It is the end of March in 2004, and it's early morning. There is still a little haze in the Mosel-Valley but it looks like it is going to be a very nice spring day. The sun is trying to break through the last few clouds and I am enjoying every minute of this morning.
The start of the day was really early though, about 5 o'clock. That IS an early start, but it is so amazing that you can travel all the way from Sweden to the Mosel-Valley just as a daytrip. But that's possible these days! Hahaha, and of course I couldn't let an opportunity like that go by.
Okay, I got a amazingly cheap flight to Hahn, which is located not far from the Mosel-Valley. Hmmmm.... but how to get around there for not too much money..... So we started to surf around for a good deal on a rental car and we found a great one! We used 'Sixti Car Hire' where you can hire a car (a 'Smart') as cheap as 5 euro a day! You have to read the fine print though, as there are quite a few things you have to pay attention to. But this can be a very cheap option if you don't need the car for a long distance and travel off-season.
After a nice drive through the Mosel-Valley, I arrived in Cochem. It hasn't been the first visit to this place, but the first view of it keeps surprising me. You can't visit Cochem without noticing the castle on top of the hill.
The castle is towering 100 metres above the city of Cochem overlooking the Mosel River. The silhouette of the towering hill seems to continue in the castle which creates a wonderful effect. I guess this castle is one of the main reasons that have made Cochem to the tourist village as it is nowadays. And yes, it is also the reason why I wanted to go here, to visit the castle!
Going to Cochem during the springtime is really nice. The trees were starting to bloom, the sun was shining nicely and there are not that many tourists around. During the summer it can be really crowded here, maybe even too crowded, so I can really recommend to visit this place during the spring.
An extra bonus for this trip was this wonderful 'spring' feeling. In Sweden it was still a bit 'winter-like', no spring flowers yet! And this touch of spring was so lovely; weather that we had to wait for a few more weeks up in Sweden, but I could enjoy it already for one day :-)
The castle looks so wonderful on top of the hill. Hahaha, there is one problem though! You have to walk all the way up there to take a look at the castle! You can park your car in the village of Cochem, there are quite a few spots available along the river. Close to the centre it is paid parking, but if you follow the road a bit longer from the centre of the village along the river towards the castle, you can find some free parking spots as well.
Phew, climbing up that hill doesn't go easy! The first time I climbed it was about 15 years ago, hahaha, and I still remembered that hike up the hill very well. And yep, it didn't disappoint me!!! It was still as steep as the first time, lol. But don't worry! Almost up to the top of the hill, with the castle in view, there is a little bench. Hahaha, the perfect spot to rest a bit, feel pity for yourself, hahaha, and pose for the camera like you are being sooooo exhausted, lol :-))
The last little bit to the castle is a nice walk, hahaha, maybe especially because you know you are almost there. You can see the impressive castle on top, and on the side of the road there is a little vineyard. This early in the year the grapevines are just little sticks, still a long time away from the nice green plants loaded with grapes. But it is nice to see and realize you are in wine-country! But more about the Mosel wines in one of my later tips.
It has been quite a climb up, but it isn't a coincidence that you have to climb up so much to see this castle. Cochem castle is the type of castle that is protected by height from its enemies. But the castle has nothing to fear these days from enemies, but more from the very location that is situated on. Erosion of the rock and cracks in it now seem to be its biggest enemy.
While I was waiting for the guided tour to start, it was nice just to hang lazy over the castle walls and enjoy the views over the river Mosel. You have a nice view over the city of Cochem from here, and of course on the river Mosel. In the old days they didn't only enjoy the view from here, they also made money of the river.
In the first half of the 14th century, archbishop Balduin of Trier installed a chain below the castle to form a removable toll barrier across the river. Seems like he was a clever business man ;-)
The guided tour is almost starting, but before we go in I would like to tell you a little bit about its history:
Cochem Castle was built around the year 1000 by count palatine Ezzo. The first time that the castle was mentioned in a document was about 50 years later, in 1051. The document tells about Ezzo's daughter (former queen of Poland) giving the castle to her nephew count palatine Henry I.
In 1151 the castle became an imperial castle, after king Konrad III occupied the castle with troups.
In 1294, king Adolf of Nassau pawned the castle and the city of Cochem and lots of the surrounding properties, to pay for his coronation as German emperor. And the castle changed hands again due to this.
Under the reign of Archbishop Balduin (1307-1354) the old castle was enlarged and fortified.
When the troupes of king Louis XIV (the Sun King) invaded the Rhine and Moselle area the history of Cochem and its castle took a bad turn. The castle was occupied in 1688. May 19 th of 1689 was a black day in the history of the castle. The French troupes put the castle on fire, undermined it and blew it up. The castle was left in ruins and the town of Cochem was almost completely destroyed.
But luckily this wasn't the end of Cochem castle. The castle stayed in ruins for a long time, but in 1868 Mr. Louis Ravene bought the castle and started to rebuild it. He incorporated the remains of the late Gothic buildings into the 'new' castle. The architectural style for this new castle was going to be Neo-Gothic, a very popular romantic style of architecture in the 19th century. In those days it was a trend throughout Germany that nobility and other wealthy persons purchased and refurbished castle ruins and used them as summer residences.
I didn't have to wait long for the guided tour to start, maybe around 15 minutes. You can go on a guided tour from the beginning of March until the end of December. As I was here around 11 in the morning in March, there weren't many tourists around. And to my surprise and delight, we were the only two on the guided tour! Hahaha, really fun to have a private guide! And that meant that the tour was in English as well instead of German (which in the normal language for the guided tour).
