© E. Leitz / Instagram@linazerrella

Early Mosel tourism

On the trail of the first river boat tourists

It was early morning when Octavius Cobb Rooke, a British naval officer, boarded a boat in Trier in 1857. His reason for touring the Mosel had nothing to do with military matters. He was travelling as a tourist and looked forward to an unspoilt, idyllic river landscape that was still relatively untouched compared to the Rhine. In his later travelogue “The Life of the Moselle”, which became a bestseller in his homeland, he noted wryly that “the greatest charm of all in descending our river is the absence of those swarms of mere sight-seers who infest the Rhine.” Who knows how many people in Britain were inspired by him to take a trip along the Mosel River!

Equipped with only light luggage, Rooke didn’t just embark on a river cruise but on an extensive voyage of discovery with plenty of stops for sightseeing, refreshments, overnight stays and hiking. The Mosel was the main transport axis of the region at that time. Road networks didn’t yet exist along its banks, bridges were very rare and the railway only came to the region around 1900. So the fastest and most efficient way to travel was by boat.

Zwei Personen im Kanu auf dem Fluss, daneben zwei Schwäne

Locals used flat-bottomed barges for everyday commutes. Such barges would take people to the other side of the river to their vineyards and fields, and carried carts, livestock and horses. They transported iron, pottery, charcoal, bark, wine and regional produce to markets, and carried hay, grain, grapes, firewood and oak shoots, the leaves of which were stripped, dried and used to stuff mattresses.


© E. Leitz / Instagram@linazerrella
...“There still remain on the shores of this river more old castles and ruins, and more curious old houses, than can elsewhere be found in a like space in Europe.”

Octavius Rooke: The Life of the Moselle

The banks were lined with fruit trees; nuts and cherries particularly captured Octavius Rooke’s attention. He enjoyed the diverse sights that presented themselves to him as the boat made its way down the Mosel:

“Here is a woman mowing: further down, one impels a heavy boat along by means of a pole: there red cows stand, half in the water, half on a grassy slope (...) as we approach a village, some of the maidens are seen drawing water; while others, in groups (...) wash their gay clothing.”

Gemälde zeigt Mosel mit Schiffen und Stadt Trier im Hintergrund

The riverside views that so inspired 19th century travellers along the Mosel are depicted by a number of landscape paintings, and especially those by the famous British painter William Turner, which hang in the Tate Britain. But Clarkson Stanfield, Johann Anton Ramboux, Christoph Hawich and others also created works of art that not only served as preparation for and retrospectives of trips along the Mosel, but also as souvenirs.

If you want to see historic vistas of the Mosel, you definitely need to visit the Stadtmuseum Simeonstift in Trier. But you can also find examples in the region’s other museums. Regional antique shops offer a large selection of Mosel scenes as souvenirs to take home.

Ansicht auf eine Familie beim Paddeln auf der Mosel.

Experiencing the Mosel by boat is still a special experience in its own right. River cruises are flourishing andsightseeing trips are an integral part of holiday itineraries for many Mosel visitors. Or how about a canoe tour? Some stand-up paddling perhaps?

It’s all possible here!

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