Cochem: Jewel of the Mosel Valley

Cochem is a beautiful German fairy tale town: pastel-painted and half-timber homes, winding streets and alleyways next to a meandering river with vineyards planted at unimaginable angles. Heck, it even has a huge 1,000-year old castle on a hilltop 300 feet above the town, keeping a watch on the former charges of the Count.

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The only things that break the mystique are tourists–lots of tourists, at least until 6:00 PM when the tour boats leave and the wall-to-wall tourist shops close. Then, the town is virtually empty until the next morning.

This is nothing against Cochem. After all, were it not for the tourist buzz and the fact that it is the starting point for many Mosel River cruises, and the terminus for many Rhine River cruises, we may have never visited. But we did, and are very happy to have done so.

Exploring the Town

The first thing to do is to walk the town, especially the main street, with all its shops, about a third of which seem to sell local wines or liqueurs (likors in local parlance) and another third of which sell local snacks and decadent-looking pastries. We, of course, we’re particularly interested in the wine and liquor shops, most of which offer tastings. Many of these stores show their wares–perhaps 50 or so different flavor liqueurs, from peach to truffle–in large glass flasks with taps on the bottom. Visitors can sample what they like and buy as little or as much as they want. (see below for a brief discussion of Mosel wines and liqueurs.)

Cochem-liquor storeCochem-snack

Much of the rest of our time spent touring the town was devoted to the Cochem Castle, which stands 100 meters over the city and the river. Originally build in the year 1,000, it was totally destroyed in 1689 and then totally rebuilt as a summer home in the mid-1800s by a Berlin steel magnate. The reconstruction, which was carried out in accordance with an original plan, was done with incredible attention to detail and at the sparing of no expense!

The result is incredible: the scale, the intricate hand-carved and hand-painted details, the views. The Vanderbilt mansions in Newport and Asheville have nothing on Cochem Castle.

 

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Cochem Food and Lodging

  • Castello’s, an Italian restaurant, was the only one we found open when we arrived in Cochem at 9:45. We had a delightful meal, our server was very friendly and helpful and all three dishes were very good. We began with snails with mushrooms and garlic in a tomato sauce. For entrees, we had veal scallops with Parma ham and sage in a white wine sauce, with potato croquettes and grilled shrimp with tagliatelle. While we had been drinking Italian wines with some of our Polish and German foods, we decided try a German wine with our Italian meal. When in The Mosel Valley, do as the "Moselians" do. We had a bottle of Peter Gobel 2011 Riesling Trochen–and we’re glad we did. Overall, a very nice and very inexpensive dinner experience.
  • Rathskeller Cochem. This ancient (founded in 1739) restaurant is in a lovely basement, with curved brick ceilings, ornamental medallions, and carved wood bar. The food, while rather simply prepared, was delicious and the service very good. Joyce had a steamed wild salmon fillet on Spanish with shallots, garlic and boiled potatoes. I took our server’s recommendation, having the very moist roast saddle of pork wrapped in savoy cabbage with steamed vegetables and Spatzle. While we would have normally had red wine with this food, we greatly prefer Mosel whites to reds. We, therefore, had another Riesling, this time a 2011 Die Moselserie Motiv Porta Nigra.
  • Restaurant Lohspeicher. We also have to mention the meal we never had: The meal that was our primary reason for staying at the hotel we chose–the Michelin-rated Lohspeicher. We had reservations for 7:00, the time the restaurant suggested when we requested 8:00. So far. So good. The problem came when we went downstairs at the appointed time. Not only was the restaurant closed, there was not a single person from the hotel staff anywhere to be found. We were on our own to find an alternative (the Rathskellers, which we enjoyed.) We did, however, get one more chance to eat at Lohspeicher. Although we returned from our trip to Trier too late for the restaurant’s regular lunch menu, it was still serving its flatbread pizza, with creme fraische, bacon and leeks (which was quite good). While not much of a substitute for a dinner, it was probably better than we could have done at most of the main street restaurants rushing to cater to the throngs of day-trippers. Beggars can’t be choosers.

This, however, wasn’t our only disappointment with Hotel Lohspeicher. The disappointments began before the trip, when we requested information about side trips from the city, and they suggested we discuss it when we arrive. When we did so, the information was cursory and incomplete. Luckily, we found an information office that was able to address all our questions.

Hotel Lohspeicher. The hotel itself is small, charming and well maintained. The same can be said for our room. But, being on the top floor, under the dormers, it was a bit small, particularly in headroom. We had to duck whenever we approached the bed (from one side), the desk or the toilet. Other than that, the room was pleasant–especially it’s view of the castle. The hotel also puts on a mean breakfast buffet. An electric orange squeezer to make fresh juice and local sparkling wine with which to make misosas, freshly brewed coffee and a nice selection of teas. As for food, there were, among other selections, scrabbled and hard boiled eggs and sausages, smoked salmon and picked herring and a selection of granolas.

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