When I lived in Sydney, Australia about 7 years ago, a friend of mine once said: “I guess you’ve traveled all over Europe; Paris, Madrid, Berlin etc”. The truth was I hadn’t seen hardly any of it, not the continent anyway. My Aussie friend’s horrified response was: “But it’s all on your doorstep, especially with cheap flights – there is no excuse!”
Fast-forward 7 years and I can now honestly say that I am a fully fledged member of “Generation easyJet” and having discovered some beautiful places and a few hidden gems within continental Europe; none other than the picturesque German city of Koblenz. Situated in the West of Germany and on both banks of the Rhine where it is joined by the Moselle (the river connecting Germany, France and Luxembourg), Koblenz offers a visually attractive and charming setting against the backdrop of the Middle Rhine Valley.
The Easter weekend started off at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 on a British Airways flight to Düsseldorf, with just 1 hour flying time and for under £300 return for two people; we touched down in Germany’s business and finance city and immediately headed further south on the train taking us slap bang in to the middle of Cologne. Supping on a large Gaffel Kölsch and soaking up the Spring sunshine along the Rhine, Cologne is a lively city with a mixture of locals, tourists; stag/hen weekenders and passers through. We managed to get in our touristy bit in one afternoon, having lunch overlooking the Hohenzollern Bridge and taking selfies outside the Cologne Cathedral.
Back on the train again and after another hour long journey we headed to our host city for the weekend, deep in to the Germany countryside; Koblenz. Our Airbnb was a pretty quaint top floor flat located in the old district of Karthause. Run by the hospitable Rolf and and his partner Sigrid, they offered to pick us up from the station, which is about 2km away from our stay but we politely declined their offer and decided to trek (mostly) up hill with our backpacks and in the glorious sunshine. Staying for four nights for just a mere £200; this amazingly spotless clean flat had it’s own WiFi, kitchen, living space and cable TV. Drinks and food were also included in the apartment waiting for us and being Easter a selection of chocolate eggs were waiting on our doorstep too. Rolf even left bread rolls at our door in the mornings – its these little personal touches that make all the difference.
We did a day trip around the city of Koblenz itself, checking out Deutsches Eck (German Corner), the name of a headland where the Moselle river joins the Rhine. Named after a local Commandery of the Teutonic Order (Deutscher Orden), it became known for a monumental equestrian statue of William I, the first German Emperor, erected in 1897 and stands quite stupendously on the edge of the river’s split. Next to this is the Koblenz cable car (Seilbahn Koblenz), an aerial lift that opened in 2010. It connects the banks of the river Rhine and the hill plateau next to Ehrenbreitstein Fortress. The cable car system has an 890m length and elevates 112m. It costs around £8 each for a return journey over the river, well worth the ride, if only for the views looking down on Koblenz.
However, the real true reason for this trip wasn’t really any of the above; it was to find the true meaning of the word “enchantment” and The Rhine Valley has plenty of that on offer. For around 35 euros each we hopped on to the KD Deutsche Rheinschiffahrt – a boat that takes you all the way up the Middle Rhine Valley to discover what the creators of many Disney films based their ideas on. This was Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast and Frozen all rolled in to one – enchanted castles – lots of them! Dotted all along the banks of the Rhine we discovered the grand and imposing delights of Schloss Stolzenfels, Marksburg, Burg Katz, Burg Rheinfels and Schönburg to name a few.
Although the most breathtaking of them all was very well hidden, nestled away deep within a dark-green pine-forest stands Burg Eltz castle, a truly spectacular and bewitching sight. Eltz Castle is like no other castle in Germany as you won’t see it perched high up on the hill miles before arriving or on the banks of the river – for this castle is truly something out of a fantastical fairy-tale. We decided to hike it through the forest to get there and suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, you turn a corner and Eltz Castle appears in front of you, like some odd mirage. It’s a very special experience. On the approach, peering through the trees, you begin to see the full structure of this medieval castle in it’s intimidating glory. Built in the 12th century and owned by the same family for over 850 years, construction started in 1157 and building lasted 500 years.
Steeped in historic architecture and magical medieval backdrops, this part of Germany gives a true insight of what nobility and power stood for, how houses came to rule the German States, how quaint villages were the backbones of community and more notably, where inspiration came from when creating Game of Thrones and all those enchanting Disney movies I watched as a kid.
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