KOBLENZ, Germany, October 6, 2016–It would be hard to find a lovelier off the beaten track city to visit in Germany than Koblenz. Ideally situated where the Mosel River flows into the Rhine, this city has a history dating back 2000 years, starting from when it was a Roman settlement. Today, it is a top tourist destination of stunning beauty with a rich history and culture and a thriving culinary scene.
A strip of land marks the confluence of both rivers at the popular Deutsches Eck or German Corner. Visitors can gaze upon the colossal bronze statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I on horseback, triumphantly towering 120 feet above the city and affording grand views of the area from its pedestal.
Another sculpture, a 10 meter pillar located within a fountain in the center of the Görresplatz, depicts the history of Koblenz starting with the Romans (bottom of the sculpture) and moving up through the Crusades, the French Revolution, the Second World War and up to present day.
The area along this part of the Middle Rhine is buzzing with activity. Pedestrians or cyclists—you can ride all the way to Basel, Switzerland—can explore miles of scenic beauty along the river’s banks. But one of the best ways to see this area is to take a riverboat cruise. For as little as €9, you can cruise for about 90 minutes with grand views of the river, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For just a little more, you can go further, stopping off at small towns along the way including picturesque Rüdesheim and Boppard.
But that is just for starters. Along your route, you will see lush, terraced vineyards, cruise ships moving back and forth, and some of the 40 or so historic hilltop castles. These include Schloss Stolzenfels, also known as the Neuschwanstein Castle of the Rhine; Martinsburg; and Marksburg, the latter of which is perched majestically above the town of Braubach in Rhineland-Palatinate.
Not to be missed is the cable car ride to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress that overlooks the town (€11.80 for the cable car ride and castle visit). The cars float silently over the Rhine and are among the largest in Germany in terms of capacity, able to transport 7,600 people per day. The fortress, the second largest in the world, was constructed between 1817-1828 by the Prussians as part of the area’s fortification system. Upon reaching the top of the cable car ride, you can stroll through the passageways of the fortress, enjoy cultural exhibitions, and have a meal at their Casino restaurant. A local beer called Festungs Bräu is brewed just for the fortress and you can enjoy a stein while taking in a bird’s eye view of Koblenz.
There are a number of other interesting attractions in and around the city. At Kauf-und Danzhaus (Old Merchants and Dance House), the exterior clock has the face of the Eye Roller, which commemorates the robber baron Johann von Kobern. At certain times of the hour, he also sticks out his red tongue.
Located in the Forum Confluentes building in the city center is the Romanticum. More than a typical museum, this is an interactive, highly imaginative educational center for the entire Middle Rhine region. You’ll find books that speak to you as you pull them off of the shelf, an old fashioned silhouette theater, a touchscreen that lets you explore a map of the Rhine and close to 70 other exhibits.
What’s even more unique about the Romanticum is that upon entering (€6 for adults, €1 for children up to 12 years of age), you are issued a pass about the size of a credit card. Hold this up to any of the appropriate logos on the displays and the QR code on the card will capture all of the information and store it for your future retrieval on a computer or smartphone. Ingenious? Indeed it is, and you won’t find another museum quite like it. Furthermore, this cultural building also houses a library, an art museum, and a tourist information center.
Of course Koblenz boasts a wide range of shopping opportunities. These include the modern looking Forum-Mittelrhein with around 80 retail shops and restaurants and another 130 independent retail establishments or so along Löhrstraße in and around the downtown area.
Gastronomically speaking, Koblenz is a culinary gold mine. Here, you can find pubs, ice cream, and konditorei or pastry shops. In one area of the city, you have an almost side by side selection of Indian, Mexican, Italian and Chinese restaurants.
At the Baumann Kondetorei/Confiserie (confectionery) Café, you will discover 200 years of a family run pastry and confection business. This is a great place to relax and have a slice of cake and coffee, and the truffles are all made by hand.
Koblenz is the only city in Germany where you can enjoy wines from both the Rhine and Mosel regions. There are some 16 family-owned wineries located here, some more than 100 years old.
One of the best ways to learn about wine is directly from the grower. At Weingut Karl Lunnebach, you can do just that. Located an easy cab ride from the main part of town, this family-owned winery is situated on the Mosel River. With advance small group reservations you can partake in wine tasting as well as authentic regional foods prepared by the vintner’s family.
Typically, a 3-course meal might feature dishes such as roast pork, au gratin potatoes, spaetzle, chicken in riesling cream and dessert all for a price of around €20-25. Or, for €50, you can include a wine tasting as well. You can also purchase a nice bottle of wine right on site for as little as €6.
As you stroll around town, try the cappuccino at K3, located inside the Forum Confluentes. For ice cream, locals visit E Gelosia for some of the best in Germany. You’ll be able to tell how popular this place is by the lines, which can stretch as far as 200 feet past the cathedral on weekends.
If you end up taking the Rhine cruise, be sure to disembark at the small village of Boppard. There, you will want to make your way to the Konditorei Café Hahn. Another small family business, this one is operated by the 80 year-old paterfamilias, his wife and his daughter. The father has been creating mouth-watering cakes here for 50 years.
Once you arrive back in Koblenz, if you are still hungry for lunch or dinner, try Wacht am Rhein right on the waterfront. The inside looks like the owner’s house loaded with everything from cupboards, couches, trinkets, and whatever else he felt he couldn’t live without. But for the best experience, sit outside and enjoy Italian or traditional German cuisine such as sauerbraten in a sour, savory sauce with red cabbage.
Koblenz is a city toward which many people might give only a cursory glance while passing through on a river cruise. But there is much more here than meets the eye, in this destination that blends the old with the new and begs for some serious time for exploring its rich treasures. However long your visit, Koblenz is sure to leave a lasting impression.
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