We arrived into Cochem on the Friday lunchtime of our Rhine River Cruise. In the morning we sailed along the beautiful Moselle River from Koblenz, admiring the stunning scenery and vineyards which this area is famous for.
Our first stop of the day in Cochem was a visit to the stunning Cochem Imperial Castle which sits gloriously above the city on the mountain.
During the day you are unable to drive straight through the town centre of Cochem so we took the winding mountain road up to the castle in a small bus for our guided tour. It is worth noting you can only visit the inside of the castle as part of a guided tour. Sadly you can’t just rock up and wander round on your own. Unless you are in an organised tour like ours of more than 20 people or more your tour is also likely to be held in German, luckily English paper guides are provided to let you know what is being said. This is also not a tour which is wheelchair friendly as it features a lot of stairs and narrow spaces…. not a lot of lifts in ancient castles I’m afraid!
If you are not on an organised tour like ours you can access the castle via the local shuttle bus or by a very steep 20 minutes walk from the town centre. It is certainly worth it if for no other reason but to soak up the stunning views of the Moselle Valley and town of Cochem.
Our very friendly English speaking guide took us on an approximately 40 minute tour of the castle and grounds. We visited various rooms of the castle including the grand dining hall. Work is still underway to restore parts of the castle to it’s full glory. The various rooms are filled with beautiful furniture, stunning stained glass windows, various stuffed animals and suits of armour. The most striking feature of the castle is arguably the large mosaic which graces the outside of the main tower featuring Saint Christopher, patron saint of travellers, carrying the Christ child on his shoulders. I hope he grants me safe travels in the future.
The Castle is believed to date back to around 1000-1100AD having being built by the Palatinate count Ezzo. It remained in the counts ownership until King Konrad III occupied and took ownership of the castle. He then declared it to be an Imperial Castle. The Castle was pawned in 1924 and kept in ownership by the archbishops or Trier until Louis XIV invaded the region and siezed the castle in 1688. The French army destroyed the castle in 1689 and it sat in ruins for nearly two hundred years until German businessman Louis Ravené purchased it in 1868. He rebuilt it in the Neo-Gothic style and used it for his summer home. The castle has been owned by the City of Cochem since 1978.
Following out castle tour we descended back to the town centre where we took a leisurely tour through the city accompanied by our guide. She was a wonderful lady who was very proud to show us around “her home town”, a phrase nearly every guide on our trip used. It always strikes me just how proud German people are of their homeland and enthusiastic they are to talk about it, a trait I find very infectious.
The town centre square was bustling, with a group of musicians playing traditional music very loudly to entertain the locals and visitors alike. Our guide told us this sort of thing happens every day and they do it just for fun, not to make money. Cochem is home to over 5,000 inhabitants and relies heavily on tourism and trade. This was cetainly a lively town, with large outdoor eating areas outside restaurants and a very spirited river side culture.
Our final stop in Cochem was at the H.H.Hieronimi winery for a wine tasting which was handily located opposite where our ship was moored. This winery has been owned and run by generations of the Heronimi family since it was founded in 1843. Once, a major trader of wines throughout Europe they have scaled back their operations in line with the decline in the regions wine industry and now focus on high quality of quantity. Their wines are available exclusively in the Moselle Region and feature mainly traditional Rieslings, but also other types of white, white and sparkling wines and schnaps.
Our host, one of the current Heronimi owners talked us through the various types of wine and how they are grown, how varying grades of sweetness are created and how to tell the quality of a wine through colour, smell and taste of the wine. This was even interesting for a non-drinker such as myself and my travel companions certainly seemed to enjoy their tastings… indeed upon leaving we realised other tables had been using the spittle buckets, our table had certainly not let a drop go to waste! My companions were all treated to three half glasses of wine each, the first an average quality “house” wine. They were then treated to a higher quality wine of their own choosing of sweetness and finally a top quality wining, again of their own choosing. They certainly all enjoyed it very much and said they were all delicious. I tried to join in, but frankly my untrained peasants nose was inclined to think they all smelled and looked rather the same! I certainly enjoyed the talk and free crackers though! I was very tempted to buy a nice bottle of sweet wine for my parents but my hand luggage only status did not allow so apologies Mum and Dad!
If you are visiting the Moselle region you are almost guaranteed to want to buy some wine. I did and I don’t even drink. Therefore, plan in advance and leave space in your hold luggage!
Pull up a chair in one of the town square’s many restaurants open air seating areas and soak up the local atmosphere, I promise you it’s infectious.