Germany – Coblenz To Treves – Via The Moselle

C COBLENZ Roman Confluentes—lies at the confluence of the Moselle and the Rhine. This beautifully situated town was founded nearly two thousand years ago; Drusus, in his campaigns against the Germans, built a castle here, in or before 9 B. C., to protect his military road which crossed the river below the present Moselle bridge, as remains of Roman bridge-piling would indicate. The present bridge dates from the middle of the thirteenth century, though is was widened in 1884. On the river bank just east of the Coblenz end of the bridge is the old palace of the electors of Treves. But the chief center of interest is the Deutsche Eck (German Corner), the tongue of land lying between the two rivers; on this splendid site—visible far up and down the Rhine and also up the Moselle—we find another colossal monument, the equestrian statue of Emperor William I, frankly called, in the inscription, Kaiser Wilhelm Der Grosse (Emperor William the Great). The statue, which rises impressively upon a mighty architectural base, is 46 feet high, and the accompanying female form (a genius of victory) is 30 feet tall.

The first building behind the monument is the Deutsches Haus or Herrenhaus, a lodge of the Order of Teutonic Knights founded about the time of the third crusade. This order, which long outclassed both the Templars and the Hospitallers of St. John in the earnestness and integrity of its purpose, wore a white mantle with a black cross. Almost adjoining the Herrenhaus is the church of St. Castor, finest of the city’s many fine old churches, founded in 836 by Louis the Pious. The present church with its four towers and handsome Romanesque apse was consecrated in 1208, but the vaulted ceiling, which replaced the earlier flat ceiling, dates from 1498.

Across the Rhine, on an almost inaccessible cliff, lies the modern fortress Ehrenbreitstein, called the Gibraltar of the Rhine. It was erected in 1816, on the site of a stronghold of the electors of Treves, which had itself been much enlarged from time to time.

How much of the world’s history Coblenz has gazed upon ! The Teutons, the Romans, the Franks, each in their turn; then the division of Charlemagne’s empire from which arose the Holy Roman Empire; the crusades, the Reformation, the decline of the Holy Roman Empire ; Napoleon’s march across dismembered Germany; and, finally, the formation of the present German empire.

In 1018, Emperor Henry II gave the city to the archbishopric of Treves. In the twelfth century, poor Henry IV (of “excommunication” fame) was treacherously seized here by his son (Henry V) ; and Conrad II was elected emperor in the church of St. Castor, whose walls rang later with the voice of Bernhard of Clairvaux preaching the second crusade. In the fourteenth century Edward III of England here met Emperor Ludwig, the Bavarian, to form an alliance against France in the Hundred Years’ War. In the Thirty Years’ War the city was taken by Protestants (Swedes) and retaken by imperial troops. The French, while devastating the Palatinate, laid siege to Coblenz, but withdrew after destroying most of its older section by their cannonade; about a century later it again fell into their hands and was made the capital of the French department of the Rhine and Moselle.

In 1814 “the allies” captured the city, which soon fell to Prussia, eventually becoming—as it still is—the capital of the Prussian province of the Rhine. From 1850-58 Prince William, afterward Emperor William I, lived here as its governor, and during these years his wife conceived a great and lasting affection for Coblenz. This mutual friendship between the citizens and the royal pair explains the “why and where-fore” not only of the gigantic monument to Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, but also of the handsome memorial to Empress Augusta which has been erected on the esplanade by the river she loved so well.

You see how intimately Coblenz has experienced all these changes from the gray dawn of German history, down to events of modern days familiar to you and me. I trust you may have the pleasure of sitting on the terrace here in the moonlight, a Schoppen of the fine wine we owe to Charlemagne at your elbow, watching the twinkling lights of the craft passing through the great Schiffbrücke—”a line of black that * * floats on the rising tide like a bridge of boats” —and pondering upon the lapse of time and the progress of human events.

We arrived at Coblenz in good season for dinner. In the courtyard of that compound hotel, Zum Riesen-Fürstenhof and Anker, we found five other motorcars, two of them bearing American flags. The hotel itself was gaily decorated and displayed a large American flag as central feature. Those Stars and Stripes ! how brand new they seemed, for all their vicissitudes, in the shadow of twenty centuries.

After dinner we strolled down to the Deutsche Eck, then returned to our apartments to sit upon the little balconies overlooking the river, and watch the opposite hills and the huge fortress of Ehrenbreitstein fade away into the night. Lights began to gleam on the pontoon bridge which was ever busy letting boats through. The movable section floated aside down-stream, to the end of its tether of massive chains and then, by means of its engine, hauled itself back to close the gap.

