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The River Cruise – Koblenz and Marksburg (castle)


Festung Ehrenbreitstein

Festung Ehrenbreitstein

Koblenz lies at the confluence of the Rhine, Moselle and the Lahn rives. This is where the Romans took over an ancient hill fort on the Festung Ehrenbreitstein hill which overlooks the confluence of the Rhine and  Moselle from the eastern bank of the river. A stone Roman bridge over the Rhine was also located here, until its destruction by the Franks in 259AD.

In dark ages this area was part of the Charlemagne’s empire and then after the breakup   of the Emprire part of ‘Lotharingia’ in mid 800’s. In 1018, the city was given by the Holy Roman Emperor Henry II to the Archbishop and Prince- Elector of Trier. It remained in the possession of the bishops of Trier until the end of the 18th century, having been their main residence since the 17th century. After French revolution, the French occupied the city, before being drive out in 1814 by the Russians and Prussians. It was in Prussian  and then German hands sine 1822.

The fortifications on the Festung Ehrenbreitstein hill have been seen as of strategic importance in control of the Rhine and Moselle, so the fortifications have enlarged and improved by successive governments, including the Prince-elector bishops of Trier, the Prussians, the Russians and most recently, after 1945, the American Army.




A short distance south of Koblenz, on a high peak overlooking the town of Braubach sits the Marksburg fortress. It is the only medieval castle of the

Middle Rhine that has never been destroyed. The castle was built around 1120 and then  passed between various noble families, who enlarged and improved it.  Since 1900 the castle belongs to the German Castle Association, and serves as the head office of the association since 1930.  Currently it is a museum open to public.

Views from the castle are fantastic.


The River Cruise – Moselle Valley – Moselle wine tasting

About Traben-Trarbach

Axel Emert

Herr Axel Emert – “Less thinking, more drinking”

After lunch the river took us past some small towns, villages nestled amongst very steep vine covered hills.  After passing some locks,  we finally arrived in the twin city of of Traben-Trarbach. Traben is on one side of the river and Trarbach on the other.

Traben-Trarbach is a wine and boat racing city. Although in existence for a long time, the real growth of the villages was stimulated only in mid 19th century, after the city fire in Trarbach in 1857 caused wine merchants and winemakers to make their way to Traben, across the river.  These men banded together and started large wholesale businesses that became important to the modern state of  Moselle valley wine making and Moselle valley wine trade.



Moselle Wines

As luck would have it the tour manager has arranged for us to meet with Herr Axel Emert, 8th generation local grape grower and wine maker, and also the  and manager and front face of Weingut Axel Emert (formerly Weingut Carl Emert).

Axel is passionate about grapes, and wine. As he himself admits, he likes to grow grapes and drink wine.

Most of the vines in the Moselle valley are tended to by hand. This is because most grapes are gown on steep slopes of 65 to 80+ degrees incline. To make things more interesting for those working there, base of each vine is lined with local slate, which provides extra warmth, slows down erosion and conserves soil moisture.  However this is a very fertile region, and Axel admitted to having some 40 or 50 thousand vines on 8 hectares (16 acres or so), and producing some 40,000 bottles of wine per year.

I think Axel would feel right at home with the Australian wine growers and wine makers. In blunt and direct way he rejected the idea that somehow the wine with a cork in the bottle and aged in wood is somehow better, and that it is a bad idea and bad practice to use stainless steel to ferment and age the wine, or a twist top cap to seal it.  As he not so kindly put it “I grow grapes. I have never tasted a grape that has wood flavour. If you want wood flavour, go chew on a stick”.

To illustrate his point, Axel presented us with three Riesling grape white wines to try: a 2011 dry white, 2011 semi-sweet and 2011 sweet.  The only difference between these three wines, Axel claimed,  was the point where the fermentation was stopped.

As far as wine selection Axel’s philosophy is simple – drink what you like – “Less thinking, more drinking”

A glass of riesling

A glass of Reisling


The River Cruise – Moselle Valley

Moselle Valley at Bernkastel-Kuess

Moselle Valley at Bernkastel-Kues


Overnight the River Princess has sailed downstream from Trier to Bernkastel-Kues. Bernkastel-Kues is situated in narrows of the valley, and is overlooked by castle left in ruins by a fire, and never rebuilt. With the colder weather the morning mists make for breathtaking views.

Some History

First written records of a settlement on the spot go back to around 1036.  In 1291, King Rudolph I of Germany granted Berrincastel town rights (including the right to build a city wall and levy taxes) . The castle, Burg Landshut, which was built at that time (but it was given this name only in the 16th century). According to a legend, Bohemond II, a Prince-Elector, was brought back to health from a serious illness by a glass of town’s wine, giving rise to the legend of the Berncastler Doctor winery.  In 1692, Castle Landshut fell victim to fire and since then it has been a ruin.

The city is reputed to be the birthplace of one of the most famous German polymaths, the mediaeval churchman and philosopher Nikolaus von Kues (Cusanus).


If you ever wanted to see a small walled German town, with half-timbered houses and a castle on the hill above, this is a good example of it. The streets of the old Bernkastel are winding and narrow, and the houses poke up at odd angles. Typical of the Moselle Valley, beyond the roof-line steep hills present neat rows of vines, with the base of each plant covered with slate.

In late September the town hosts a wine festival. Unfortunately we missed that event.

Bernkastel RatHaus

Bernkastel RatHaus (Town Hall)


The River Cruise – Moselle – Trier

Morning – Transit

The morning is the transfer to the river cruise ship. She is waiting for us in Trier. So the group was taken by but about 4oo-ish or so KM east from Paris to Trier (Treves). The route took us through the Champangne region countryside, skirting around Riems, Verdun, Metz and finally heading off towards Luxembourg and finally Trier. The countryside was very pretty and very hazy – much mist, dust and haze in the air..

Afternoon – Trier

Ponte Nigra in Trier

Ponte Nigra

Trier or Treves as it is known to the French is a very old city. Located on the Moselle river, it was founded by the Romans as far back as 30BC after

they have subdued the Traveri peoples. It is the oldest bishopric north of the Alps. The Franks seized Trier from Roman administration in 459 AD. In 870, it became part of Eastern Francia, which developed into the Holy Roman Empire. The bishops of Trier were soon recognised as imperial electors and as such the Elector-Prince-Bishops ruled (despite several invasions during the  various wars) until 1794 when the French revolutionary armies finally took the city.

The city boats many monuments, including the Ponte Nigra – the black gate – that dates back to the Roman times. The gate is built out of limestone, but as is the case with many monuments, the dust, rain, soot and the like have darkened it over time.

Evening – Board the cruise ship

A little data about the river cruise ship we are on:  The River Princess is a 110 meter long, 11.40 meter wide luxury river cruise ship. She is Swiss registered with home port of Rheinfelden, and She carriers 132 passengers and about 40 (mostly hotel crew) crew. The River Princess draws about 1.5 meters of water, and is propelled by twin mechanically driven and  hydraulically steered variable azimuth pods in the rear and a twin side jet/thruster in the front of the ship. She was purpose built for Uniworld in 2001 in the Netherlands, and has undergone a major overhaul and refit in 2010.

The crew on the ship is of mixed nationalities. We have a Dutch captain (Remco), the first officer is Polish (Bartosz) and the officer in training is Romanian. The rest of the ‘sailors’ and the engineering/mechanical crew are German, Serbian and Romanian. Bart, the cruise manager (aka Bart the people wrangler) is also Dutch. The front desk and the hotel crew has Spanish, Swiss, Slovak, Bulgarian, Romanian, Hungarian, Polish, Serbian and German members.