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Things to do in Cochem, Germany

Things to do in Cochem, Germany

Cochem is a beautiful riverside town along the river Mosel in western Germany. It’s a popular stop on the short haul river cruise route, and for good reason. Surrounded by vineyards climbing up the steep sides of the river valley, and topped off with the magnificent Castle Cochem, this town is a perfect weekend trip. 

Is it Mosel or Moselle?

You have probably seen both Mosel and Moselle when referring to this area, and both are correct. The Mosel spelling is used in German, and Moselle in French. This river runs through France as well as Germany, and this area has historically been quite fluid between the two empires for hundreds of years.

The Cochem Castle from the town
The Cochem Castle from the town 

A  bit of history

Cochem has been a settlement as far back as Celtic and Roman times. It’s first mentioned in print in 893. Like many towns cities in this region, it passed from Germanic rule to French and back again over the years. The Thirty Years War took its toll, and like many castles in western Germany it was burnt and destroyed. The rebuilding of Cochem took many many years, interrupted by several changes in leadership from the Archbishop of Trier to the French crown and then to Prussia. The bridge over the Mosel in Cochem was only built in 1927 however, so the houses on the far side from the castle were originally the separate fishing villages of Cond and Sehl. Much of the Cochem old town was destroyed during the Second World War, and there was a subcamp of the Natzweiler concentration camp was near the city, provided forced labour for Bosch. 

Incredible colours of the grape vines in autumn.
Incredible colours of the grape vines in autumn.

Best times to visit Cochem

We have visited the Mosel valley many times, and it’s a great favourite with our visitors. I swear there isn’t a bad time to come. In summer it’s beautifully leafy, with grapevines in leaf all over the buildings and stretching across arbours. Many restaurants have terraces overlooking the river, and we’ve had several long dinners with very local (literally grown 500 meters away from where you’re sitting) wines to match outside in the fading sunshine. This autumn we visited for a weekend when the leaves were changing, and it was truly breathtaking with all the vineyards changing colours at different rates. 

The Cochem Castle above the town
The Cochem Castle above the town

Cochem Castle

This impressive castle towers over the town of Cochem. It is one of my favourite castle tours to date (and you know I’ve done loads of them), and will satisfy your castle desires for sure. It’s worth noting this is a good kid-friendly tour as it isn’t too long, and you can take photos inside, which is very unusual. You can read my full post about visiting Cochem Castle too. 

Exploring the town of Cochem on foot
Exploring the town of Cochem on foot

Hiking, biking and exploring

There are many hiking options around Cochem, from easy walks to multi-day hikes from town to town. It’s a very rewarding area for exploring, as the vineyards wind among the hills and there are incredible views at every turn, both into the valley and the river and the fields beyond. Because Cochem is in the steep Mosel valley, however, most hikes will involve a lot of climbing. The main flat walking options are the trails along the river. If you want to rent a bike to take advantage of the beautiful flat path alongside the river, Radsport Schrauth rents out bikes with kid trailers or rear child seats if you contact them to reserve ahead of time. 

Boat rides 

You can take a quick roundtrip tour from right under the main bridge in Cochem, that will take you a little way down the river and back. You can also catch one of the popular hop-on hop-off cruises that run down the Mosel and Rhine, but do check the timings, because as the boats go against the flow of the river, they can be quite slow. Sometimes it takes twice as long to get back as it does to go out, and it’s hard if you’ve got an impatient child with you. However, most of these boats also offer at least snacks and drinks on board. You can also catch a train from most of the stopping points if you get stuck. That being said, it’s a beautiful, relaxing way to see the incredible castles and cute towns along the river. The best time to do this is, is in the summer, as from mid-October to March, most of the companies only run a very limited service. You don’t need to buy tickets ahead, but if you’d like to plan it out in advance, the main companies are KD and Kolb.

Cochem is full of half-timbered buildings, so you'll definitely get your fairy tale German town fix.
Cochem is full of half timbered buildings, so you’ll definitely get your fairy tale German town fix.

Bundesbank bunker

This underground bunker was where the German government stored their emergency supply of 15 billion Deutschmarks in case of a sudden currency crisis during the Cold War. It’s no longer in use, and you can go deep underground to see the place with a guided tour. Tours leave every hour (double check the website), but there’s not much to see above ground until you go down, so I wouldn’t plan on arriving too early. It’s quite a way up from the town of Cochem itself, so take advantage of their shuttle bus that leaves from the old town. 

We didn’t visit the Bundesbank bunker, despite staying right next to the thing, because I am not big on extended trips below ground! I take a pass on all cave trips, mining museums, and bunkers. 

The river Mosel makes an impressive hairpin turn near the town of Bremm.
The river Mosel makes an impressive hairpin turn near the town of Bremm.

Places to visit within easy reach of Cochem

We drove a little way to see the Bremm Bend, a famous spot where the river Mosel makes a hairpin bend. The vineyards climb up the impossibly steep valley, and I couldn’t help but admire the viticulturists who built the narrow terraces and climbed up to plant those first vines. The little tiny rail cars the vineyard works use now to bring tools and materials up to the top of the hills are often parked at the bottom of the hill, so you can imagine ratcheting up those hillsides like the beginning of a roller coaster ride. 

