The Middle Mosel, from Trier to Pünderich, might be the most beautiful river valley in the world. Terraced vineyards, broken castles, pristine crosses, and overhung footpaths line the banks between bucolic towns that have rarely suffered the sting of war or the axes of urban renewal. Life slows down here, not least because of the riverine twists and turns that transform a flight of 62km into a leisurely car or boat cruise of 144km. I’m sure it rains in these parts, but really can’t recall anything but gorgeous, sunny days.
The Mosel is Riesling country, along with plantings of the varietal’s more profitable offspring, the Rivaner, Müller-Thurgau, Kerner, and White and Blue Spätburgunder grapes. Yet the memory that sticks with me from childhood is of the sweet, pungent apple press across the bridge from the Cochemerhof hotel in Cochem center. My father used to drop me off here for weeks at a time to work on my German while he went about his business in Frankfurt. The owner of the hotel was a wonderful chef and human being who introduced and maybe indoctrinated this 14-year-old in the intricacies of German cooking–Schnitzel, Spätzle, Knödel, Bratkartoffeln, Sauerbraten, any kind of Wurst, and above all, massive tureens of thick pea and lentil soups.
Like any other paradise, this one has been overrun by tourists. But lately I’m wondering if tourism might not prove the salvation of our planet. From Madagascar to the Amazon to Yosemite to the Mosel, the only force that seems capable of holding back the furious grind of industry is the beautification and preservation required of a modern tourist trap. And with all of our jobs stolen by technology, what else will we have to do with our welfare checks?