Germany’s highlight: Winter wonderland in Cochem

Germany’s highlight: Winter wonderland in Cochem

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

This time of year is magical in Germany. It feels as though the entire country transforms into a winter wonderland. Although the lively Christmas markets that mark the festive holiday season may look different this year, there is still plenty of frosty fun and shenanigans to be had. While many of us in the Wiesbaden and Kaiserslautern areas plan far-off trips to check off seasonal bucket lists, head off the beaten path along the Mosel River. Nestled high above the banks, you’ll find Cochem, a village as lively as it is enchanting.

Cochem lies along the western flanks of the Rheinland-Pfalz, approximately two hours north of the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC) and an hour and a half west of Wiesbaden. The town has a fascinating history dating back to the Celts and Romans. Once an imperial outpost fit for kings and archbishops, Cochem suffered severely during a plague outbreak beginning in 1423. Two centuries later, the town was invaded during the Thirty Years War but not officially conquered. However, the French burned down the castle in 1689 and declared victory. In 1815, the city returned to Prussian control and became part of what became Germany. After mounting devastating losses in the historical district during World War II, the city was meticulously rebuilt into the lovely town you see today.

As the winter months approach, Cochem comes alive with holiday spirit and cheer. The Altstadt is usually transformed into a charming menagerie of alpine huts and twinkling lights for the Cochem “Weihnachtsmarkt” during the holiday season. The scent of candied almonds, spiced lebkuchen and warm glühwein waft through the streets. Even if the market hasn’t sprung up, it’s still worth wandering through the cobblestone alleyways and along the riverbank. The impressive half-timbered houses lend a fairy-tale charm, especially when covered with a light dusting of sugar-fine snow.

Is adventure calling? Muster up your strength (and your euros) and make the trek up the hill to Cochem Castle. Overlooking the Mosel River valley and the picture-perfect town below, it’s easy to feel as though you’ve been whisked away to another time and place. Walk along the mighty fortress walls or head inside for a guided tour if it’s a bit cold. For culinary delights, don’t let the dormant rows of grapevines fool you. This area is known for its award-winning wines. Head to a local winery and warm up with some world-famous vintages.

With medieval flair and friendly residents, it’s easy to see why Cochem is a popular stop on river cruise itineraries. It’s a stunningly beautiful place to visit any time of year and is even more mesmerizing during the late fall and winter as the summer crowds fade away. Take a stroll through the charming old town and promenade along the river. Escape the ordinary for a quick getaway or a long weekend. It’s worth the trip and one of Germany’s notable highlights.

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