Our favourite German castle, Burg Eltz, is quite close to Cochem
Our favourite German castle, Burg Eltz, is quite close to Cochem

One of our favourite castles ever, Burg Eltz, is not so far away (though it’s worth noting you can only see inside during spring, summer, and early autumn). There is a short train ride to Treis-Karden, and then the Burgenbus that goes straight to the castle. Outside spring and summer, take a train to Moselkern, and then you can do the 5km hike or take a taxi up to the castle. You can book your train right here, in English:

The stunning view from the top floor of the Cafe Flair
The stunning view from the top floor of the Cafe Flair

Where to eat in Cochem

Like many smaller German towns popular with tourists, the restaurants fill up quickly, so if you see something interesting in your daytime wanderings, go in and book a table for that evening right away. We didn’t get organized, but ended up in the restaurant of Hotel am Hafen and it was lovely straightforward German cuisine: schnitzel, bratwurst, local wine. We tried to make our way into Ristorante Da Vinci, a pizza place with good reviews, but the small restaurant was full to the brim. The smell coming from the kitchen was pretty amazing though. 

For Kaffe und Kuchen (cake and coffee break), the local favourite was obviously the Cafe Flair with loads of cake, fancy coffees, and light lunch options. There is a huge terrace area, but if you’re visiting when it’s colder out, there is a busy ground floor as well as a more spacious upstairs, with nice views over the Mosel.

Wherever you end up, make sure you try some of the local wine, it is affordable and lovely. Keep in mind the German wine names may hide some familiar favourites – Grauburgunder is Pinot Gris and Spätburgunder is Pinot Noir. The Mosel valley is most famous for its Reisling wines, but you choose your sweetness by asking for ‘Trocken’ (dry), or ‘Halb Trocken’ (half dry). 

View over the Mosel from the castle.
View over the Mosel from the castle.

Hotels in Cochem

We stayed up the hill by the Bundesbank Bunker at the Hotel Vintage, which was quite awkward for daily exploring because it was so far up the far hillside. It was very clean, and the rooms were large, with an easy triple room option however. 

In town, some good options are: 

  • Hotel Germania, right next to the main bridge and in the Altstadt
  • Hotel am Hafen, across the river but next to the bridge, with good onsite restaurant
  • Zum fröhlichen Weinburg, a little ways back from the river, quiet and good value
  • Altes Fährhaus Cochem, is on the other side of the river with gorgeous views of the castle and town, and offers bike rentals on site
  • If you’re happy to be just outside of town, the little village of Ernst is our favourite spot, and the Altes Pfarrhaus our Mosel home away-from-home. A lovely Dutch family runs this small hotel, and the food is lovely, with a quiet terrace overlooking the river. 

Getting to Cochem

From Frankfurt or Düsseldorf, Cochem is about a two and a half hour journey by train, with one or two changes, depending on the time of day. From Cologne, it is about two hours with one change. It’s a beautiful journey no matter which way you arrive, however, as most routes will take you along the Rhine and the Mosel. You can book your ticket right here in English:

 

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Cochem is a beautiful riverside town along the river Mosel in western Germany. It’s a popular stop on the short haul river cruise route, and for good reason. Surrounded by vineyards climbing up the steep sides of the river valley, and topped off with the magnificent Castle Cochem, this town is a perfect weekend trip. 
Cochem is a beautiful riverside town along the river Mosel in western Germany. It’s a popular stop on the short haul river cruise route, and for good reason. Surrounded by vineyards climbing up the steep sides of the river valley, and topped off with the magnificent Castle Cochem, this town is a perfect weekend trip.
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Etsy Gift Guide

Etsy Gift Guide

Etsy can be a huge and overwhelming craft fair, and not everything is, er, to my taste. But there are some gems in there, if you have patience. I’ve collected up some of my recent favourites if you’re looking for some gifts to finish off your list.

terrarium

Glass terrarium, Waen

 

woden lids

Wooden jar lids, Cattails Woodwork

feather scarf

Feather print scarf, Shovava

succulent hair pin

Succulent hair pins, Floral Style

ceramic head planter

Ceramic head planter, Membil

paper airplane bag

Paper airplane tote, The Bold Banana

 

All images courtesy of Etsy shops mentioned

 

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Finally, track your period and your steps

Finally, track your period and your steps

bellabeat1
I bought an Apple Watch. More specifically, I decided my Christmas presents would add up to an Apple Watch. Before that, I supported the Pebble smartwatch on kickstarter. I had a fitbit for awhile.

So you know, I’m into this smart watch/tracking stuff thing.

I track my bike rides, the food I eat, the steps I take, how long I sleep. But for some reason, none of these neat little things track something all women I know have tracked since they were about 13: our periods.

Yes I know there are many apps for that, but how can the all-knowing Apple Health app offer to track practically everything, but not my menstrual cycle? Is it really just because there’s only men in the room when they plan these features?

