By connecting three rivers – the Saar, Mosel, and Main – this fabulous route provides an east-west course across Germany without the hills of the Mittelland route. In fact, the first 900km of this route are to all intents and purposes completely level.
More impressive statistics? 75% of the route is on traffic-free trails, and the other 25% is generally on little country lanes or quiet access roads. The three rivers cleave deep gorges through the landscape, which makes it a more appealing scenic proposition than (say) the Elbe or much of the Danube. The corollary is that this enforces an indirect, looping course: from Offenbach to Schweinfurt, the Main’s meanders are at least twice the crow-flies distance.
The Saar is renowned as the one-time industrial heartland of Germany, fiercely contested in the early 20th century. Saarbrucken and Saarlouis might live up to that reputation, but the valley is surprisingly more attractive than you’d expect, all tree-drenched hills and open river vistas.
At Konz the Saar gives out onto the bigger Mosel, just a short way upstream of the Luxembourg border. It’s astonishingly loopy at times, and though the forbidding gradients might dissuade you from taking shortcuts across the meanders, you can appreciate the views of the castles and ruins high above. The Mosel has a long history of navigation and tourism, with clusters of restaurants and hotels at river ports along the way.
Koblenz is the junction with the mighty Main, and in cycling geography, EuroVelo 4. 650km following one river might sound deathly boring, but the riverside towns of the Main make this the sort of route where you’ll want to plan afternoon stops to explore.