Legend, History, and World-Class Vineyards
Cutting through 820 miles of European heartland from Switzerland to the North Sea, the Rhine River does not belong to Germany alone—but don’t tell the Germans that. The span that runs through Germany—particularly the 50-mile Middle Rhine or Rhine Gorge, running from Mainz to Koblenz—is where the river gained its historic importance and exhibits its greatest beauty, full of vineyard-clad banks, wooded forests, castle-topped crags, and tiny wine villages that put their best half-timbered faces forward.
The perennial question of how best to experience the Rhine—by river cruise or car—is best resolved by doing both. Scenic roads hug the river banks (the Rheingoldstrasse on the left bank, Lorelei-Burgenstrasse on the right) and river-cruise lines specialize in tours ranging from a few hours to a few days.
For a side trip, the winding Mosel River (which flows into the Rhine at Koblenz) offers a magic all its own, with graceful, sleepy scenery that’s the polar opposite of the Rhine’s powerful beauty, especially along the 85-mile stretch between Koblenz and the charming, ancient city of Trier, dating from 2000 B.C. Wines from both the Rhine and Mosel regions (mostly Rieslings) are well worth your time.