Guided tours take about 40 minutes and are time well spend, I really enjoyed walking through the castle and hearing all about its history. If I remember correctly the entrance fee was around 4 euro per person.
Inside the castle you can see quite a few beautiful decorated rooms. The castle has a lot of Renaissance and Baroque furniture, which was carefully collected by the Ravene family.
There are also quite a few beautiful fireplaces, like this one. The guide that was showing us around in the castle was very friendly and seemed to enjoy the private tour just as much as we did. She probably had a bit more time to explain about the castle and show its small 'secrets'.
Like any romantic old castle this one of course had its secrets doors. It's quite hard to spot them if you don't know where to look for them though!
All over the place were beautiful pieces of furniture that seem to come from all over the world. I was really surprised I was allowed to take pictures of everything though, even with flash! Hahaha, and tour guide didn't need to say that twice! It was great to be able to click my camera as much as I wished :-)
Well... This is not a view from a window, hahaha, so I guess I didn't break my promise, lol. I just loved the view from the castle, especially on this beautifully sunny day. The balcony wasn't so big, and was towering high above the Valley. Eeks, don't look down through the cracks in the wood on the floor!!! That is a BIG gap down! Hahaha, I guess I have to confess that I am not such a hero concerning heights, lol :-))
These stairs seem to go nowhere, but they do go somewhere! They lead up to the little clock tower of the castle. We weren't allowed to go here unfortunately. I liked the painted ceiling of it though.
The guided tour through the castle has come to an end. Last stop is the well at the inner courtyard. Of course they have to show you how deep it is by throwing in a little stone. Yep, it sure is deep!!!
The owners of the castle were very lucky when they dug this well though. Imagine digging through this immense layer of rock to come to the Mosel River to find water! But with a strike of luck they hit an underground stream. That saved them a lot of digging! There is still water in the well these days.
One last picture of Cochem castle before we leave. The little gateway to exit the courtyard looks so picturesque that I couldn't resist taking another picture :-) On the right side you can see the little clock tower of the castle.
Well, as you can imagine, walking down the hill from the castle goes MUCH easier than walking up! ;-)) So no exhausted faces here, just big smiles. It's time to have some lunch and afterwards explore the village of Cochem itself.
When you walk into Cochem you will without a doubt end up on the town square. It is a rectangular square with on the one side the 'Rathaus' (city hall) build in a sober Baroque style. Behind it you can see the tower of the Martinskirche (Martins church).
The Martinskirche was built between 1456 and 1503. Unfortunately a big part of the church was destroyed during the Second World War, but has been restored since. The tower has been rebuild after the war of an original which dated back to the ninth century.
Here you have another view of the town square. On this side you can see all half-timbered houses. I think they look so picturesque! Around the town square there are some nice small streets where you can walk around and do a bit of window-shopping.
Cochem is a real tourist town. It is the tourist heart of the area. Over a million day-visitors a years come to Cochem, so it's no wonder that at certain times of the year this little town is a bit 'too' crowded. And maybe I should spell 'too' in capital letters as in the summer it is really packed full with tourists. I've been here once during the summer months and I couldn't wait to get out of here again. But now on this lovely spring day in March it was nice and quiet and a joy to wander around.
As Cochem is a real tourist town of course you can find everything a 'real' tourist desires. There are many tourist shops with all the 'real-tourist-have-to-have-thingies' you can imagine. There are plenty of restaurants, hotels, rooms, pensions There is also a youth hostel and a campground. Cochem somehow lost its own identity though, in many of the restaurants for example they serve the typical 'tourist food'. But there is one thing they still do have, and that is their own wine, and plenty of it! So if you like a Mosel-wine there is no shortage of places where you have a taste or buy some bottles.
This is the last picture of the Market Square in Cochem. Here you can see the statue of the 'Holy Martin'. It is located on a big pillar on the square, and you really have to look up to be able to see it. The original statue of terracotta from 1863 was replaced by this bronze statue in 1935.
Cochem is located in the Mosel Valley, about 51km (32 miles) South-West of Koblenz, where the river Mosel flows into the river Rhine. This picture was taken somewhere along the river Mosel. Cochem and the whole of the Mosel valley is known not only for its castles, but also for its wine. And that is clearly visible in the picture! There are vineyards as far as the eye can reach. On the most unimaginable spots you can see vine-grapes grow. Hahaha, it is sometimes really amazing which small patches of land they use to grow these grapes.
The main production of wine in the Mosel region is white wine. It was actually forbidden for a some years ago to produce red wine, with the exception of small portions for personal use. The most important wine in the region is the Riesling but there are more varieties of wine that are produced here. You can't visit the Mosel valley without tasting or buying some its wine!
On this page about Cochem I've focused on the castle of Cochem itself, but there are many more castles in the region that are worth a visit. On this same day for instance I also went to Schloss Stolzenfels in the Rhine valley. I made a separate page for that on the location of Kapellen Stolzenfels.
After a perfect day.... a not so perfect end :-( Sigh, waiting, waiting, waiting.... and more waiting! I guess I run out of luck, this was for the first time I had a major delay like this with Ryanair.
The airport of Hahn isn't that big, so this also meant a very booooring wait, nothing to do or see here to kill the time. Sigh, 3 hours later (11 o'clock at night instead of 8 o'clock in the evening) we could finally board the plane. But despite this looong wait, the daytrip was a huge success! I would do it again, hahaha, even if it means another of those loooong boring waits ;-)