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 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
It was here that we discovered our new favorite wine variety that come from the Mosel and Rhine river valleys.
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.
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:
- Summer Vacation for 5 in Europe: 9 Weeks, 8 Countries, 14 Cities, $10,000
- Surprising Finds in Lisbon, Portugal
- From the Alcazaba to Sea in Malaga, Spain
- Exploring La Alhambra and the Narrow Alleyways of Granada, Spain
- Enjoying The Alcazar and Jamon Iberico in Seville, Spain
- Castles, Skyscrapers, and Prosciutto in Milan, Italy
- The Meandering Canals and Bridges of Venice, Italy
- Exploring Caves and Castles in Ljubljana, Slovenia
- The Hidden Gems of the Julian Alps and Soča Valley in Slovenia
- Explore Austria: Salzburg, Hallstatt and the Dachstein Ice Cave
- A Week in Munich, Germany plus Neuschwanstein and Dachau
- Czech it out: Exploring Prague in a Week
- The Wall and The War: Exploring Berlin, Germany
- Koblenz, Germany, Eltz Castle, and the Mosel and Rhine Rivers
- Amsterdam’s Cheese Museum and Bike Parking Garages
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