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UPDATED: March 2019
Quite frankly, it was a last-minute decision to go to Germany. A Rhein River cruise? Was that the same as a Rhine River cruise? It sounded very tempting.
Maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing that I had messed up my Indonesian visa. I’d been in Bali for six weeks and away from home for five months. Canada was calling.
My head was swirling with possibilities for spontaneous delight! What new sights could I see on the route home? Castles and the Rhein River won this time.
Is there anywhere else you can cruise a river and see so many castles in one outing?
Thoughts of castles and vineyards are how I landed in Rüdesheim.
Day 1: Explore Rüdesheim
Rüdesheim, a bustling town on the Rhein River, is the perfect base for a visit to this part of Germany. Arrive and get settled. Be prepared to walk uphill to your hotel or take a cab. Spend the afternoon exploring Rüdesheim. Don’t miss the tiny, cobblestone street, Drosselgasse, in the heart of Rüdesheim. Here’s what I discovered:
bratwurst and schnitzel abounded,
accordion tunes filled the air,
beer steins overflowed with pilsner.
You are in Germany.
A Rhein River cruise in the Middle Rhein, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a must when you are in this part of Germany. I had to study the map, the names of the towns, docking times, and which castles are open to the public in order to figure out the next day’s plan. I decided to sail to Koblenz as I really wanted to see the over 700-year-old Marksburg Castle.
Day 2: The Rhein River Cruise: Rüdesheim Am Rhein to Koblenz
I decided on a four hour, one-way cruise with KD Cruise lines from Rüdesheim Am Rhein to Koblenz. I left Rüdesheim at 9:15 a.m. and arrived in Koblenz at 1:10 p.m. The cruise ship made 14 stops between these two towns. You can get off at any of the stops, visit a castle and then resume your cruise on the next ship making its way down the river. The options are endless along the Rhein River. Study the schedule and create your own itinerary.
Castle after castle appeared around the river’s curves, vineyards clung to steep gorges, barges sailed by diligently delivering goods and medieval riverside towns radiated charm.
It is a cruise that sparks imagination and curiosity. I poured over the information sheet figuring out the castle names, which are in ruins, which restored.
The legends are like a direct excerpt from a storybook. Did robber-barons really raise chains across the river to exact a toll from passing ships?
Was there truly a maiden named Lorelei who sang sweet songs and distracted sailors to their death? Blown about by a cool wind, I sipped hot chocolate and pondered the rich history that I was floating past.
Arriving in Koblenz, I hopped a train back to St. Goar to explore and visit the Rheinfels Castle.
Leave yourself ample time to visit as the last shuttle to the castle never appeared! St. Goar is worth a visit with its half-timbered houses and looming castle. Rheinfels Castle, I will see you next time!
It is an easy train ride back to Bingen but beware there are 2 train stations in Bingen – Bingen Hbf and Bingen Stadtbhf. Bingen Stadtbhf is closest to the docks to catch the ferry back to Rüdesheim.
Day 3: Cycling Along the Rhein River Pathway
There is a certain sense of freedom gliding along on a bicycle in a foreign land. I had done so also in Costa Rica and Sri Lanka and relished the experience. Riding along the Rhein River was no different. Fresh air, the flowing river, church spires, snack stops, villages, castles and the classic asking a stranger for directions!
Rent a bike in Rüdesheim and cycle to the ferry dock. Take the ferry from Rüdesheim to Bingen and follow the signs for the bike path.
I cycled to the town of Bacharach. How can the bike path be anything but highly picturesque when you are cycling by the Rhein River? I passed vineyards bursting with Reisling grapes
and looming stone castles
and chatted to lovely strangers. A German man cycled with me for a while and doled out wisdom about photography. His lasting words, “Pictures come to you.”
Bacharach, though full of tour buses, was charming
tucked away restaurants,
views of the Rhein River,
delectable, chilled Reisling.
On the return ride, I stopped in Bingen for a crisp Reisling and watched the evening light cast its glow over Rüdesheim. This short visit had been a wonderful introduction to storybook Germany, and clearly not long enough.
Have you been to the Rhein River? What were your favourites?
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