Germany: Beer and Wine along the Rhine
Cologne, Boppard, Rüdesheim am Rhein
Cologne : 2 nights
Boppard : 3 nights
Rüdesheim am Rhein : 2 nights
8 days Itinerary
Cologne: 2 nights
Cologne is a 2000 year old city on the majestic Rhine river in West Germany. It is the cultural capital of the region, with historic Romanesque Churches, Baroque Palaces and Museums with a variety of exhibits from old collections to modern art, chocolate and fragrances! Its University is one of the oldest and largest in Europe. And Cologne has the highest number of pubs per person in the country.
Beer is a major part of German culture. It is the country’s most famous and popular drink, produced in different ways in the different regions. There are now a few thousand brands brewed across Germany.
Kölsch is the beer of Cologne. According to a documented ruling, Kölsch beer can only be brewed in Cologne and its surrounding region. It is a pale yellow, clear, top fermented, light ale served in 0.2 l tall,narrow,cylindrical glasses. It is made from a light malt and has a smooth finish. Many call it a hybrid of Ale and Lager on account of its top fermentation like an Ale but finishing in cold temperatures like a Lager.
Kölsch is usually enjoyed in traditional beer pubs called Brauhäus. It is a tradition that the waiter called Köbes will bring you one glass after another until you cover the glass with the coaster to let him know you are done. He keeps a count by making a mark on the coaster.
Some of the well known Brauhauser serving their own brewed beers are:
This is a 100 year old traditional establishment known for its hospitality and delicious Kölsch beer, located across from the Cathedral. Its building facade is restored as per the original design with many pictures and furnishings inside from over a century of Früh gastronomy history. The historic cellar too is a must visit.
Früh Kölsch is an authentic Cologne beer, straw gold in colour and clear, with a white foam top and sparkling appearance. The taste is a balance of grainy malt and grassy, floral hops.
Peters Kölsch is smooth and crisp and served directly from casks displayed at the bar. It is accompanied by traditional hearty German food.
This brewery is located near the Hauptbahnhof, walking distance from the Cathedral. It is in a historic, traditionally restored building with spacious, cheerful interiors.
The beer is crisp and light, very easy to drink quickly. The food is delicious and wholesome.
This charming brewery is located just outside of the old town and has a huge following of regulars. It has a 160 year old brewery history and a traditional brew house.The freshly tapped Mühlen Kölsch has a robust, malty, full flavoured taste.
Cologne Food specialities:
Himmel un’ Aad:
This is Cologne’s most famous cuisine literally meaning Heaven and Earth. Heaven is represented by sweet apple sauce and potato mash symbolises earth. It is topped with caramelised onions. It is available in every restaurant and brewery to be washed down with a glass of Kolsch.
This dish is made up of fresh open faced rye bun topped with a thick Gouda cheese slice, mustard and onions. It makes up a perfect snack for any time of the day.
The Cologne Cathedral is a landmark of magnificent Gothic Architecture. It is a Unesco world heritage site. The construction started in 1248 and got completed in 1880 after many years of hold up. The soaring spires make it the second tallest Cathedral in Europe and they are an awe inspiring sight. The art collection and treasures on display are invaluable and attract the most number of tourists in Germany.
The Ludwig Museum was set up in the 1970s to showcase the huge, brilliant collection of 20th century art donated by the Ludwigs. The building itself is a beautiful modern structure juxtaposing the Cathedral. Many more artworks are now added and it is a delightful experience for a modern art lover.
This is a unique museum and should be on the itinerary of all Chocoholics. It displays the entire history of the cocoa bean, chocolate’s origin to contemporary production methods. The exhibits include a collection of molds, antique chocolate boxes and wrappers as well as a small modern working production line of Lindt chocolates.
A major draw is the three metre high chocolate fountain where a wafer biscuit is dipped in molten chocolate and given for tasting. And there are free samples to be had of the packaged chocolates from the actual production line. There is a large shop as well where one can buy the latest flavours, and a restaurant seating inside as well as along the river, to satisfy the sweet cravings.
Farina Fragrance Museum:
This is another interesting museum which traces the history of the Eau de Cologne which was invented here in the eighteenth century by Johann Maria Farina. There is a variety of bottles and souvenirs available for purchase in the shop.
This is an annual event with fun, food and laughter flowing in the streets of Cologne with no closing times for the pubs and bars.
Boppard : 3 nights
( 1 hour 30 min by train or road from Cologne)
The Rhine river gorge, a stretch of 65 kms, also known as the Upper Middle Rhine valley between Bingen / Rüdesheim and Koblenz, is a Unesco world heritage site. The rocks rise steep on both the sides and are home to many picturesque castles, fortresses and vineyards.
Some monuments are restored and some are in ruins, but the natural beauty of the region along with the quality wines makes it one of the most visited areas of Germany. This part is also called the Romantic Rhine valley and has inspired musicians, artists and writers for many generations.
Boppard is around 120 kms from Cologne and around 20 kms from Koblenz. It is a pretty town and one of the biggest wine growing centers of the Middle Rhine region. The main grape is Riesling, the other ones being Spätburgunder and Müller-Thurgau. The slopes around Boppard known as Bopparder Hamm are ideal for the vineyards and the slate soil provides the perfect condition for the production of superb wines.
Wines from Boppard:
Riesling is a full bodied wine produced from the aromatic,white Riesling grapes. It reflects the mineral tones of the rocky terrain and aromas of apple, flowers, honey, herbs and spices and has a crisp acidity. It is Germany’s most famous white wine around the world. The wines may be dry, semi -sweet, sweet or sparkling. They also have great aging potential.
