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A FAMILY TRIP TO GERMANY’S RIVER VALLEY’S

Despite their scenic appeal, the valleys of the Rhine and Mosel aren’t a place you immediately associate as a family destination. The endless stream of tour busses, and the gleaming white river cruise ships, for example, seldom see a child.


And yet, this area has plenty to offer those taking the youngsters for a short break. Towering castles with centuries of legends, miles of safe cycle paths with bikes available to hire, sports centres, boating, swimming pools, pony trekking, canoeing, and even an adventure forest!


Of course the main reason for visiting this region is the breathtaking scenery. Valley sides which switch constantly between graceful vine-covered slopes, and imposing dark rocky cliffs. Pretty towns and villages nestle close to the river, seemingly clinging to their space, for fear of being nudged into the fast flowing water by the domineering vineyards. Castles litter every hilltop, in every conceivable shape and size, many sadly well past their prime now. On the rivers themselves, heavily laden barges struggle against the fast flowing waters, as the little car ferries scuttle across linking where there are no bridges.


The fifty miles of the Rhine Gorge, from Bingen to Koblenz, is the most popular area for visitors. The best view is from the river itself, of course, on one of the many Rhine Cruisers. If that doesn’t fit your timetable or budget, then driving it gives ample opportunity for you to take in the dramatic feel of the gorge, as the ever-efficient Germans provide plenty of stopping places at all the best vantage points.


There are no bridges along this section of the Rhine, but there are a number of inexpensive car ferries that will whisk you and your car across in just a few minutes.


Rudesheim is the place favoured by the majority of tour guides, as the idyllic Rhineland town. In reality it’s just a small area around the famous ‘Drosselgasse’, said with some justification to be the prettiest street in Europe, that draws the crowd. In summer, the souvenir shops and cafés are packed to bursting, but it’s still worth seeing.


But then so too are many places along the Rhine Gorge. Towns such as Bacharach, Boppard, Kaub, and Braubach, all have more than their fair share of charm. The unmissable yellow pile that is Marksburg Castle, which dominates the hill top above Braubach, is one of only a pair of medieval castles to have survived intact along this part of the river. It makes for an excellent family excursion. The climb up from the town takes around 45 minutes, and rewards you with some panoramic views from the towers.


A little further south, more superb views can be had from the top of the legendary Lorelei Rock, where according to folklore a blonde siren sat brushing her hair, and luring sailors to their doom with her song. Nowadays, it’s a much safer home for a visitor centre and landscaped parkland area, along with an open-air stage offering regular (Lorelei) rock concerts.


The most impressive castle on the Rhine, and one of the largest in Europe, is the giant fortress of Ehrenbreitstein. Dominating the ridge that overlooks the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel, at Koblenz, it stares down at the austere dark monument on the ‘Deutches Eck’ opposite. Koblenz was founded by the Romans, who recognised its valuable strategic location, although today the area’s away from the river are a bit bland and muddled.


The Mosel, meanwhile, is quite different to the Rhine, with a far more relaxed and open feel. The wider areas of the valley mean that the towns and villages are not as tightly packed as those on the Rhine, although they still have ample charm. The river snakes constantly around long sweeping bends, with vineyards covering every the slopes wherever possible.


From the Roman remains in the city of Trier, to the towering spires of Burg Eltz, hidden deep in a dark forest behind Treis-Karden, the Mosel offers you insights into its history at every turn. But for families with children these places also have appeal. The magic of ‘discovering’ Burg Eltz, after a long walk through a misty forest, for example, can be a memorable moment for a young imagination.


For a very different experience, take the chair lift next to the car park in Cochem, for panoramic views from  360 metres above on the ‘Pinner-Kreuz’. You can also visit Fairyland, and enjoy the animal and leisure park. If you need to use some energy, follow one of the many walking trails to soak up the crisp clean air.


Back in Cochem, the Leisure Complex offers a choice of tennis, volleyball, cycle hire, heated indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and a twisting water chute. At nearby Klotten, the Wild Und Freizeitpark offers roller-coaster rides, cable railway, giant water slides, a wildlife park, and ‘electrical horse riding’ (yes, really!!).


If you have children, this is perhaps the best area in which to base your stay. The rest of the Mosel, and the Rhine Valley, are within easy reach for excursions, as are the Eifel Mountains with all they have to offer. Even daytrips slightly further afield, to Koln,  Bonn, or Luxembourg for example, are possible.


With so much to offer, in such a picturesque location, however, you’ll be reluctant to tear yourself away from  the superb Rhine and Mosel valleys.

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Zum Weissen Schwannen, Braubach


The beautiful ‘Zum Weissen Schwanen’ Hotel, in the pretty town of Braubach, is hard to beat as a choice for the Rhine.


It’s a 17th century Weinhaus, combined with a water mill dating back to the 1500’s, nestled up against the medieval town walls. It has charm, character, and the perfect location.


Inside, the half timbered construction, a water wheel is still in place alongside the restaurant, and the crystal clear stream passes through the actual building.


The rooms are spacious and elegant, and the service from the helpful and friendly staff is first class.


For children, we especially liked the old toy box on one of the spacious landings, with various toys, games, books, and even pictures to colour.


www.zum-weissen-schwanen.de


Schloss-Hotel Petry

Treis-Karden


If you’re  planning to stay on the Mosel, the family run Schloss-Hotel Petry, close to the river in Treis-Karden, is a sensible choice.


Within easy reach of many of the family attractions in the region, it’s a great mix of historic building and modern facilities. It’s particularly family friendly, and despite being a fairly large establishment, having young children with us didn’t present any problems.


The rooms are well appointed, light and airy. Most are quite large, and many have balconies. There’s a good choice of restaurants, with first class cuisine, and a children’s menu is available. The whole atmosphere is relaxed and very pleasant.


www.schloss-hotel-petry.de


Rhineland Palantine Tourism Office:

 www.rlp-info.de


Burg Eltz:

www.burg-eltz.de


Wild-und-Feizeitpark Klotten:

www.freizeitpark-klotten.de


Cochem Chair-Lift:

www.cochemer-sesselbahn.de


TREVOR CLARINGBOLD

The multi-award winning editor of Pro Traveller, Trevor Claringbold is a journalist, broadcaster, and TV  producer.

His passion for travel has seen him travel extensively, and he has over 30 years experience in the media, including 15 years as a presenter and producer with the BBC.