European Wine & Gourmet Trail*
on the blue country and city links below
for more details and reviews of your destination
road trip planner will help you and your
family enjoy the essence of Germany,
The route combines ravishing Alpine peaks
with Mediterranean landscapes, breathtaking
natural landscapes and quaint Alpine villages
and medieval towns.
First - put your taste buds on alert!
If you follow the suggestions in this road
trip planner you will pass through the best
vineyard and wine producing country in Europe,
if not the world.
- Pick up a few bottles and enjoy them en-route.
- Visit the village markets for great local
cheeses and other fresh produce and sample
the local cuisine with friends and family
back at your campground.
around this area of Europe in a motorhome
can arguably be categorized as the ultimate
family vacation getaway. If this is your
first trip to this part of the world, you
will likely be astounded by the splendor
of these quaint, pastoral rural areas reminiscent
of medieval times. Be aware - you will very
likely put on weight on this trip, so don't
say we didn't warn you!
a little plug here: If
you're flying in and maybe need a hotel
for the night, I find I get the best deals
bar none when I book air + hotel together
And if you intend on renting a motorhome,
let CamperTrails help you find the best
deal too. Click here
for more information without leaving this
road trip planner can be used as is, or
used as a base to formulate your own itinerary,
using your own road trip planners, or in
conjunction with others in this web site.
Whatever you decide, I'm sure you and your
family will have a vacation to remember
for many years to come.
1: Arrival in Frankfurt
flew into Frankfurt on an evening flight,
and stayed at a hotel for our first night
next morning we went over to the motorhome
rental agency where we picked up our motorhome
and got comprehensive operating instructions
from a staff member. At about 2 p.m. we
set out along the Rhine in the direction
of Koblenz, picking up provisions on the
chose to camp near Koblenz for the first
3 days, using the camp as our base to head
and explore the area, as opposed to staying
in Frankfurt the first night and heading
slowly up the Rhine. Either way works well.
Day 2 - 4:
scenic views and medieval castles are what
you're after - this is the place to start.
There is so much to see and do here, that
3 days hardly seems enough to begin covering
The kids loved the boat ride we took on
the Rhine, my wife was enthralled with the
gingerbread castles on <just about>
every hilltop, and I especially enjoyed
strolling through the quaint villages. Something
for everybody, fun for all. A boat is one
of the best ways to tour the castles of
the Rhine. Cruises can last hours or days
- if you have time for just a short cruise,
try the Koblenz to Bingen stretch to get
the most castle-sighting bang for your buck.
narrow gorge connecting Bingen and Koblenz,
which has a length of only thirty-five miles,
has more castles than in any other river
valley in the world. Many of the castles
are in ruin, while others have been restored
and are now hotels or open for tours. Imagine
them as sentinels on the cliffs above river
side villages and you'll get the picture.
mid-Rhine is also known for its German legends.
One of the best known is the story of the
Lorelei. As the story goes, a nymph lived
in the Lorelei rock high above the Rhine.
She is said to have lured fishermen to their
destruction with her singing until she was
overcome with love and plunged to her own
death. A bronze statue of the nymph overlooks
famous landmark is the "Drachenfels"
castle where Siegfried is reputed to have
slain a dragon. The former masters of the
castle, the Counts of Drachenfels, had a
winged, fire-spitting dragon in there coat
of arms. The view from the castle tower
is considered one of the most famous on
places you should definitely plan to visit
Castle (Braubach) - The Marksburg
Castle, built in 1100 and additionally fortified
over the centuries, is a fully-preserved
medieval fortress. Although the stronghold
was threatened, it was never directly attacked.
Soaring high above the Rhine River, Marksburg
is a beautifully restored medieval castle.
the inner fortress you can get a glimpse
of a medieval kitchen, living area, knight's
hall (plenty of armor and weapons) and ladies
apartments. If you feel like a little exercise
- climb up the hill to the castle, there
are great views from the top.
- Bacharach is a 900 year old village, one
of the most scenic towns in the Rhineland,
filled with half-timbered buildings with
impossibly steep rooflines. Plan on spending
an afternoon walking or biking around the
is a great place to pause for a meal: head
up to the 1,000 year old castle now run
as a restaurant and hotel. Check ahead if
you want to experience a "Knight's
Meal": Maidens in medieval costumes
serve local specialties and wines on pewter
dishes while you listen to baroque music!
