Today we’re heading onto a boat and into the vineyards. Our small travel group boards the “Augusta” full of anticipation. The boat owned by Gilles, a partner shipping company of Köln-Düsseldorfer, takes us on a two-hour Moselle round trip. We set off from Koblenz at 10.30 am. “Welcome aboard. Have fun!” – We’ve come to the right place. We’ve just been admiring the young woman who skilfully moored the large passenger ship at the jetty. Now she’s back on board in a flash, welcoming the passengers. Sophie Hess wants to be an inland skipper. The 17-year-old is in the second year of her apprenticeship. “It was clear to me from a very young age that that’s what I wanted to do. My father is a skipper, I practically grew up on the water.” She is only the second budding inland skipper to be trained by the shipping company Gilles. “Luca was the first. He took his exams last year. And came top of his class,” Dennis Gilles says, proudly. The company is all about tradition and modernity.
Gilles has been a family-run business for five generations. Friedrich Gilles started out with two boats over 100 years ago. The fleet has since grown. The 50-metre-long and almost eleven-metre-wide “Augusta” is the company’s most recent addition. It is designed for a maximum of 580 passengers, making it Gilles’ largest boat. The senior (built in 1931) and winner when it comes to nostalgia is the “Cäcilia”. The old dame is content with just 32 guests. Before the new panoramic boat found its home on the Moselle, it operated on the Main-Danube Canal. There it went by the name of “Altmühlperle”. But “Augusta” has a much more personal feel.
“We’re delighted to be operating again after last year’s shutdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Day-to-day business is going very well. We benefit from the fact that there are a large number of campsites around Koblenz. This brings us quite a lot of day guests who combine a river boat cruise with sightseeing or a hike on land,” says Dennis Gilles. A great idea. That’s what we’re doing. We break up our journey towards Winningen and alight in Moselweiß-Güls. We checked the hiking trail through the vineyards to Winningen on the map beforehand. From the jetty, we first cross over the railway bridge to Güls. We use the signs for the “Moselsteig” and “Rheinburgenweg” hiking trails to get our bearings. At the beginning of the trail, we follow the “Zuweg Moselsteig” markings. This access path leads a short distance through a residential area and then continues along a fine gravel path, past meadow orchards and crop fields. Finally, the trail heads slightly uphill to the vineyard “Winninger Bruchstück”. From now on, the steep vineyards and the Moselle flowing leisurely below us are our companions. Great views in both directions.
A themed trail provides information on viticulture, so you leave the mountain wiser than when you started climbing. Another impressive feature are the artfully built dry stone walls that have secured the steep slopes of the vineyards for centuries and provide a habitat for animals deserving of protection like the common wall lizard or Apollo butterfly. We don’t spot either of the wall dwellers, but the family of swans we meet on a pond is also quite cute. The fairly easy hike – there are only a few steep sections – takes just under two hours. In Winningen, there is enough time to rest a little and get some refreshments. At 2.40 pm we stand at the jetty in Winningen and are greeted on board the “Augusta” by Sophie Hess like old acquaintances.
In addition to the two-hour Moselle round trip, which includes a lock, the one-hour panoramic round trips in Koblenz are highly recommended. The shipping company Gilles offers the Castles and Palaces Cruise, which passes, among other places, the Electoral Palace, Lahneck Castle, the mouth of the Lahn with Johanneskloster Monastery, and Deutsches Eck. The tourist magnet Deutsches Eck, where the Rhine and Moselle meet, is also part of the Old Rhine Cruise. Other sights include Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, Koblenz old town and Niederwerth Island.
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