Cologne/Bonn, then Rhine and Moselle Valleys, Black Forest, Bavaria and then back up North with one or two stops. Everything but the area around Cologne, or Linz/Unkel to be more precise, we didn’t know and we were very much are looking forward to this road trip. Even better, we somehow convinced my mum (Oma or Muttern from here on) to join us. We allowed around three weeks for this trip, let’s see how we go.
You may wonder why neither Jennifer nor I and of course the kids have never been to these places in Germany – after all we lived here for 30 odd years. To start with, we were both not quite sure why, but now being on the road for a couple of weeks we remembered.
Two main reasons: Weather and Price. Weather is a bit up and down in Germany and we don’t have the consistent warm weather like Spain, Italy or Portugal. After the first couple of lockdown months without much rain at all, we now had a few rainy days just as we hit the road – typical!
And then there is the cost of travelling. Jeez, accommodation is very expensive indeed, even on AirBnB. Other parts of Europe including Spain, France etc. are much cheaper, not to talk of some options further East like Croatia.
So there you go, these are the main reasons that most Germans head off to sunnier and cheaper pastures as soon as the holidays arrive. But we don’t have these options in this Corona year. Well, actually Europe is opening its internal boarders again just in time for the summer holidays. But to be fair, at the moment we don’t want to head off too far and rather stay in Germany to see how things develop.
Right, here we go – back into writing about our travel adventures! For a start we looked at options to break up our trip from Schenefeld to Unkel, as it is a 6h trip, but nothing really tickled our fancy along the way. So we bit the bullet and had a long day on the road. We waited for a long weekend including the travel chaos on the roads to finish, and then headed off. That was the plan at least but nevertheless we spend quite a bit of time in traffic jams – how much I missed those… NOT! Closing in on our destination we passed Cologne and made a spontaneous decision to have a quick stop to visit the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral). And that turned out to be a good decision, we had a nice walk along and across the Rhine river and made it just in time to get into the Dom. The Dom is definitely worth a stop, massive and impressive building from the outside and inside. Inside we enjoyed the tall windows which retain old figurative glass. We also lighted a candle for my uncle who passed away just before we arrived in Germany. Cologne definitely has a good vibe about it but after a few hours we unfortunately needed to get back on the road to make it to our destination in time.
We made it in the end and moved into our first AirBnB apartment for some time, in walking distance to my auntie. Unkel is located directly at the Rhine river which makes for a great experience from the start. We had a few walks and picnics along the Rhine in our few days in Unkel, it always makes for a nice stop with plenty of boats but also surfers (yes?!), kayakers and paddle boarders passing by. Our first trip was to the Drachenfels and Drachenburg which is just a few kilometres downriver. Our first castle and boy, we saw quite a few castles in the next week or so! Anyhow, we took the little train up to the Drachenburg and even paid the steep entry fee for a tour of the castle. It was pretty cool to visit I have to admit and later we made our way all the way to the top, to Drachenfels. We had amazing views across the Rhine and the land below. A great first day of exploring again rounded up by a nice picnic on our little wall along the Rhine.
The next day we picked up Oma and auntie for a walk and then visited the bridge of Remagen, well what’s left of it of course. Interesting to see this place and read about its significance during the end of WWII. Later in the day we were back at my auntie and started to enjoy the garden with lots of birds passing through. Fun fact, there are lots of parakeets (rose-ringed parakeets to be exact) along the Rhine. I certainly haven’t expected these birds to be in Germany or my aunties garden, but the story is that a few pet ones escaped in the 80s and now a few ten-thousand (!) live in Germany.
Then we had our first rainy day but fortunately we didn’t plan for any hikes but we visited my uncle and auntie nearby for a fantastic meal of Semmelknoedel and Gulasch followed by even better desert options – soo good! It was nice to see them after quite a few years and the kids had a great time playing with the old toys of my cousin.
And just like that, it was time for us to head off to visit the famous Rhine and Moselle Valleys, staying in Braubach for a couple of nights. Oma stayed behind in Unkel with my auntie but she will rejoin the action later on. Koblenz and especially the historic part of town and the German Corner (where Moselle and Rhine meet) are well worth a visit. Braubach is a nice, smaller place with its Marksburg Castle. Our accommodation was just below the castle and we made our way up to the castle after we arrived to get our first glimpse of the spectacular Rhine Valley between Koblenz and Ruedesheim.
We then took a whole day to drive to Ruedesheim the next day, one way on one side of the Rhine, ferry across and way back on the other side. And jeez, there are some awesome castles along the way perched on the top of the steep valley on both sides. It is a beautiful part of the country for sure. On the way we stopped at a three castle viewpoint first where we could see castles Katz (cat), Maus (mouse) and one other. The next stop was the famous Loreley. Lots of songs, poems etc. about this place and the myth is that a girl was left by its lover and then sang as a siren from the steep rock at the Rhine to the passing boats, causing many of them to crash into the rocks. Who knows really but a nice place to visit, including the statue of Loreley and have a nice walk up and down the steep cliff. Ruedesheim itself is a nice little town with small streets (Gassen), the Drosselgasse being the most famous one. It is so narrow that in Corona times it is a one way walking street but that didn’t really work. Otherwise there is not much to see though and an ice cream later we made our way over to the other side of the Rhine to head back past all the castles to Braubach. And that was us done with the Romantic Rhine Valley. We already decided that we will be back.
The next morning we headed back to Unkel to pick up Oma again and then drove along the Moselle towards Trier. My mum was keen to visit the Baybach Valley which came highly recommended by an old professor of mine. After a few hiccups we finally found it and had a nice walk down from the Baybachklamm to the Baybach at the bottom of the valley. We certainly earned our ice cream and then made our way back up. A very nice valley indeed. After a long and winding but beautiful ride along the Moselle, we finally made it to Trier. Trier is a beautiful city with an amazing historic part, the Porta Nigra (Black Gate), churches and due to its importance in the Roman empire – of course its Colosseum.
In Trier we also finally decided to take a Moselle river cruise. We wanted to do a Rhine cruise as well but never managed to get it done (unfortunately), so we had high hopes. But in all fairness, this was not worth it. A trip further downriver towards Koblenz would have been much nicer. And it started to rain with Oma being the only passenger remaining on deck and trying to eat a small meal. That didn’t really help the whole experience and in hindsight a river cruise along the Romantic Rhine Valley would have been the best option. Next time.
That’s it for the first leg of our Germany road trip, next stop – Black Forest!