Koblenz, Germany, Eltz Castle, and the Mosel and Rhine Rivers

The thirteenth (and next to last) stop on our nine week, fourteen city summer vacation across Europe brought us to Koblenz, Germany.  The city of Koblenz sits at the confluence of the Mosel and Rhine River in the western part of Germany.

After spending most of the previous eight weeks of vacation in urban settings, we decided to give rural living a shot for a week.  We rented a spacious three bedroom apartment in a country house in the village of Mariaroth about 15 minutes from the center of Koblenz.

Since we planned to visit several castles and villages in the countryside during our stay in Koblenz, the house in the countryside was closer to the attractions we wanted to visit and came at a significant cost savings.  Plus the rolling farmland in the village was beautiful!

While staying near Koblenz, we visited the Eltz Castle, several villages in the Mosel and Rhine river valleys, and toured downtown Koblenz during what turned out to be a rather rainy week for us.

If you’re just tuning in to Root of Good, here’s a summary of our trip in Europe so far.  We started our journey in early June, 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal, then flew to Malaga in southern Spain before taking a bus to Granada, Spain.  After Granada we visited Seville, Spain.  From Seville, we flew to Milan on a super cheap two hour Ryanair flight. After a two hour train ride from Milan, we arrived in Venice.

Then we took a four hour bus ride to Ljubljana where we spent a week exploring the city and the nearby caves before we headed an hour north to the edge of Slovenia to Podkoren to explore the Soča Valley and river and the Julian Alps.  After Podkoren we visited Salzburg, Austria with a side trip to Hallstatt and the Dachstein ice caves.  Leaving Salzburg, we drove two hours west to Munich, Germany.

From Munich, we took a four hour bus to the northeast and crossed the border into the Czech Republic where we soon entered Prague.  We took a train from Prague to Berlin where we stayed for a week.  After Berlin, we took a train to Cologne, Germany where we picked up a rental car for our week in the Koblenz area.

 

A Layover in Cologne

Our layover in Cologne came about due to a mistake I made in planning our schedule to travel between cities every Sunday while in Germany. I assumed rental cars could be obtained in any mid-size city during regular business hours. And Sunday is obviously included in “regular business hours”, right?

In Germany that would be wrong. As I learned, many businesses are closed on Sundays including almost all the rental car agencies other than the major ones located at the airport.

Instead of taking a train directly to Koblenz and picking up a car there on a Sunday, we had to catch an express train to Cologne then transfer to a local train to get to the Cologne airport.

In my usual spirit of making lemonade from lemons, I soon realized what the opportunity this “mistake” created. The Deutsche Bahn online booking system let me schedule a layover up to 48 hours at the Cologne main train station before continuing onward to the airport.  I chose a reasonable 2.5 hour layover so we could get out of the station, explore the downtown area a bit, then proceed on to the airport where our rental car would be waiting for us.

This plan worked out extraordinarily well. We got to see the most notable building in Cologne – the Cologne Cathedral. It’s located immediately adjacent to the train station, so we simply carried our backpacks with us as we explored around the Cathedral.

 

The Cologne Cathedral. After seeing pictures online, I had to see it in person. Amazing.

 

Very impressive in its size and intricately detailed work, even after touring dozens of other churches during our eight weeks of vacationing in Europe.

 

After touring central Cologne, it’s back to the Hauptbahnhof (the main train station) to catch a train to the airport where our rental car was waiting for us.

 

The City of Koblenz

We spent two days exploring the city of Koblenz itself.  Since it rained almost seven days straight during our stay in the Koblenz area, we had to squeeze in some tourism between the torrential downpours.

While in Koblenz we visited the Deutsche Bundesbank, which is the German equivalent of our Federal Reserve Bank in the United States.  I had about $40 worth of old German Deutsche Marks which were in circulation before the adoption of the euro in 2002.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t mess with tracking down a convenient Bundesbank location and spending the time and effort to swap out some obsolete currency for $40 worth of new currency. But this seemed like one of those cultural experiences that most people simply don’t get.  Not only did we make $40 in the process, we also picked up several free high quality souvenir posters highlighting all the different euro paper and coin denominations. The kind of souvenir that’s so cool that your daughter claims it as her own and hangs it proudly on the wall above her bed.

Does it make you a money nerd if you have a chart of currency from the Bundesbank decorating your wall?

 

Fountain in the middle of Koblenz

 

We spent two days touring Koblenz and saw what we could between the rain showers. Koblenz is a scenic mid-size German town easy to explore on foot.  The walkable waterfront parks meander along the Mosel and Rhine rivers and provide a great deal of scenery, too.

