There’s a reason one is called Father Rhine and the other Mother Mosel. Two rivers, each harboring different personalities, yet both are life vessels to their pass-through countries. Recently I traveled some distance on both rivers. It was fascinating, awe-inspiring and a trip back in time.
Beyond the bucolic landscapes dotted with fairy-tale castles, terraced vineyards and rust-covered maritime facilities, the Rhine and the Mosel provide a glimpse into their respective history of the region. As economic engines, both rivers continue to provide a wealth of economic infusion into the local communities hugging their banks.
Once the most efficient and fashionable means of travel throughout Europe, river cruising continues to be an ideal way to discover the culture, cuisine and unique characteristics of the many countries traveled through. Yet for all their similarities, the Rhine and Mosel wear two very different masks.
Father Rhine, as it is called by the locals, has for over 2000 years been Europe’s most important commercial waterway. Its scenic beauty has inspired countless myths and legends. By introduc-ing vines to the region, the Romans paved the way for the excellent vintages that are a further source of the Rhine’s international reputation.
The Rhine River rises in southeast Switzerland and reaches the North Sea after a journey of over 1230 km. While industrialization has left its mark on some parts of the river, most of the waterway provides an idealistic pass-through of towns and villages that have existed there for over hundreds of years.
Mother Mosel wears a very different moniker. Since the days of the first Romans, over 2000 years ago, the most exquisite asset of the Mosel countryside has remained its wine production. Generations upon generations have nurtured, embellished and refined a giant open-air amphitheater to the honor of Bacchus, the God of Wine. The towering slate cliffs store the day’s warmth for the cool evenings that follow while the grapes ripen at just the right angle to the sun.
Our river journey began in Basel, Switzerland. The city is Switzerland’s second largest and carries a split personality. On one hand, giant modern chemical research and pharmaceutical companies dominate the city’s skyline. On the other hand, an ancient network of narrow alleys weaves together the city’s medieval architectural heritage.
Leaving Basel, our ship followed what seemed like a meandering path along both the Rhine and Mosel Rivers. It was one river seemingly indistinguishable from the other. It was a daily tapestry of colors, images, sights and sounds that captured our attention and imagination. Walking tours included the obligatory market plazas, cathedrals, historical sites, and opportunities for shopping.
For me the best part of the trip were the periods of cruising the waterways. Ensconced in a lounge chair on top of our ship, I was surrounded by an IMAX presentation of surround sounds and slowly moving images. It became a place for me to get lost inside my head and let my imagination flourish. It was a time to reflect, appreciate, assess, and plan for the future.
It became another version of my ‘quiet time’ which is so important to restart stalled batteries and rekindle ideas for the future. Different surroundings but same results. A near-silent pass through time as history slipped by and my thoughts turned toward the future.