Word About Rhineland Wine
of Germany's vineyards owe their existence
to the Rhine river. The Pfalz,
on the east facing slopes on the Haardt
Mountains is the most southerly of these
Rhine wine regions. Next comes the Rheinhessen
with it's finest vineyard sites around the
Neirstein on the so-called Rheinfront or
North of Mainz, the Rhine meets the mass
of the Taunus Mountains and is forced west
along a short stretch between Weisbaden
and Assmannshausen. This area is called
Bingen, the Nahe River flows in and along
it's banks where some of the best south-facing
vineyards are located. North of Bonn is
the tiny river Ahr, which is a tourist spot
with it's own vineyards. All of these German
regions produce different styles of wine,
but in general, Rhine wine is fuller and
richer then Mosel wines. As in the Mosel,
the primary grape is the Reisling, but there
are other varieties of grapes too. There
are a a few Weissburgunder (pinot blanc)
and some Chardonnay. The German wine research
center at Geisenheim has created many new
vine hybrids, such as Ehrenfelser, Scheurebe,
and Kerner. They are not as popular as the
Alsace region of France that borders the
Rhine is a long strip of land centered south
of Strasbourg and around the town of Colmar.
The prosperous plain backs up to the Vosges
Mountains where they are protected from
strong westerly winds. Unlike other French
wines, those from the Alsace tell which
grape variety they are pressed from. The
Alsace region is primarily white wine country.
The Sylvaner is the most widely grown grape
and produces a light and sparkling wine.
Pinot Blanc, also known as Klevner accounts
for about 10 percent of the area vines.
Only about 1 percent grows Pinot Noir, which
is the only rose' of the area. Other varieties
include Muscat, which is drier in this region;
Chasselas Blanc, a pale greenish wine grown
in the Haut-Rhin; and Tokay, imported in
the 16th century from Hungary. This area
is sometimes known as the Route du Vin.
5 - 6: Mosel
this road trip, we actually planned a one
day tour of the Mosel Valley, or the 'Mosel
Wine Road' as it is more aptly named. This
is a 125 mile (200 kms) route which starts
at Koblenz and ends at the ancient city
of Trier. We chucked plan 'A' out the window
pretty soon after the start of day 5, and
went directly to hitherto uncharted territory
of plan 'B' due to our encounters with rustic
wine bars which showed up every few miles
and wine tasting cellar tours on offer for
the evening-not to mention enchanting medieval
towns and craggy castles around every bend
of the river. Our original schedule forgotten,
we headed back in the evening to pur previous
nights camper park near Koblenz.
area's almost complete lack of industrialization
and development means that the scenery remains
magnificent and the villages are peaceful
and charming. The great Mosel River snakes
in huge curves through the valley. It is
today as important a trade route as it was
centuries ago, as barges laden with produce
ply the river in both directions.
it is the Mosel's wines, mainly excellent
dry white Rieslings, which attract most
of the visitors and are the real stars of
the area. Vineyards cover nearly every sunny
slope of the steep-sided valley. Rough stone
terraces, some large enough only to support
a few dozen vines, rise steeply above the
river and vineyards cling to the hillsides
at crazy angles. Driving slowly past, looking
at the miles and miles of virtually identical
low green leafy vines is quite a mesmerizing
of the most pleasant picnic dinners we had
on our trip was at our unplanned stopover
in the Koblenz camper park. We bought some
local cheese, sausage and bread from one
of the villages, eating it accompanied with
some of the delicious Riesling we got at
a vineyard and cooled in our onboard refrigerator
- delicious doesn't come close to describing
wine-producing villages are strung along
both banks of the river, often only a few
miles apart. Each has an assortment of cafes
and 'Wein Stube' (wine bars selling locally
produced wines). The gabled, half timbered
gingerbread houses lining the quaint, cobbled
lanes help many of the villages retain a
delightful medieval atmosphere. Two of the
villages definitely worth a visit are Beilstein
and Zell, both of which are particularly
charming and picturesque. If you're up to
it. there's usually at least one place in
each village offering wine tasting sessions.
(Look for signs saying 'Weinprobe').
a little further on to lovely Burg Elz.
This not-to-be-missed real medieval castle
is tucked away in dense forest. As it is
not easily seen from the river, it is easily
missed and rather off the regular tourist
track. The effort to get there is well rewarded,
however. Probably Germany's finest medieval
castle, it is a real fairytale fortress
with impenetrable walls, turrets and towers.