Standing at the confluence of the Mosel River and Rhine River at the waterfront park in Koblenz.

 

The Ehrenbreitstein Fortress sits on a hill looking over the city of Koblenz. You can either swim to it, drive across the bridge, or take the convenient cable suspension gondola ride across the river.  Or skip the fortress and take a river cruise on the Rhine instead!

 

Village of Kobern-Gondorf

Although Kobern-Gondorf sounds like a character straight out of Lord of The Rings, it’s really a small village just across the Mosel river from the even smaller village where we spent the week.

While planning our trip months ahead of time, we never knew about the village of Kobern-Gondorf and definitely didn’t plan on visiting it.  We stumbled on the village after searching for local grocery options. The nearest grocery to our Airbnb was ten minutes west, north, or east in one of several villages. After seeing photos of Kobern-Gondorf we decided to go west for groceries.

The amazing scenery in Kobern-Gondorf was a welcome addition to our grocery run!  As usual, life on the road leads to interesting times even when we’re taking care of routine chores like grocery shopping.  We bought a ton of Kinder eggs for the kids so they were ecstatic too.

In the spirit of full disclosure, we thought Kobern-Gondorf was more scenic than Koblenz, though much smaller.

 

The village of Kobern-Gondorf smiling at us from across the Mosel River.

 

This IS the Germany we were looking for. We had the whole village to ourselves for some reason. Overcast and drizzly weather? Visiting in the middle of the week?

 

 

One of two castles overlooking the village

 

I admit, these roads were fun to drive on.

 

The Von Der Leyen Castle is built atop the road leading out of Kobern-Gondorf

 

 

Eltz Castle

About 30 minutes southwest of Koblenz is the Eltz Castle. Construction started in the 1100’s.

Of all the castles we toured in Europe, this might be our favorite.  It definitely deserves a nomination for “fairytale castle” and outshines the better known Neuschwanstein Castle south of Munich.

The drive out to the castle is incredibly beautiful in itself with the gently rolling farmland stretching as far as you can see.

Admission to the castle was very affordable – about USD$20 for the whole family plus a few euro for parking.

The hike down to the castle is just over half a mile, mostly downhill.  We took the scenic route along a trail through the woods back to the parking lot.  It was mostly uphill and I heard “are we there yet?” several times, which leads me to believe the hike uphill was significantly more strenuous than the hike downhill.

A shuttle bus would haul you from the parking lot to the castle for a couple of euro if you can’t handle the hike, though stopping for a break and taking in views of the castle and the scenic walk in the woods was part of the experience for us.

 

You have to hike a long way down to get to the castle

 

 

View from the courtyard

 

The castle tour is relatively short and the castle itself isn’t huge. There are some areas you can explore on your own before or after the guided tour.

Here is a video of the courtyard:

 

 

Exploring the Rhine and Mosel river valleys

We took advantage of our rental car and drove around the area on several different days. The river valleys along the Rhine and Mosel are packed with small villages, scenic waterfront promenades, and riverboats docked alongside the downtown plazas.

 

Boat on the Mosel River

 

The Mosel River Valley

 

The Mosel Viaduct bridge. Over half a mile long and 446 feet tall – it’s an impressive piece of architecture and engineering.

 

Walking along the Rhine in Boppard, just south of Koblenz. We saw a Viking River Cruise stopping in this village.

 

Vineyards line many of the valley walls along the Rhine and Mosel rivers.

 

Lodging for a week near Koblenz with Airbnb

We stayed in a large three bedroom apartment in a country house in Mariaroth which was about 15 minutes outside of Koblenz, Germany.

Staying in a rural village meant lower rental rates for us. We scored an amazing deal for such a large place at USD$55 per night for a one week stay. The host usually charges extra for the fourth and fifth guests, but I asked if he could waive the charge for the kids and he was fine with that.

One of the two bathrooms was under renovation while we were there due to a water leak right before we arrived. That meant the shower was totally torn out and a heater and dehumidifier made the whole bathroom rather warm, so we didn’t use the toilet or sink in the second bathroom except for urgent needs.

Later during the stay, the water heater died and we had to rely on manually heating water for bathing.  Quaint rural experience or the ruin of our whole week?  We chose the former response and made do for a couple of days till the boiler was repaired.  As we checked out, our host profusely apologized for the inconveniences and offered us a fist full of euro notes totaling about USD$40 for our troubles. And in his defense, during the water heater outage the host offered the use of the downstairs bathroom with hot showers in his apartment, though we declined the offer.

