If you read my Mosel Bridge post you’ll know I spent a few days down there last week. Not quite as long as I’d have liked, but long enough to do the two things I wanted to do most: buy wine and cycle.
The Mosel Cycle Trail suits a cyclist like me, old enough and unfit enough that the hills hurt (especially after lunch), but who can still manage five or six hours on the flat without obvious threat to life. In fact cycling from Bernkastel to Traben-Trarbach, an hour for lunch and back again, is a fairly leisurely stroll of around forty-plus kilometres with ample chance to stop. You can do it in a leisurely fashion as we did, or somewhat swifter (as everyone else seemed to be doing) to allow for longer beer stops (I’ve learned my lesson there).
It was nice to compare the Mosel route with the Wachau, bits of the latter being on the road through some of the villages, but more removed from traffic in others. Both are lovely, scenic, rides with the vineyards rising steeply in a coat of verdant green above a wide expanse of water glistening in the sunlight. The most prosaic difference is that you get a slightly better rental bike in Austria, but perhaps that’s just my personal experience. The bikes from Kues were good, though it’s only in Austria where I seem to avoid a sore…er…after a day in the saddle.
The serious part of any Mosel visit is the wine, but if you don’t have time for multiple visits to producers, then Bernkastel is your friend. It has many shops selling wine, but none approaches the sheer hedonistic pleasure for a Riesling devotee than stepping inside the shop which now likes to call itself the Rieslinghaus, but still has the old sign above the door (see photo) which is so amusing to the pre-pubescent tittering English speaker, or the wine lover devoted to posting photos of super-expensive bottles on Instagram (see photo). For it is here that almost all of the top producers of Mosel Riesling can be found lining the shelves (and if you ask nicely you might be pointed to some pretty good Mosel Spatburgunder as well, it does exist). In three days I visited three times, once as I was unable to carry more on the first visit, and a third time because I couldn’t possibly leave without just one more little purchase.
Bernkastel is, of course, a chocolate box tourist attraction, yet I still find it charming, and possessing more character than any other small town on the river. You can eat and drink pretty well, although as an off piste recommendation the Taj Mahal Indian-Pakistani restaurant, almost opposite the Rieslinghaus is excellent, very good food and a cool beer or two makes a nice change. It was doubly good as some of the party are vegetarian.
We stayed in Andel, about five minutes’ drive from Bernkastel with forest walks on the doorstep plus a good baker for self-catering visitors, and we hired bikes from Fahrradverleih Bernkastel, over the river at Cusanusstrasse 15 in Kues (opposite the Aldi).