Spät ( late ripening grape) Burgunder ( from Burgundy) is the Pinot Noir of France. This grape is cultivated in a much lesser area than Riesling, but is now the most popular red wine of Germany. It is elegant and medium to full bodied with a soft nose and a smooth texture.
On account of the climatic conditions, Germany is able to produce excellent Icewines, at par with the best in the world.It is a sweet dessert wine made by allowing the grapes to freeze on the vine naturally. So, they are harvested between the end of December and mid January when the temperature is not more than -7 degrees centigrade in the night and they are immediately pressed after the picking. These wines are aromatic and have to be served chilled.
Some famous Wineries and Wine bars in Boppard:
They offer wine tastings at the bar or the vineyards and some have cellar visits too.
Sightseeing in Boppard:
Rhine River Cruise :
There are many day cruises available on this Upper Middle Rhine river stretch from Bingen to Koblenz. The journey takes about 5.30 hours and can be longer if you use the hop- on hop- off facility. This is the most scenic stretch with castles on top of steep hillsides, rolling vineyards, fairy tale towns and the famous Loreley rock. Bingen is 30 minutes away by train from Boppard.
This is a beautiful castle and the only one which was not destroyed in the middle Rhine valley area. It is a 12th century monument and now owned by the Association of German Castles. It is above the town of Braubach, across the river by ferry from Boppard to Filsen and then 10 minutes by train.
Moselle River valley day tour:
The Moselle river flows from France into the Rhine river at Koblenz. From Trier to Koblenz, the river winds its way through a lush valley with terraced vineyards, picture perfect villages, half timbered houses and ancient castles.
The most beautiful villages are Bernkastel-Kues, Traben-Trarbach and Cochem. Boppard to Cochem takes about 1 hour by train with one change in Koblenz or about the same time by car. The other two towns are a little further along the same route.
Mosel valley wines:
This region produces some of the best Riesling wines in the world. More than 60 percent of the plantation is of the Riesling grapes. Elbing, Müller-Thurgau and Spätburgunder are other widely planted grapes. The slopes are steep, sometimes upto 70 degrees, making the task of cultivation very labour intensive. But the wine growers are passionate about their produce and hence have put Moselle on the world map for white wine.
The Riesling wines are aromatic and fruity, with high acidity and varying sweetness. The alcohol content is relatively low and the depth of the flavour comes due to the presence of slate in the soil.
Cochem is a picturesque, historic village with traditional houses, cobbled streets, quaint cafes, wine bars and a lovely promenade along the river.
The most prominent landmark is the Reichsburg standing majestically on a hill overlooking the town.
Some well known wineries and wine shops are:
Weingut Kloster Ebernach
Koll and Cie
Vinothek Walter J Oster
On the way from Boppard to Cochem, one can break the journey for a few hours to visit Burg Eltz. By train, the stop is Moselkern, from where it’s a winding walk of 1 hour to the castle. By car, you can reach upto Wierschem, from where it’s just a little further away.
Burg Eltz is a stunning castle almost as popular as the Neuschwanstein castle in Bavaria. The construction began in the 9th century and was completed by the 12th century. It has since been under the ownership of the same family and never been destroyed. The medieval Romanesque architecture is as much a delight to behold as the interiors including living areas, armoury, hunting room, and a well preserved treasury.
The castle is surrounded by the Eltz forest and when a bend in the road suddenly brings you in sight of the castle without a hint, it makes for an unforgettable breathtaking experience.
Rüdesheim am Rhein : 2 nights
(30 min by train from Boppard to Bingen and 15 min ferry crossing)
Rüdesheim is one of the most picturesque towns of the Rhine gorge. It is a sheer delight to walk on its cobblestoned narrow alleys, surrounded by charming architecture and lively taverns. The hillsides are full of vineyards and their Riesling wine is world famous. Castles dot the landscape, Ehrenfels being the most popular.
Drosselgasse is one of the most visited streets in Germany. The half timbered buildings with the metal and wooden embellishments are very pretty. There are wine taverns, restaurants with live music and boutique shops lined up on both sides of the alley. The bell tower and the ancient huge clock of the Rüdesheimer Schloss are an added attraction.
Seilbahn and Niederwald monument:
A cable car transports visitors to this impressive monument made to celebrate Germany’s win in the Franco- Prussian war. On the way, there are glorious views over the Rhine river and the vineyards. You can walk back easily downhill through the vineyards.
The castles surrounding Rüdesheim which can be easily visited are Burg Ehrenfels and Bromserburg.
In Rüdesheim, winery visits are not the norm. Instead, the wine shops offer tastings and one can buy the wines following it. A well known one is Georg Breuer. It is housed in a beautiful old structure with modern interiors and an amazing cellar which you can visit. They have a huge range of wines from their own winery.
Asbach Uralt is a famous brandy from Rüdesheim,first distilled by Hugo Asbach in 1892. It is smooth,warm and aromatic. Speciality versions and chocolates are also available. A visit to their distillery center is very informative.
It is also the main ingredient of the Rüdesheim Coffee which is a must do experience. The recipe consists of flamed Asbach brandy over sugar cubes, topped with espresso coffee and finished with sweetened whipped cream and chocolate flakes. An iced coffee version is also available which is equally delicious.
The whole process of making it is best observed at Breuer’s Rüdesheimer Schloss, a Unesco world heritage site and a boutique hotel. They put up a show of it regularly for the cruise ship passengers.
After enjoying the Rieslings and the coffee, this culinary vacation will end with return to Frankfurt (1 hour by train or car) for an onward journey.