I would definitely stay here again since the bathroom and hot water heater are both brand new and the location is great.

The ambiance of the surrounding area and the views in all directions were definitely worth the mild hassle of cold water and only having one usable bathroom.

 

Comfy living room

 

Spacious well equipped kitchen with a view

 

Large dining room with a six person dining table amply spacious for the five of us

 

The kids’ bedroom was huge! We brought the fraulein lounging on the couch with us from America.

 

This apartment had two balconies. The larger one included great views of the rolling farmland surrounding the village. We enjoyed many meals at the dining table on this balcony

 

The village square right next to our airbnb had a chapel several centuries old.

 

View to the rear of our airbnb out of our bedroom window

If you want to enjoy the personal connection that comes with Airbnb rentals while saving a lot of money, click here to take $40 off your stay.

 

Food in and around Koblenz

Since we were out in the countryside for the week and there weren’t any restaurants in the village, we mostly cooked at home after getting groceries from the next village over.

We didn’t go hungry.

 

A small sampling of the good eats for the week.  Lots of sausages, cheeses, beer, wine, and some schnitzel.  Perfect food and drink for the week since it rained almost non-stop and the weather was surprisingly chilly for August.

 

It was here that we discovered our new favorite wine variety that come from the Mosel and Rhine river valleys.

 

Charcuterie with a view at our Airbnb

 

A typical bakery. Got some pretzels here.

We picked up a few pretzels from a bakery in Koblenz and enjoyed them as we strolled down the cobblestone streets in the center of town.  The pretzels were about the same as what we routinely purchased from the fresh bakeries common to every German grocery store, but the prices were two to three times higher.  That’s not an insult to the quality of this bakery’s pretzels, but rather a compliment to the high quality of the baked goods at grocery stores in Germany.

For the price-curious, pretzels at standalone bakeries were USD$0.60 to $1 whereas at the grocery store we paid USD$0.30-0.40 (3-4 pretzels for €1 was a common promotion).  We are fortunate to have a Lidl grocery store in Raleigh with a nice fresh bakery inside where we can enjoy fresh baked “German” pretzels at similar prices.

 

 

Getting Around Koblenz and surrounding areas

Since we were staying in a rural area with limited transit options, we needed a car for the week.  We paid a small premium because we had to rent from one of the few rental car offices open on Sunday when we arrived in the Koblenz area.  We paid USD$181 for a one week rental from the Cologne Airport location of Europcar.

Although it seems like we’re budget travelers at times, I think a more accurate description would be “opportunistic travelers”. We’re always on the lookout for a good deal and cheap upgrade options.

One of those upgrades fell in our lap when comparing first class and second class train tickets between Berlin and Koblenz/Cologne.  It’s usually a five hour train ride but since we were adding a long layover in Cologne, the entire trip was closer to nine hours.  Second class on German trains is spectacular, so I generally don’t feel like it’s worth it to upgrade to first.

However in this case, we made the upgrade. Second class tickets for the family were USD$50 whereas the first class tickets were only USD$80, a $30 premium.  Not only did we get fancier accommodations on board the train, including a private compartment on one segment, but we also gained access to the Deutsche Bahn first class lounges for the whole family.

For the $30 upgrade to first class, we were able to have breakfast at the Berlin station DB first class lounge and lunch with beer and wine at the Frankfurt station DB first class lounge during a layover.  Then after exploring central Cologne on foot, we enjoyed dinner with more drinks at the Cologne station DB first class lounge.

That’s a lot of beer, wine, hot chocolate, fancy coffees, sandwiches, pastries, chili con carne, fruits, and cheeses for the five of us.  So the $30 “upgrade” to first class was really a clever way to booze and dine on the cheap in relative luxury.

 

Living it up in first class on Deutsche Bahn. The first class lounge in the Frankfurt train station. We had a short layover and enjoyed some chicken couscous sandwiches with wine and beer.

 

During a long layover in Cologne, we visited the first class DB lounge for more of the same – chicken couscous sandwiches and locally produced Bitburger beer – plus some ham sandwiches and a cinnamon cake.

 

 

Thoughts on Koblenz and the surrounding area

We really had a blast in the Koblenz area in spite of the torrential rain that only relented for a few days of our stay.  The Eltz Castle was worth the trip by itself. In addition to the castle, we were able to explore several towns around Koblenz such as Kobern-Gondorf on the Mosel River and Boppard on the Rhine River.