Originally built over a 1000 years ago,
it largely remains as it once was. Interestingly,
it is still inhabited by the descendants
of the original owners.The castle houses
museum quality art and furnishings and is
renowned for its fabulous Gobelin tapestries.
by all we had seen and consumed, we crossed
over into the Principality of Luxembourg
near Trier and set up camp for night 6.
Luxemburg to Reims
bright and early to the chirping of the
birds as usual, we set out after a hearty
country breakfast, crossing the border into
France at about 9:30 a.m.
for Reims, capital of Champagne, we find
ourselves driving past WWI battlefields.
Amazing what those guys went through - and
not so long ago, either.
we drive past, I recall Winston Churchill's
famous quote from 1918:
" Remember gentlemen, it's not just
France we are fighting for, it's Champagne!"
The thoughts of the great statesman get
me thinking of other things, equally important
and relevant. Keeping in mind that we are
in the only part of the world that produces
genuine Champagne, it's not very hard to
figure what we're going to do next - a screech
of the brakes, a twist of the steering wheel,
and our RV is on the D23 headed in the direction
of Eperney. Long day of wine tasting ahead
- but hey, somebody has to do it, right?
rivals Reims for the title 'Champagne production
capital of the world'. The town has around
200 miles of cellars and tunnels cut into
the chalk rock beneath it. Several world
renowned champagne producers have their
headquarters there' but after visiting the
Mercier cellars, we decided to try some
lesser known champagne producers.
lesson: Three varieties of grapes are used
in the production of champagne: pinot noir
is the basis of most champagne, giving it
its strength of taste and character. Pinot
meunier is used in cheaper varieties and
helps the wine mature faster. The white
grape chardonnay makes a champagne variety
called blanc de blancs.
a couple of hours of hard sampling done,
we had a wonderful lunch at Les Berceaux,
a nice restaurant located, fittingly enough,
on Rue des Bercaux in Eperney. The superb
food was reasonably priced, and there is
also a nice wine bar on the site. Needless
to say, we didn't indulge. Off to Reims
- still lots more to do. We were thinking
of doing some more champagne tasting, but
we were not really up to it as yet. Still,
the night is still ahead - who knows what
pleasures may be in store.
not only rivals Epernay as the champagne
capital of the world, it is home to Notre-Dame
Cathedral, one of the most magnificent gothic
cathedrals in the world. Built in the thirteenth
century on the traditional coronation site
of the kings of France, the cathedral has
played an extremely important role in French
history. In 1429 Joan of Arc arranged for
the Dauphin to be crowned here as Charles
VII, a highly significant event as at the
time France was to all intents and purposes
the weak man of Europe, and England and
its allies were riding roughshod over them.
The following 26 monarchs of France were
also crowned in this cathedral.
city suffered severe destruction during
World War I when German forces captured
and pillaged Reims for 10 days. The German
army then occupied the heights overlooking
the city for 4 years, and periodic bombing
damaged or destroyed many of the buildings,
including the cathedral. Destruction also
took place during World War II. The Germans
surrendered unconditionally to the Allies
on May 7, 1945, in a hall of the Coll?ge
Moderne in Reims, which had served as headquarters
of the Allied command.
What a busy day. Time for one more quick
champagne sampling and off for a good night's
rest at our campground near Chalons en Champagne.
8 - Reims
bright and early today. Actually, we're
always up bright and early, even at home.
How else can you get to hear the birds chirping
in the city?
morniing routine - breakfast, break camp
and by 8 a.m. we're off to visit delightful
Chalons-Sur-Marne, once the administrative
capital of the Champagne-Ardenne region.
Don't miss the 13th Century St-Etienne Cathedral
and the medieval Notre-Dame-en-Vaux cloisters.
We spend some time at the magnificent sculptured
gardens along the Marne River, and then
head south to Burgundy. After passing through
Dijon we arrive at our campground near Beaune.
9 - Burgundy
problem with this planner is that the duration
is too short. It is definitely not a problem
to stay at least two weeks in each area.
This morning we had a great drive through
the rolling hills, vineyards and chateaux
of the Cote d' Or, one of France's top wine
regions. We visited a few vineyards along
the way to check out recent production and
in really flipped out at Beaune's colorful
open-air market. Following up on a great
idea, we picked up a few bottles of wine
and some sausage, bread and local cheese
for later. After a great afternoon snack
we set off into the sunset, back to our
campsite of the previous night.
