Table 914: Koblenz – Mainz

PART 1

This month we are following the scenic Rhine Valley from Koblenz to Mainz, Germany’s most famous and beautiful railway journey. To explore the many beautiful towns along the way take the regional trains stopping at all stations.

Our starting point is Koblenz one of the oldest cities in Germany, situated on the Rhine and Mosel rivers. Koblenz has something for everyone, from fairytale castles, vineyards, the winding cobbled streets of the old town and excellent cuisine.

A good place to start your visit is to take a ride on the Koblenz cable car. Situated on the banks of the Rhine, it is the most scenic way to reach the iconic Ehrenbreitstein fortress. Located 112 metres above the Rhine, the Ehrenbreitstein fortress is the second largest intact fortress in Europe with spectacular views over the Rhine Valley. Inside the fortress you will find the Landesmuseum Koblenz, highlighting its history.

The monument for unified Germany at Deutsches Eck (German Corner) is the main landmark in Koblenz. Take a walk up the various levels inside the impressive statue of Kaiser Wilhelm II for the most impressive picturesque views of the area.

For classic German cuisine and wines from the Rhine-Moselle region head to Weinhaus Hubertus, one of the oldest half-timbered buildings in Koblenz.

Experience a boat trip along the Rhine from Koblenz to the one of the many wine villages and castles. The Köln-Düsseldorfer Rheinschiffahrt (Table 914a), better known as KD, runs cruises and scheduled services up and down the river between Köln and Mainz.

PART 2

This week we continue south along the right hand bank of the River Rhine to the town of St Goarshausen. Famous for its mythical Loreley Valley and the 132 metre high slate rock. At the cliff top lies the Loreley Visitors Centre with stunning views of the Statue of Loreley below. The statue, erected in 1983, is a memorial to a young maiden whose songs enchanted seamen causing countless shipwrecks. Above St Goarshausen you will find two stunning castles: Katz Castle (not open to visitors) and Maus Castle with fabulous views over the town and Rheinfels Castle across the river.

Continuing on we reach Kaub and its famous toll Pfalzgrafenstein Castle, in the middle of the Rhine River on Pfalz island, only accessible by boat to and from the castle, a truly unique experience.

Passing Lorch with its Monastery, Kloster Lorch, we reach the charming town of Rüdesheim, best known for its Riesling wines. In the old town you will find the famous Drosselgasse, an alley lined with historic buildings, restaurants and gift shops with a fantastic atmosphere. Be sure to visit Brömserburg Castle, home to the Rheingau Wine Museum and learn about the wine production in the region and development from ancient times to the present day. Don’t forget to take a ride on the two-person cable car to the Niederwald Monument, with stunning panoramic views over the vineyards and the Rhine river.

PART 3

We have now reached the city of Wiesbaden, the state capital of Hesse, and best known for its hot springs, beautiful architecture and countless vineyards.

In the centre of Wiesbaden you will find the Kurhaus, Wiesbaden’s main spa house. Built in 1907, in neo-classical style, this beautiful ornate building with its ballrooms and concert hall, is used as a convention centre. It also houses a casino with roulette, poker and blackjack, and a fine restaurant. Take a walk around the grounds too, with the ‘Bowling Green’, fountains and beautiful trees.

You can’t go to Wiesbaden without visiting Kochbrunnen, the most famous hot spring in the city. The fountain flows at around 360 litres per minute and the water temperature is around 66°c. The waters flow crystal clear, but turns yellowish after sitting in the basin for 24 hours.

To the north of the city you will find the Nerobergbahn, a funicular railway which links the city with Neroberg hill. Dating from 1888, it is the oldest water ballast railway in Germany. The ride takes around 3½ minutes and a distance of 440 metres. From the top you’ll be rewarded with great panoramic views of the city and the surrounding countryside.

Before you leave check out one of the largest cuckoo clock in the world on the shop front of Gebr. Stern GmbH. It strikes every half hour between 08:00 and 20:00.

PART 4

On the left bank of the River Rhine we reach Mainz, Germany’s wine capital. Head to the Kupferberg Museum, one of Mainz’s oldest wineries. Explore the deepest wine cellars in the world with seven storeys, and sample their superb sparkling wines.

In the charming old town (Altstadt) you will find an array of half-timber houses and market squares. In the centre you will see the distinctive octagonal tower tops of Mainz Cathedral. Built from deep red sandstone, this Roman Catholic cathedral is around 1,000 years old. Also be sure to visit the Church of St. Stephan, with its beautiful blue stained glass windows by Marc Chagall. Just a short walk away, in the centre of Schillerplatz, you will find the Fastnachtsbrunnen, a striking 9 metre tall fountain. Decorated with over 200 bronze figures depicting the start of carnival season in Mainz which takes place every year on November 11.

If you love books head to the oldest museum of printing in the world, the Gutenberg Museum. It tells the story of how Johannes Gutenberg, from Mainz, invented the printing press. The museum has a reconstruction of the original Gutenberg printing workshop and runs daily demonstrations. It also has two original Gutenberg first printed Bibles on display.

Route No. 16: “Touring the Rhine Valley”

ROUTE OF THE WEEK

As a continuing feature we will be highlighting a selected route from our guidebook ‘Europe by Rail’ written by Nicky Gardner & Susanne Kries, every week.  Below is an extract from the book. To find out more, the guidebook can be purchased through our website for £15.99.

PHOTO: The Hohenzollern Bridge is used by all trains crossing the Rhine to enter Cologne from the east. Cologne's great cathedral, seen in this shot, is right by the main railway station. Photo by Dirk Ziegener posted on FreeImages.com

PHOTO: The Hohenzollern Bridge is used by all trains crossing the Rhine to enter Cologne from the east. Cologne’s great cathedral, seen in this shot, is right by the main railway station. Photo by Dirk Ziegener posted on FreeImages.com

This week we are looking at: Route No. 16: “Touring the Rhine Valley” which runs from south from Cologne in Germany through the Black Forest to Zurich, Switzerland.

This is one of Europe’s classic rail journeys, as the route south from Cologne hugs the River Rhine and then, once past Koblenz, follows the dramatic Rhine Gorge upstream. Moving over the imperceptible divide from northern into southern Germany, we leave the Rhine Valley and continue through the Black Forest in to Switzerland

Suggested Itinerary:
Our starting point is Cologne, which is nowadays just a short hop on regular high-speed trains from Amsterdam (ERT 28), Brussels and Paris (both ERT 20). Travellers from Britain can leave London on a morning departure on Eurostar and, with just one change of train in Brussels, be in Cologne to start Route 16 by early afternoon. There is no compulsory seat reservation on any of the trains in this route. Holders of InterRail and Eurail passes can thus follow the entire route without paying a cent in supplements. This is, therefore, a journey well suited to spontaneous travel. Cheap tickets, valid only on regional trains, are available for all but the final leg from Schaffhausen to Zurich.

Heidelberg is the obvious place for an overnight stop. If you decide to travel from Cologne to Heidelberg in a day, we especially recommend using one of the two morning Eurocity trains which run up the Rhine Valley from Cologne. These two trains (EC7 and EC9 respectively) are both formed of very comfortable Swiss carriages and each train has an excellent restaurant car. It is a two-and-a-half hour journey from Cologne to Mannheim, where you’ll need to change for a connecting train to Heidelberg, just a dozen minutes away.

If the weather is good and time no object, think of doing part of the journey by boat up the Rhine; the best place to do this is definitely between Boppard and Bingen (ERT 914a). Holders of Eurail and InterRail passes receive a 20% discount on the regular fares on all shipping services shown in ERT 914a.