Driving around the countryside was a treat, too. The rolling amber fields of what I assume to be wheat surrounded us in the flatlands above the rivers, while the river valleys were usually blanketed in the greenery of vineyards ripe with grapes.

Though our stay in Cologne lasted only a few hours, we could tell there was a lot more to see in Cologne beyond the Cathedral next to the train station.

We spent a couple of days touring Koblenz and saw what we could between the storms. It’s a wonderful mid-size German town easy to explore on foot.  The walkable waterfront parks meander along the Mosel and Rhine rivers and provide a great deal of scenery, too.

The area around Koblenz is full of places to visit that we didn’t have time for during our short (and rainy) one week stay.  If we had another week or two we could have seen the Nürburgring Grand Prix racetrack along with several other castles.  Day tripping to Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and France were possibilities, with those four countries under two hours from our Airbnb.

Overall, the week we spent just outside of Koblenz was very relaxing since the heavy rains forced us to stay inside (or get soaking wet) for several days.  We enjoyed the local wines and beers, soaked up the countryside views, and made the most of the dry patches in between storms. With so much more to see, we would love to make our way back to the Koblenz area again.

 

What do you do when it rains almost every day but you want to do some sightseeing? Get soaked? Dart out for quick trips between rounds of rain? Indoor sightseeing only? Or prop your feet up and relax at “home”?

 

Check out the fourteen part summary of our nine week European family vacation:

 

Like free money? The Chase Freedom Card offers $150 cash back when you sign up for a new card. Then keep saving with the card that earns 5% cash back each quarter on rotating categories of merchants like gas stations, groceries, Walmart, or Amazon.  Or compare other top travel credit card offers if you prefer free travel.


Root of Good Recommends:
  • Personal Capital* - It's the best FREE way to track your spending, income, and entire investment portfolio all in one place. Did I mention it's FREE?
  • Free Travel* - We score $10,000 worth of free travel every year from credit card sign up bonuses. Get your free travel, too.
  • Save more on travel with Airbnb and take $40 off your first stay*. We usually get apartments with 2-3 bedrooms plus a kitchen and living room for less than the price of 1 hotel room. Save even more with weekly and monthly discounts.
  • Use a shopping portal like Ebates* and save more on everything you buy online. Get a $10 bonus* when you sign up now.
  • Google Fi* - Use the link and save $20 on unlimited calls and texts for US cell service plus 200+ countries of free international coverage. Only $20 per month plus $10 per GB data.
* Affiliate links. If you click on a link and do business with these companies, we may earn a small commission.

31 comments

  1. Smoked salmon always look better outside of the United States for some reason 🙂 especially if the backdrop was the open sky.

    I seriously wonder how many people died building the Cologne Cathedral and that crazy castle. It’s stunningly beautiful and the details are amazing but…in those times? With their technology? Was there even safety rope back then?

    Your Airbnb looks so nice and roomy!!

  2. Sweeeet! My first ever trip to Europe was to Koblenz in 1997 and we stayed on the Mosel River the whole time!!! Those pics bring back so many memories!

    Did you go to Bernkastel-Kues? We spent 3 nights in that tiny town because we just loved the vibe. And there was some drinking involved. I was still in my “misspent youth” years and bottles of Riesling were like a buck (this is pre-European Union days). Man, it’s a bit hazy but the pics remind me of that trip. Lots of beer, wine, and schnitzel.

    Thanks for taking me back on memory lane!

    1. No, we didn’t make it that far down (up?) the Mosel. You’ll be happy to hear there are a lot of delicious wines that aren’t a lot more than a buck in that part of the world. I know we bought several that were under 2 euro that were awesome.

    1. In NJ, car dealerships are closed on Sundays which is a great time to check out everything without being bothered by the salespeople. When I first saw one open on a Sunday in another state, I was quite surprised. I imagine dealing with this in Europe was a bit similar of a surprise.

    2. Yeah, different strokes for different folks. I guess if you live there you’re used to it but for us as tourists it was tough on us since we “moved” to a new city every Sunday.

      Very different than here in the US. I just shopped at Lidl in Raleigh on a Sunday, when they are open 8 am to 9 pm!

  3. Absolutely gorgeous! I’m impressed with your ROI on that first-class upgrade, and glad you got a bit off the beaten big-city tourist track to see these villages and vistas.