Day 10 - Beaune to Avignon
off bright and early, we drive southward
along the Rhone valley in the direction
of Avignon in Provence.
a detour off the main highway, we drive
through the Ardeche gorge. While it is quicker
to take the main road, the spectacular scenery
in the gorge is well worth the extra time.
As it was, we decided to make a day of it
and had a truly memorable drive.
We arrived in the late evening at our campground
near Avignon, intending to camp here for
two days to tour the area.
11 - Avignon
key to understanding Avignon is definitely
through its history. The three most interesting
sites to us were the Papal Palace, the famous
Avignon bridge (Ponte d'Avignon) and the
Doms Rocks (Rocher des Doms).
impressive 4.2 km long city walls are the
first thing you see as you approach Avignon
City. Built in the 14th century by Pope
Inncocent VI as protection both against
the flooding of the Rhone and military attacks,
the wall has 7 gates and 39 towers.
a very interesting morning at the palace
and walking the tortuous, narrow streets
of the old city, we find ourselves at Rocher
des Doms. Today a public garden close to
the Papal Palace, this is considered the
birthplace, or cornerstone, if you will,
of Avignon. The park has a fine view of
the Rhone and the surrounding countryside.
From here, we take a short drive to the
remarkable remnants of the Roman bridge
known as Le Ponte d'Avignon. This is the
oldest construction over the Rhone between
Lyon and the Mediterranean, only the Roman
arches are still standing.
After the Ponte we visit charming L'isle
sur la Sorgue, and enjoy a delightful free
stroll among the water canals, small shops
and sidewalk caf?'s.
Feeling full from another great day, we
return to our camp for the night.
Day 12 - Van Gogh Country
Provence is so beautiful. That nothing I
can write will do it justice. You have to
visit yourself to understand what all the
buzz is about.
Artists and Provence go extremely well together.
Van Gogh and Arles are virtually synonymous
in our minds. So once we're in the area
we feel it is imperative to drive through
the impressive countryside, exploring these
landscapes. After visiting the cliff top
fortress of Baux-de-Provence and Pont du
Gard, the ancient Roman aqueduct, we head
back to Arles for a leisurely afternoon
in this pastoral, sun-drenched town.
13 - Avignon to Annecy
just about at the end of this wonderful
trip. All that's left basically is to drive
up north to return our RVs and head for
home. We broke the return drive into a three
pointing our camper northwards, we head
northwards through the French Alps, in the
direction of Annecy which is situated on
what is probably France's most attractive
lake. There are many enchanting villages
en-route to Annecy, and as the drive itself
is relatively short, we stopped and ambled
around several villages on the way. One
that particularly stands out in memory is
Talloires, located on the east shore of
the lake and about 14 kms from Annecy. Talloires
is steeped in history, with picturesque
houses in narrow streets built around the
11th century Benedictine monastry. Nearby,
the village of Menthon has a beautiful castle
well worth a visit, as is the dramatic waterfall
itself is a delightful mixture of modern
and ancient streets and buildings festooned
with gay, colorful floral displays especially
in the summer months and endowed with many
cafes and restaurants to relax in, which
of course, we did.
14 - Annecy to Freiburg
bright and early, we head out on the next
to last day of a delightful trip. Entering
Switzerland, we drive along the northern
bank of Lake Geneva until we reach the town
of Gruyeres, a charming little hillside
village world famous for its cheese. After
a sampling at a cheese factory (who can
resist) we continue past the Swiss cities
of Bern and Basel through to Germany, reaching
Freiburg our destination, located smack
bang in the middle of the Black Forest,
after an easy 2.5 hour drive.
The day is yet young - we have plenty of
time to prepare a delightful meal based
on all the lovely food we picked up at Gruyeres
and to clean and organize our camper for
15 - Freiburg to Frankfurt
starts the final day of out trip. No need
to get up bright and early today - Freiburg
is only about 250 kms from Frankfurt, a
2.5 hour drive.
to Frankfurt, we all discuss the many highlights
of our trip, the numerous perspectives we
got on the pastoral European way of life
and unanimously declare it as one of the
best. So that's it - the end of a fantastic
vacation, all that's left is to drop off
our RV at the rental depot and head on home.