Later the military band gave a concert on the plaza in front of the hotel, where townspeople congregated in great numbers to listen to the music. American airs were played and there was even red fire burned in honor of the Fourth. We were greatly amused by the actions of the band which, at every intermission, repaired to the courtyard of the hotel to “wet their whistles,” as Scoffy declared. Pater had to go down each time to watch our car; for these musical warriors were intensely interested in automobiles, and there was much ado to restrain them in their investigations, which progressed from the opening of doors and lamps to trying the seats, leaning on the flexible ends of the mudguards, and spilling beer and crumbs over everything. I suppose their desire to claim complete familiarity with an “out-o” when they returned to their native town or village, led them to forget their natural caution. A crooked or dented mudguard or a scratch on the expensive finish was a trifle in their eyes. Indeed, such things appeared to be trifles to men who should have known better; scarcely anywhere in Germany or England, outside of Hamburg, Frankfort, and London, did we strike a truly good garage. The superficial cleaning our car got made Bobbie swear, and it was a dirty, battered motor that we shipped home. Yet we did not care to urge Bobbie to do anything but overhaul the machinery, preferring to have him start each day with rested muscles and a clear head.

Eight-thirty Sunday morning (July 5th) we left Coblenz for Metz by way of Treves, or Trier, as the Germans call it. Taking a wrong turn caused some trouble getting out of town; but once out, the road was easy to keep, as we had simply to follow the Moselle river.

Driving along the left bank (going upstream) we saw a- motor ahead. This aroused some misgivings about passing, for we thought it might belong to one of the people we had met at the Fürstenhof, whose average speed often reached fifty miles per hour; but it proved to be only a German Adler car which we overtook quite easily. Meeting an auto was always quite an event in Germany, as we saw few except in the big cities.

The Moselle trip was as delightful as that along the Rhine. Though a smaller river with fewer castles, especially restored ones, the Moselle is less spoiled by railroads and busy towns, while we had the added pleasure of feeling we were, in a measure, off the tourists’ beaten track. The hills, too, are less completely devoted to vineyards than those of the Rhine and correspondingly prettier, and the occasional sheer cliffs or crumbling castle ruins add much interest.

Our first castle was at Cobern, on the opposite bank. There were two, in fact, both once belonging to the knights of Cobern, the last of whom met an untimely end in 1536 as a disturber of the peace. In the upper Cobern castle is the notable chapel of St. Matthias, built in late-Romanesque style of the thirteenth century.

A bit further along lies ancient Gondorf, and soon a sweep in the river discloses Aiken, upon our bank, with castle Thuron’s ruins overhanging the town. Those who had read Robert Barr,* “Thekla” were much interested in these remains of the castle of “Black” Count Heinrich of Palatine, who figures prominently in this story, as do the archbishops of Treves and Cologne and other historical characters. As a matter of fact, the castle really was a bone of contention between these archbishops and the counts Palatine, to whom it belonged. It was once besieged by the two prelates, and 600,000 gallons of wine are said to have been consumed by the besiegers. What though the siege was unsuccessful; surely their achievement at drinking is glory sufficient for any host.

The next bend takes us through the village of Brodenbach, at the foot of a ravine once commanded by the Ehrenburg, now considered the finest ruin on the Moselle.

The great Burg Eltz we did not see, for it lies back of Moselkern, in the valley of the Eltz river. Burg Eltz was never destroyed and remains for your inspection, a fine specimen of simple medieval secular architecture. Quite near it lie the ruins of Trutzeltz (Trotz Eltz, i. e. Defy Eltz) erected by Archbishop Baldwin of Treves, in the vain hope of controlling the great stronghold he could not conquer.

Treis boasts two ruins, Schloss Treis and the Wildenburg, both lying up a little valley. At Treis, the road on our side left the river, so we were ferried across on a flatboat. It was one of those pendulum ferries in which the boat is propelled by the current, being swung across at the end of steel cables secured upstream. The craft is started by poling and run ashore by the same means, if necessary. The boat had just left as we approached. It was taking over a red automobile which we never expected to see again; but after going a short distance along the opposite shore we passed it stalled by the roadside, with most of its occupants hard at work replacing a punctured tire. We grinned somewhat maliciously, I fear—little realizing what was in store for us.

Bobbie now followed the right bank going upstream. There were many people out for a Sunday stroll along the shore and he had to drive very carefully, to the distress of the Youth who worried lest we should be overtaken by that red car. The scenery was very pretty and picturesque, and in several places we saw remains of old walls and watchtowers at the water, edge.

