Founded as the Roman settlement Confluentes at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel in 10 BC, KOBLENZ, some 90km downstream of Mainz, marks the transition from the Rhine Gorge to the gentler landscapes of the Middle Rhine, which continue down to Bonn 70km away. Its strategic location has meant it has been fought over and conquered several times, most notably by the Swedes in the Thirty Years’ War, the French in 1794, and the Russians in 1814, and turned over to Prussia in 1822 only to be comprehensively destroyed by British Lancaster bombers towards the end of World War II. In its rebuilt form – a mix of old-looking and modern – it’s a relaxed if unexciting town with few sights. But, as the northern gateway to the Romantic Rhine – several cruises down both the Rhine and Mosel start here – and with a good collection of bars and restaurants in a likeable pedestrian centre, it makes a good base. The best time to be in town is during the annual Rhein in Flammen (Rhine in Flames; rhein-in-flammen.de) festival in August, a firework bonanza, best appreciated from Festung Ehrenbreitstein fortress above town or on one of a convoy of boats on the river.