Then there’s tracking apps themselves. Why are they all pink with flowers? Menstruating is not a big deal, it’s just a monthly biological cycle. I don’t like talking or looking at people’s teeth, but I don’t feel any need to make a huge deal about it when someone talks about their dentist appointment, toothpaste, or bleaching stuff.

bellabeat2

Now that we’ve all agreed we’re grownups, I have to tell you about this new tracking gadget. The Leaf by Bellabeat. It’s not sporty, it’s doesn’t scream TECH OBJECT, it’s wearable in several ways. You can track your monthly cycle, and see how your exercise, sleep, and breathing changes in relation to it. Doesn’t that sound interesting and useful? I have to say, this isn’t hard stuff, but somehow no one has bothered before now. Possibly my favourite part of this is the 6-month battery life. Yes, you read that correctly. Six. Months. All of this for about $130 US. The preorders are flying out the door, so if you’re thinking about it, do it now. I ordered mine yesterday.

Congratulations to Bellabeat’s Urška Sršen, and thanks for making a piece of tech that addresses our needs.

Images courtesy of Bellabeat. This post contains affiliate links. 

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Five essentials for my bike commute

Five essentials for my bike commute

Bike to Work week is coming up soon here in Vancouver, and this year I actually do ride my bike to work. Albeit a few days a week, and it’s only a 8-10 minute ride. However, thanks to some serious research and great gear, it feels easy. I am not a CYCLIST. I don’t change when I get to work, I don’t go super fast, I wear heels. My bike is a lovely Raleigh step-through with a basket. As with many exercise-related endeavours, it pays to get some bits that you love, that will also make doing the exercise easier. Here are mine:

Cleverhood rain cape. This being Raincouver, if I decided not to bike every time it rained, I would never bike. I have yet to find a raincoat that doesn’t make me feel like I’m slowly stewing in my own juices, so the open bottom of this rain poncho is ideal. Not only that, it allows me to wear all normal clothes underneath, including whatever layers I need for the cold. The houndstooth is woven with reflective fibres, so shows up clearly in dark rainy weather, but looks normal and cool in daylight. The hood fits under my helmet, and the thumb loops help me keep the cape on while cycling. I’ve had endless compliments on it whenever I show up somewhere, which is better than ‘whoa, it’s really raining out, isn’t it?’ the subtext being ‘you look like you waded through the ocean to get here’. The clincher for me: made in the US by decently paid workers. Cleverhood rain cape.

straw pannier, image credit: Le Vélo Victoria

image credit: Le Vélo Victoria

Bobbin Bicycles straw pannier. I love my pannier dearly, and it took months of research to find. I am not a sporty cyclist, as mentioned above. So, I didn’t want a pannier that was all rubberized and reflective-y. I saw photos of this straw pannier around Pinterest, but for the life of me couldn’t find a stockist anywhere. It seemed to be discontinued. I tracked it to Holland, but then got lost in a maze of Dutch bicycle sites. Finally, I found the wonderful Le Vélo in Victoria, BC, and they carry it. I was so obsessed, they emailed me as soon as the pre-order was available. I fit my laptop, a bento box, a small mason jar with snacks, a notebook, and my little Cambridge Satchel Company bag in here, with my rain cape folded on top. It’s treated, so a little rain is no problem. Super secure on my rear rack and it stands up well on its own, so loading and unloading it is simple. Bobbin Bicycles straw pannier, Le Vélo in Canada, Eleanor’s in the US.

jockies

Jockey skimmies. As I mentioned, I cycle in regular clothes. In the summer months, that means a lot of dresses. These little shorts are thin and light, and come in a variety of non-underwear colours, so when you accidentally flash someone, it looks like bike shorts and not, well, underwear. They are super comfortable to wear, and if you get any thigh rub, this solves that whole problem too. They come in longer and shorter lengths, and loads of sizes. Jockey skimmies slip shorts. Hudson’s Bay in Canadain the US.

Barista coffee cup holder. I often make my coffee before I leave, and then when I pull up to a light, I sit back and have a sip. People point at me from cars, they are so impressed with my set-up. I’ve had many people watch me walk up to my bike at the rack, plunk my half-finished coffee in my holder and get on with leaving, make that ‘ahhhhh – now that’s a good idea’ noise. I know, right? Why rush your coffee drinking if you don’t have to? Portland Design Works Barista coffee cup holder, from MEC in Canada, from PDW in the US.

CharlestonGoldS

Bandbox bike helmet with cover(s). There are opinions about helmets, and that’s fine. I wear one. This helmet is the one thing on the list I don’t actually own yet, right now I wear this super cute one. I am in love with these helmets though. You buy the base helmet, and then can choose hat-like covers for it. Straw hats! Wool felt cloches! I am obsessed with this, and I think I want about three of them. Love. It. Bandbox helmet and covers. image credit: Bandbox

Finally, if anyone has any leads on a decent skirt guard, let me know. Enjoy your commute!

PS – Panniers that look cool. Really.

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