    There’s a Lidl moving in two and a half miles north of us (either later this year or early next) with super convenient access to a bike path four blocks from our house. Everything I know about the store comes from your blog, so I’m a bit excited. We’ll have to roll literally beneath the shadow of a Whole Foods to get there — which somehow makes it feel extra sweet.

    We’ve been lucky with the weather on our adventures. Back in July ’07 we visited London for the prologue and first stage of the Tour de France; the rain stopped as our plane touched down, the city had four beautiful sunny days, and then it started back up again as we were on the tarmac waiting to take off. Got caught in a shower in Prague in 2016 right as we were entering a covered beer garden… and the sun was right back out after lunch. Possibly it’s due to the super-packable rain jackets we bought and always have with us just in case, like how carrying an umbrella karmically prevents precipitation. 😛

    1. Hope you enjoy your new Lidl. I bet the prices will be shockingly low vs. that Whole Foods and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the quality and selection.

  4. I’m so jealous. This area was supposed to be the highlight of our Viking River cruise. The tours and the onboard food were pitiful. You did so much better on your own for a fraction of what we paid.

    1. That’s too bad about the cruise. I’ve heard great things about Viking and I know they charge a high price for what should be a high quality product. But those tours are always hit and miss. They often go so fast and cover the touristy stuff, whereas I’m usually interested in the less well known spots.

  5. Eltz castle looks awesome. Living there must have been the pinnacle of success in the old days. It looks very formidable.
    I’m not a big fan of torrential rain. It doesn’t sound like fun. The only time we were that unlucky was in Hakone, Japan. We just stayed in and enjoyed the hot spring.

    1. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, so I think you would be rather isolated. As I understand it, they collected taxes on a trade route that passed through the area. And we found out the castle is still held by the same family that built it 800+ years ago!

  6. Wow, rural German looks great! Quaint, but that’s a good thing in my mind. Based upon your pictures it looks like the tourist crowds were rather minimal too.

    That castle looks like a great tourist destination too!

    On our last trip to Japan we got stuck indoors for several days because of two typhoons. Once we were at a hot spring hotel, so that was OK. We just hung out in the hot springs and let the storm pass. The other time we were in a small suburban town and the rail lines shut down due to damage. There was no way to get out, so it was a pretty boring couple of days.

    1. This part of Germany was awesome. I’m glad we had time for the big cities like Berlin and Munich and another week of time in Germany to visit these areas in the countryside.

      Roughing it at the hot springs – sounds like a nice Plan B 🙂

  7. “In my usual spirit of making lemonade from lemons..”

    You mean like that time you left the rental car keys with the train station employee? 🙂 I love these travel stories. I guess that’s what makes a good traveler–the ability to roll with the punches.

    Love the pics in Koblenz and Cologne!

  8. I love the castles and churches old world cities have to offer. We stayed at Heitlinger Hof, a vineyard and hotel about an hour from Stuttgart. Like you, we found the small village and quiet setting really wonderful. You could eat yourself silly on all the tasty cheeses, sausage, beer and bread. I certainly tried!

  9. As soon as I saw the article title, I knew you’d end up in Boppard! We stayed in a small family run hotel about 50′ away from where your family was walking and enjoyed some fantastic 30 year old sweet wines from their vineyard.

  10. Of all the places you have traveled, is there any place you would like to live for a while?
    In my case, I really enjoyed Australia and think I could live there for a while.

    1. Sure, I could see myself living in most of the cities we visited. Milan and Venice might be the exceptions. Top choice would be Ljubljana, Slovenia or Berlin probably.

  11. I was stationed at Hahn Airbase, next to Latzenhausen (sp?), a few clicks from the Mosel in the 1960’s. I visited all the places (and way more) in the two years I was there. Beautiful part of Germany.

  12. Cologne Cathedral looks stunning just in the pictures. It must’ve been so much better in person. Kobern-Gondorf looks just like one would imagine of a German village. Stop in any local pubs?

    1. Yes, it was really amazing. I’m glad we had the time to spend a few hours on a layover there in Cologne. Definitely worth a visit as it did stand out among the few dozen churches and cathedrals we saw in Europe.

  13. Slow responder here. Great post. I find it romantic to stay in a little village outside the heavily visited cities, strolling through town, going to the grocery store, and eating charcuterie on the terrace. Great post and good job capturing a “locals” experience in another country.

    1. It was a great way to wrap up our trip. Loved the slow pace and scenic countryside there outside Koblenz. Now when I’m at home making coffee and looking out our back window, I can’t help but think back to making (and drinking!) the coffee in that little house we stayed in while staring out the window at the fields and treeline.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.