A black cat, witches and other real-life characters from the storied Moselle River Valley.

For some, travel memories are conjured through photographs taken throughout their journeys. For others, it’s the stories woven throughout the places they visit that give their adventures everlasting life—and the Moselle River Valley offers dozens of tales begging to be shared.

The Black Cat from Zell

Centered between the towns of Koblenz and Trier, an orderly line of homes kisses the narrow shoreline of the Moselle. This is Zell, standing proudly against a verdant backdrop of steep slopes that reach down to the water as its vineyards creep up toward the sun.

Evidently it was a ferocious feline that first put this village on the map. As legend has it, a large quantity of local wine was being stored in barrels in a regional cellar. When people approached, a black cat leapt upon the barrel from Zell. Hissing as though to protect its contents, the cat led people to believe the wine from Zell was special. While it may have been that the cat’s progeny were hiding behind the barrel, the celebrity this story afforded the town cannot be denied.

Today, not only do bottles from Zell wineries feature a black cat on their labels, but a statue immortalizing their four-legged mascot has been erected in the town square.

Bernkasteler Doctor

Historic Bernkastel is a storybook town with a charming story to match. Its renowned vineyard, Bernkasteler Doctor, was named after a 14th-century winegrower whose medical experience was nil. Rather, he was a humble man who, upon hearing that the Elector of Trier had fallen ill at Landshut Castle, brought him a keg of his finest wine, claiming it had chased off several of his own maladies.

Although the Elector had failed to respond to traditional medicine, after swallowing some of the natural elixir, he was soon cured. Thrilled with the result, the Elector proclaimed the intimate vineyard should then be known as Bernkasteler Doctor, after the “doctor” who miraculously healed him.

While in Bernkastel, you can pay your respects to the doctor, who lives in perpetuity atop a bronze fountain in a park beneath Landshut Castle. Discover more fascinating stories when you cruise the Moselle River with AmaWaterways!

Witches Tower at Reichsburg Castle

The colorful half-timbered homes of Cochem are often eclipsed by the towering fortress known as Reichsburg Castle. Originally built in the 11th century and destroyed by fire some 600 years later, the castle contained a somber turret known as the Hexenturm, or “Witches Tower.” According to legend, women accused of witchcraft were tried within this tower. If convicted, they were thrown from the window. Those who died from their fall were considered innocent and given a proper burial.

Perhaps the knowledge that blood stained the hillside was too much for wealthy businessman Louis Ravené, who purchased the land and castle ruins in the 19th century, intending to remodel them as his family’s summer home. While construction wasn’t finished on Reichsburg until after his death, Ravené’s son left the original Hexenturm standing, so that centuries of visitors could bear witness to the castle’s tragic past.