By Nikki Goth Itoi

Next time you explore Germany's popular Mosel River Valley, plan to make an overnight stop in Cochem to stay at the historic Alte Thorschenke hotel and wine tavern.

It's hard to imagine a more authentic old inn than this one. Built in 1332, the Alte Thorschenke stands adjacent to the remains of the old town wall, and it is now designated a Gast im Schloss, meaning it belongs to a distinguished class of castle-like hotels in Germany.

The narrow spiral staircase leading to rooms in the original part of the inn is made of wood and creaks loudly at every step. Some rooms feature romantic four-poster beds with canopies; others offer picturesque views of the river. Exposed beams, antique furnishings, and ornate drapery and bedspreads add to the atmosphere. Though the Thorschenke has 75 beds in total (all rooms have modern, clean bath or shower and WC), the majority are located in a more modern annex to the original building. Request one of the more historic bed chambers in the Alte Teil for the full effect.

The common areas of the hotel are equally attractive. The dining room is modeled after a traditional hunting lodge, complete with old portraits, hunting trophies, and oriental carpets covering the hardwood floors. Guests take their buffet breakfast here, and in the evening, the Weinstube is open to the public. (The Alte Thorschenke has a 500 year-old winery on the premises.) Other amenities include an elevator, outdoor patio, and free parking garage.

The inn is centrally located along the main pedestrian way in Cochem, a scenic town that lies 51 kilometers southwest of Koblenz and exemplifies the idyllic character of the Mosel Valley. From the Alte Thorschenke, guests can stroll through the shops in town, rent bikes to ride along the river, hike up to the Reichsburg (Imperial Fortress) a 900-year old castle that overlooks the town, or climb aboard one of the many boats that cruise the river offering fantastic views of the Mosel's many terraced vineyards. (A pleasant, but relatively short two hour minimum tour on the Stadt Bonn Schiff departs Cochem at 10am en route to Beilstein, a town just five miles to the south. Passengers can wander around Beilsteins shops and restaurants and then return at their leisure.)

The only real drawback to these accommodations is that you won't escape the company of other American tourists. Many Americans have found the inn, thanks to mentions in mainstream travel publications like Fodor's. Still, in a town like Cochem, we think travelers will be hard-pressed to find a place that compares to the Alte Thorschenke in its historical character.

Daily Rates: Doubles 125-225 DM ($73-$132). Closed Jan 5 to mid-March.
Contact: Alte Thorschenke, Brückenstrasse 3, D-56812 Cochem an der Schönen Mosel, Tel +49-2671-7059, Fax +49-2671-4202
Rating: Quality 17/20, Value 14/20

November 1998