Avoid the masses... and enjoy some Saar quality
By Caroline Hendrie
THINKING of taking a river cruise in Germany? Of course there’s the Rhine, with Cologne and Bonn on its banks, or the Danube, flowing from the Black Forest through Bavaria to Vienna. But these teem with tourists and hundreds of ships jostling for space.
However, there is an alternative, as I discover: a week-long sailing on the serene Moselle and its even quieter tributary, the Saar, taking in the ancient city of Trier, beautiful scenery, top-notch sightseeing and a side trip to Luxembourg.
Amadeus Elegant, chartered exclusively by Saga with room for 140 passengers, including eight travelling solo on this trip, is short enough to navigate the bendy Saar – but spacious and airy too.
We have a leisurely itinerary. Mornings are spent sailing, rarely passing other boats. After breakfast, a 15-minute stretch session with cruise director Charlie is followed by line dancing with his assistant, Loraine, in the panorama lounge, with time for reading, coffee, quizzes and gazing at the view.
We spot lots of herons – a sure sign, an old river-cruise-hand with tip-top binoculars tells me as we scan the banks, that the water is clean and there are plenty of fish.
On the meandering Saar it feels as if we are heading into a leafy green wall, only to round a sharp bend and be faced with another thickly forested hillside.
The tiny town of Saarburg’s chocolate-box credentials are boosted by a 55 ft waterfall tumbling between half-timbered houses.
Upriver, Saarlouis, a garrison town founded by Louis XIV, is dominated by its 17th Century fortress. The old town has elegant buildings and, on one side of the former parade ground, the 1950s town hall has a mural of Saarlouis’s history, which included a brief period of British rule jointly with France between the world wars.
Sailing back north we rejoin the Moselle through the lock at Konz, and soon find Luxembourg on one bank and Germany on the other.
Luxembourg City on a Saturday afternoon buzzes with life in the cafes, bars, shops and funfair in Place d’Armes. Our walking tour ends with a thrilling tram ride.
Sunday morning has added local flavour with a fruhschoppen in the lounge – hearty German elevenses of whopping sausages, giant pretzels, meatloaf, potato salad, sauerkraut and lager. Fortified, we go for a leg-stretching walk in Zell, where millions of riesling vines cling to the south-facing slopes.
The Black Cat trail goes through Schwarzer Katz vineyards, named for a 19th Century cat that fiercely guarded a barrel of wine in the village, leading some visiting merchants to believe it must be the best. We follow white paw prints between houses to the lane cutting across the hillside above the village. More paw prints lead us back down to a wine bar for a glass or two of dry Black Cat white in the riverside garden.
The finale is Trier, the oldest city in Germany, founded by Roman Emperor Augustus in 16BC and the birthplace of Karl Marx. It is packed with sights, from the sootstreaked Roman gateway Porta Nigra to the enormous statue of Marx, donated by the Chinese government in 2018.
Our walking tour takes us to Marx’s childhood home, which has been turned into a brilliant interactive museum, charting his life and examining his influence across the world, for better and worse.
Over a last glass of riesling in the wine bar opposite the museum we muse on our wonderful week, cruising off the beaten track.
Eight-night, all-inclusive Hidden Gems Of The Saar cruises depart between April and October 2024. Prices from £2,098pp, including flights or Eurostar (saga.co.uk).
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