Take a look at these funny little bushes. Each one is worth four or five bottles of wine. Each bottle is worth four or five euros. They grow on either side of the river for hundreds of miles and have been doing so since before the Romans invaded this part of the world. The little chapel within the vines was built to commemorate how far the blood of martyred Christians flowed down the river Mosel from Trier (40km.) when the Romans had a leaving bash.
Of course a mono-culture like this cannot be sustained without a huge intervention usually in the way of chemicals and machinery. The more level areas can be accessed by tractor but the finest wines come from the steepest vineyards. These require a more inventive and somewhat risky approach.
The Romans left an enormous heritage in the Mosel valley including the city of Trier and its noble gates. The Black Gate is apparently the largest surviving Roman City gate south of the Alps.
The Stella Noviomagi is a recent reconstruction of a Roman War Galley that was used by the Romans to transport wine from the Mosel to Rome. It has a couple of dozen oars that would have powered it at a very sedate Roman pace but this reconstruction has a couple of diesel engines. I wondered how long it would take to go by rowboat from the Mosel to Rome….down the Mosel to Koblenz, Down the Rhine to Rotterdam, across the North sea, through the Channel, out in to the Atlantic, across the Bay of Biscay, past Portugal, whip round Spain and Gibraltar then just about a thousand miles across the Med. Stalwart chappies those Roman galley slaves.
Not like this bunch of beery tourists!
Rowing boats aren’t the only traffic along this bust highway. Thousands of tourists cruise along this river system like these moored in Bernkastel-Kues.
We met an Australian couple that had cruised from Amsterdam on an enormous ship which was heading to Budapest via the Danube. Although that was in a ship a little more like this one:
Most of the traffic, however, is commercial freight and these enormous potential seagoing vessels cross the watershed of Europe from the Atlantic side to the Black sea side rising up to 450m. above sea level using these river valleys and canals.
There are much more sedate and relaxed ways to travel along the Mozel:
You can cycle along both sides of the river through the vineyards to touristy places like Bernkastel-Kues with it’s bears and half timbered buildings and imagine you are in a world from several centuries ago.
But- the modern world is catching up fast. The new autobahn cuts out all the meandering of the Mosel and forces itself along the valley with tunnels and (nearly completed) flyovers.
But it is still worth the effort of going the long way round:
Many of these photographs were taken whilst leaning out of the window of a moving vehicle where there was no possibility of stopping safely. I can now testify that the humble bumble bee can sting twice. One flew in to my flapping tee shirt sleeve and stung me on the shoulder. Whilst I was screaming and wriggling back in to my seat the bee flew round inside my shirt and stung me in the middle of my back! Good news though, I was able to release the bee unharmed back in to the wild.