Barging on the Mosel

Fall is a great season to spend time along the Mosel River, Germany. That’s what Frank kept saying and he was right! (Frank is the owner/operator of International Bicycle Tours.) After scheduling a barge and bicycle tour in the Netherlands, which got postponed a couple times and then cancelled, we switched to a Nordic Walking and barge trip in Germany. That was also cancelled and then rescheduled — all due to Covid, of course — but we are finally here, to learn Nordic Walking and to spend a week on a barge along the Saar and Mosel Rivers.

Covid hasn’t gone away, but we have to live with it. Masks are required in certain private areas.

The wide radwegs (bicycle paths) along the rivers are perfect for the sport, which is quite common in Europe.

We meet Frank, his co-leader Della, and our six traveling companions at the Luxembourg airport, we are ten people in all. (If it hadn’t been for this barge trip, we never would have discovered what an interesting city Luxembourg is — see my post on that beautiful city here.)

We travel in a small bus to Merzig where we board our barge, the Allure, moored on the Saar River and meet the Captain Martien and his capable crew.

We learn later that the barge captain must schedule his stops and reserve mooring places as much as a year in advance, and also learn that this year (2022) some barges were not allowed to use water or electricity from shore at the mooring spots. There just wasn’t enough to go around, forcing them to use generators more often. And fuel costs are so high that a surcharge ($60, we hear) is added to each passenger’s fare. It seems like a challenging business to be in, but you would never guess it from Martien’s always-pleasant demeanor.

Foggy morning lesson on how to use Nordic Walking poles.

The first few mornings include lessons on the proper technique of using Nordic Walking poles. Every day includes some walk time and some relaxing barge time.

Rowers on the Saar at mid-morning.
Coming into Saarburg
View from Saarburg Castle

The barge is delightful — peaceful and quiet. We usually walk and have lunch in a town restaurant or beer garden; we have breakfast and dinner on the barge. The food is always good– impressive from the small galley (back right corner of photo).

Shortly after the Saar merges into the Moselle, we dock and spend a day in Germany’s oldest city, Trier, where we have a guide give us a tour of this historic city. We visit Porta Nigra, the city gate built by the Romans in the second century, AD. It is the largest Roman gate north of the Alps and is a Unesco heritage site.

Porta Nigra, Trier

She gave us interesting tidbits of info — if I remember correctly, these gaps are where the iron fastenings were removed from the old Roman structure, to be re-used.

Churches play important part too, and her stories included competition of some sort between the various religious factions. Perhaps related to the size of their church. The cathedral is well-known, it seems, but alas, I didn’t take notes and now can’t remember the details.

The Hauptmarkt (main market area) includes pastry shops, of course. We were there in October, so end of the season when less crowded.

At Bernkastel-Kues, the barge docked and after dinner on the barge, we walked a short ways, maybe half a kilometer, to do some wine tasting. The Mosel River area is known for their Rieslings, but this winemaker has branched out to do both red and white wines.

This is the tasting room — the whole winery is in the owner’s personal home. His storage/aging area in in the basement of the house, which is connected to the basement of the house next door which he also owns. Originally two wine-making brothers owned the two houses, but now Leo owns both houses and uses both to run his winery.

Altogether we tasted eight bottles of wine before staggering back to the barge in the crisp night air. We slept well.

Wineries abound along the Mosel banks, with vineyards climbing high up into the fog, on hillsides so steep that a cable is necessary to haul the workers and the harvested grapes up the slope. Winemaker names identify the slopes.

The town of Zell prides itself on wine, and on the luck of the black cat.

Beautiful sights showed up every day, on our slow and peaceful voyage down the river.

Leaves were just beginning to turn.

Camping along the river seemed popular — most campgrounds were much larger than this.

Weather was perfect for walking — not too hot. Only on the last day, walking down from the castle did we have rain, a soft, walk-in-the-woods rain. Nice.

It was all good. We liked the Nordic walking, proper use of the poles puts less pressure on one’s joints and back.

Auf Wiedersehen, Martien ! The Allure will host family members for the next week while it makes its way to Amsterdam, where the Allure and its sister barge are moored in place and become bed-and-breakfasts for the winter.

Date of travel: October 8-15, 2022

Tour guide: Frank Behrendt , owner/operator International Bicycle & Barge Tours

Barge: The Allure

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