A short train or car ride outside of Frankfurt lies the Rhineland region famous for its picturesque German villages and Riesling wines. I wanted to take a quick weekend trip from Frankfurt to check it out. I had no idea which town to visit for good wine tasting and by the Gods, I just happened to pick the most picturesque town called Cochem which was the halfway meeting point between myself (in Frankfurt) and friends I was meeting (from Luxembourg). There was no other reason for choosing Cochem but it turned out to be a good decision.
Finding the village of Cochem
Cochem is a charming little city situated in a curving valley on the Mosel River and known for its stunning hilltop castle surrounded with views on the forested valley below, steep vineyards and rolling meadows. The Reichsburg Cochem truly is an incredible castle to visit. In fact, it may be in my top 10 castles that I’ve ever visited in Germany, and if you would like to see some pictures from the castle you can check out my other blog post here.
I thought the small town of Cochem was charming enough in its own to deserve a separate blog post just devoted to the narrow alleyways, half timbered houses, historical market place, medieval Churches, walls and city gates. The city has ancient roots, with the earliest mention in 866. Cochem has had a prominent history within the Eifel and Hunsrück regions as well as Germany, France and Europe as well.
History of Cochem
The history of the Cochem Castle dates back to the mid 11th century, but the actual castle in the town of Cochem along the Mossel River today is much younger. This castle, like many castles in Germany, saw many kings and invaders through the many troubled centuries.
Most estimate that the castle was originally built for the palatinate count Ezzo around the year 1,000 AD. For the following centuries, the castle was disputed between palatine counts until King Konrad III took control of the Cochem Castle bringing it to the imperial status which it kept until 1294 where the castle was pawned by King Adolf of Nassau.
The next major event in the Reichsburg Cochem Castle was the 1688 occupation by King Louis XIV, and then subsequently burned and blown up the following year in 1689.
The castle laid in ruin for almost 200-years when a Berlin businessman named Louis Ravené bought the site and castle ruins in 1868. During this period in Germany, it was common for the wealthy to purchase ruins and turn them into summer homes.
Coincidentally this project started the same year that Neuschwanstein Castle was brought back from ruins by King Ludwig II. Ravené used the ruins as a base and reconstructed the Cochem Castle in a Neo-Gothic style.
The reconstruction of Cochem Castle was completed in 1890 after Ravené’s death by his son, but would not stay with the family for long. The family was forced to sell the castle to the Prussian Government and it was then used as a Nazi law school during the war. After the war, the castle was given to the newly formed state of Rhinelander-Palatinate and then sold to the city of Cochem in 1978 who still own and operate the castle.
Getting to Cochem
Cochem is easily accessible by train or car. As I live in Frankfurt, I opted for the train from the Frankfurt Hauptbanhof. The train goes to the town of Koblenz, and then you can transfer to a train heading towards Trier. Cochem is located half way between Koblenz and Trier and the train station stops right in the middle of town. The train ride from Frankfurt is lovely as you get to absorb the beauty of the Rhine region.
Alternatively, the roads here are small but quaint, and the little villages along the Mosel river are all well connected so driving by car is also very easy.
I paid €20 for a one way train from Frankfurt and purchased it the day before. The train takes the scenic route from Frankfurt to Koblenz, and then a transfer from Koblenz to Cochem. The total train time was about 2.5 hours.
What to do in Cochem
Upon arrival, it was early in the morning and few people were out. The town is small with narrow, colorful and perfectly maintained cobblestone streets adorned with gift shops, cafes, restaurants, and everything else you’d need. The streets all lead to the central market place bustling with historic German style buildings and impressive fountains. All of this culminates with the magnificent Reichsburg castle at the top of the hill which can be viewed from far away. This is Cochem’s claim to fame and is a must stop for visitors of the region.
There is one bridge in the town that crosses the Mosel river. The other side of town has more hotels and provides a great view of Cochem town. I think the best picture opportunities are actually from the bridge as you can see by these amazing shots I took of this oh so picturesque German village.
Visiting Reichsburg Castle
This castle was by far one of my favorites we’ve seen here in Germany. It’s been rebuilt and well-preserved, still has the original furniture and fixtures inside, and has gorgeous views of the Mosel River from its vast balconies. They even have a mini vineyard at this castle and you can see the vines surrounding the Castle. This adds to just how beautiful of a view you’ll find when you visit the Castle.
The castle can be reached by foot but prepare to climb a bit on cobblestone streets. It is not a long climb but it was a surprise workout at 10am in the morning! Once you reach the castle, soak in the views and make sure to take a guided tour of the premise. This is the only way to actually enter the castle and is well worth the €6 in my opinion. The panoramic views from inside the castle are worth the price of admission alone.
After touring the castle, make sure to stop at the restaurant and have a glass of Riesling while soaking in the views of the Rhineland region.
I will definitely return to Cochem at some point in the future. It is an easy day trip from Frankfurt and there are so many amazing Airbnb rentals nearby that have fantastic views of the Mosel and that old school German charm.
Visiting other towns in the Rhine Region
We spent the morning in Cochem but wanted to explore the surrounding region as well as we had a car with us. Just follow the Mosel river and you’ll pass one picturesque German town after another. The German countryside is truly beautiful and every town you pass by has those colorful German houses, a church of some sort, and beckons to be photographed. You can’t help but stop to admire the views of these beautiful little villages.
As we were focused on wine tasting, we looked for wineries we could visit with nice views of the vines. The cell phone reception in this area are terrible so it makes researching on the fly difficult. The wineries in this region are not like the ones in say Stellenbosch, South Africa where a grand tasting room is located on the winery offering spectacular views. In Germany, most of the tasting rooms are little houses in the villages that let you sample their wine upon request. It was very difficult to find any wineries with tasting rooms in the vines themselves.
Weinfest in a little village town
We stumbled upon the cute village of Senheim where a wine festival was happening on the hills of the vineyards. We had no idea this was happening but heard music playing from far away. We stopped in the village and followed the music to the top of the vineyards where there were multiple stalls set up serving wine and food! While this wasn’t a full on winery with views, it was the next best thing! There were wine growers from all over the region selling their wines at this festival. We sampled white wine from all over Germany with fantastic views of the Mosel region.
Each wine was €2-3 per glass and €10-15 for a full bottle. There were many German foods being served like bratwursts and my favorite flammkuchen, which I compare to a German pizza. We ended up staying here for a few hours to sample delicious white wine and enjoy the food. By this time, it was already 6pm and most of the wineries in the region are closed by then. I’ll definitely be back to the area to explore it some more because there is so much to see in the Mosel wine region.
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