Cochem, a town of some size, lies at one of the prettiest spots on the Moselle. Burg Cochem, also mentioned in “Thekla,” and once the property of Treves’ archbishops, occupies the whole top of a hill overlooking the town and commands the river for miles in either direction. Up the Ender valley, about three miles back of Cochem, rises the tower of ruined Winneburg, the ancestral seat of the Metternich family from which the famous Prince Metternich was descended.

The Moselle now begins to wind very much; from Cochem to Eller is three miles as the crow flies, but over twelve if you follow the river. The going is still first-class, as it has been, so far, all day.

After Brüttig and castle Beilstein a decided sweep in the stream, around Petersberg, makes the opposite shore look like a peninsula sticking out into the water. A strip of field and meadow stretches along the river,s edge-cut off, apparently, by the mountains, from all communication with the world except by water. In this sheltered spot stand the ruins of a large church as well as walls of other structures—the monastery of Stuben, founded in the twelfth century and suppressed at the end of the eighteenth.

Almost opposite is the village of Bremm with a Gothic church and some quaint houses ; and here, they claim, the first grapes on the Moselle were planted. Whether the monastery planted the grapes or settled near them, is a question you may decide for yourself. Certainly, judging by the siege of Thuron, it must have been the one or the other.

A straight run of some three miles brought us to Alf, where we decided to leave the river which now begins to have a very tortuous course; on the map it looks like a snake that has tied itself full of loops. The curve from Cochem to Eller was worth while even though it was as 12 to 3 when compared with a straight road. But the prospect of leaving Alf by the river road and driving some seven miles to reach the other side of the mountain, only a half mile away by air line, seemed too much of a good thing. At that rate we should never “get anywhere in time for supper,” Scoffy plaintively remarked. Moreover, we had been twice warned that the direct road, inland, was in far better condition. The map confirmed this, so inland we went.

But, alas ! as we wound round the hills of the Alf valley to get back into the open country, a sharp curve proved too much for one of our rear tires. An explosion like the sound of a shotgun rang out in the Sunday quiet, and we were stalled with our first blowout.

“There !” cried Pater, “the old woman’s curse has come to roost. While you people were good it couldn’t touch us ; but now that you laughed at those unfortunates in the red car, it has taken hold, and our clean score is broken,”

“Yes, and I’ll bet we have some more before night,” quoth the Youth. And so we did : one puncture and another blowout.

Fortunately it was a pleasant spot to while away the forty-odd minutes required to make repairs. Imagine a pretty valley with the Alf murmuring over its stony bed. Across the stream, wooded hills ; on our side, the steep mountain slope green with vineyards and crowned by the gray old ruins of Burg Arras. Built almost into the mountainside was a row of tiny houses, whose occupants—man, woman, and child rushed out to our assistance (?). Scoffy, with his battery of German, stood by to protect Bobbie, while the rest of the party started up the mountain. But slippery grass made the ascent difficult, and our bugle sounded the recall long before Burg Arras could be invaded.

From one of the little houses we managed to procure some very good beer cooled in a mountain spring. I must say that the spring water itself was more refreshing than any drink we had abroad, though probably no one but an American will be likely to credit the statement.

They say Burg Arras was built (in 938) by Arch-bishop Robert of Treves, to reward a charcoal burner and his sons, who had accomplished the destruction of a band of Huns striving to penetrate the valley during one of their terrible invasions.

“Charcoal burners are clever people,” said Scoffy. “There are these chaps saving the town from the Hungarians ; then there were the fellows that nabbed Kunz von Kaufungen; and the one of the Schwarzwald who found melted silver in his fire and, by working at the same spot for years, accumulated sufficient treasure to rehabilitate a king, marry his daughter, and be made duke of Zahringen; and others, and others. No wonder that no romantic novel of the Middle Ages is complete without one. And you can’t tell me they led a humdrum existence in the solitude of the forest primeval; they were forever catching somebody, or killing somebody, or finding somebody or something; and if no other excitement offered, they were being flogged by the nobility for getting in the way of the hunt.”

We whizzed through Kinderbeuren, Wittlich, Hetzerath and Föhren. The roads were excellent and, where they wound up long, steep grades, gave us many a fine view of the broad German land. After a bad combination of railroad crossings and bridges at Ehrgang, we again swept in quite close to the Moselle and soon crossed the bridge into Treves, the oldest town in Germany.