If you’re considering a family bike trip in Europe, choosing the destination is the most important decision you’ll make. You’ll be biking 20-40 miles a day for multiple days and the bike route can make or break your trip with kids. Our tour operator, Austin Adventures, excels at asking the right questions so that guests choose a trip that matches their biking ability and interests.
With an 8 and 11-year-old with limited biking experience we needed a beginner level trip. The flat terrain and miles of bike paths of the Mosel Valley in western Germany is a perfect fit. The route is lined with vineyards, castles and Roman history surprises that Austin Adventures ties together with activities and dining adventures.
Mosel Valley Family Bike Tours
I shudder to imagine what the days would have been like with hills. We only climbed a few and I wish I had recorded the moaning and groaning that came from all of the kids; there were eight of them, ages 8 – 17. Instead, we rode mostly on flat paths that meandered in and out of vineyards and along the barge and river boat-studded Mosel River. Our hotels were located near the path making it easy to begin and end each day on the bikes.
Italy, not Germany, is usually the first place that comes to mind when thinking about Roman history. However, at its height, the Roman Empire spilled far beyond current day Italian borders throughout Europe and into the Middle East and Africa. Its western capital was centered in the city of Trier, in the Mosel Valley.
The 2,000-year-old Porta Nigra (black gate) is a massive reminder of Roman rule but there are ruins scattered throughout the towns and villages along the bike route. Snack time one morning found us at the site of a reconstructed Roman villa and in Neumagen, site of Emperor Constantine’s summer home, we spent a morning touring the city’s Roman ruins with a local guide.
Look up from the cobblestone-street towns in the Mosel Valley and you’ll find a castle lurking above. In Cochem, bikers pedal in the shadow of the castle that stands guard high up on the hill. But it is the region’s most famous castle and Rick Steve’s favorite in all of Europe, Burg Eltz, that wows with authenticity and beauty. The only remaining, fully intact castle in Germany looks as it did 500 years ago thanks to smart politicking which kept the family (and castle) out of wars.
This was a favorite excursion on our bike tour. After biking to the base of the castle, we hiked 30 minutes through the woods and across a footbridge to reach the castle steps. A 45-minute tour showed us rooms of armor and everyday living including an interesting privy. The hike back ended at an outdoor restaurant where the fish was so fresh we might have passed it on our way to the castle.
Food, wine and fairy tale towns – that’s the Mosel Valley. And it’s relaxing. We enjoyed apple strudel by the river but it’s the architecture of the small towns and few American tourists (though everyone speaks English) that make the Mosel Valley feel uniquely German. Every day there is time for wandering the winding, cobbled streets, some with half-timbered houses, or simply enjoying a glass of the local riesling wine with the group. Close your eyes, add in princesses and dwarves, and you could be in Disneyland, minus the crowds and big mouse.
And for the foodies or the parents of picky eaters, the Mosel Valley is not all sausages and sauerkraut. Dining with Austin Adventures is an integral part of the bike tour and while our dinners were multiple courses, there was never a problem finding something to eat for the kids … especially desserts.
The Mosel Valley is well-known for riesling wine. Steep vineyards that have been in families for generations line the Mosel River. While Americans know riesling as a sweet wine, we quickly figured out at our after-biking social hours that there are dry versions as well. The pride that the small family-owned wine producers feel for their wines was evident in our adults-only private wine tasting in Neumagen.
Are you convinced yet? There are few places where you can bike for miles without hills, experience Roman history, German castles and wine tasting all in the same day. Stay tuned for my next post about tips for planning a European bike trip with kids.
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Editor’s Note: Kristi was provided a media rate to review Austin Adventures for families. As always, her thoughts and opinions are her own. Photos by Kristi Marcelle.