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The Moselle is a west-bank tributary of the Rhine and rises in the forests of the Vosges at Ballon d’Alsace. It flows for just 339 miles (545km) crossing through the Lorraine region of France and into Germany, briefly bordering Luxembourg. It joins the Rhine at Koblenz. Between Metz and Thionville there is some industry, mostly coal and steel. However, overwhelmingly the region of the Moselle is famed for its natural beauty. The banks are deep green, often forested or farmland meadows, and the river meanders through some of the most romantic countryside imaginable. There are pretty towns aplenty, too, with half-timbered houses and medieval churches, such as Bernkastel-Kues, Beilstein, Toul, Trier, Thionville and Metz itself. If anything they are outnumbered by castles perched high above the river. Some are in ruins, such as Kobern-Gondorf, others are much restored – Schloss Berg, for instance, at Nennig is a Renaissance castle that now houses a hotel and a casino! All are the last word, though, in picture-book picturesque.

The Moselle is famous, too, for its wines. Both France and Luxembourg produce Moselle wines but the most renowned are the German Mosel wines, the best known of which is Reisling. The lesser known Elbling variety usually becomes Sekt, or sparkling wine. Wine has been made here since the days of the Celts and the Romans – these are the oldest vineyards in Germany. The wine festivals in September are a delight – the streets are decorated with garlands and ribbons, there are colourful processions and Bacchus is likely to put in an appearance. For a quite different take on Moselle, the traditional Christmas market season (early November to Christmas) offers seasonal gifts, bratwurst sausages, potato pancakes as well as that delicious wine.