Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Rhein (Rhine) River Cruise - Germany

First, let me start out with the fact that I wasn't sure how to spell Rhein for the title of this post. I know how to spell it, it's just that there are two spellings. The American spelling of R-H-I-N-E and the German spelling, R-H-E-I-N. I am an American, but I live in Germany. Which is correct? As you can see, I totally went with the German spelling (when in Rome, after all), unlike what I do in my blog with most places. I usually use the American spelling of European places because that is what most people type in to Google. And I want to be searchable! Okay, on to the river cruise.

Rudesheim river cruise

Matt and I went on a Rhein river cruise for the day clear back in April for our anniversary. There are several companies that offer a day cruise up and down the Rhein where you can just sit back and enjoy the scenery and a meal. Here is where we got on in Rüdesheim. You can also start your cruise in nearby Bingen which in on the other side of the river. HERE is a link for the website for the boat we used to go up and down the river. All in English and great!

This here is Ehrenfels Castle. It was built in the 1200's and destroyed in 1689. It is open for tours.

Ehrenfels castle Germany

The real appeal to going on a Rhein (Rhine) River day cruise are the castles. This section of the Rhein is sprinkled liberally with castles and the ruins of castles. 

All these castles and picturesque villages are in the little section of the Rhein from Rüdesheim to the Lorelei rock. That's a lot of castles in a little place.

Next up is Rheinstein Castle. It is privately owned by an opera singer, but still open for tours March through November.

Rheinstein Castle

Right across form Rheinstein Castle is a quaint little town with an even quainter name.

Assmannshausen Germany

Yes, that is really the name of the town. 

Even though it has a funny name it is just a normal German river village. I didn't notice any ass men walking around the streets.

Assmannshausen Germany

Assmannshausen, Germany. If you are wondering why the hills look a little brown that is because those parts are the vineyards and the grape vines were just getting their leaves. In two months these same hills will be lush with ripe grapes.

Sooneck Castle Germany

This is Sooneck Castle. Like most of the castles along the Rhein, it was built by a robber/baron. The Rhein was, and still is, a major shipping lane for this part of Europe. It is the easiest way to get goods from the south up to the ocean. Back in the 1200's, everybody wanted to stick their fingers in the shipping pie. They would build these castles on side of the Rhein gorge and stop anyone or anything going up or down the river, and of course, take a cut of whatever it was they were moving. There are so many toll stops on this part of the river, I am amazed that anyone arrived at their final destination with any cargo left at all.

Heimburg Castle Germany

Here is Heimburg Castle. It was destroyed in 1689 and is not open to visitors. It does sit above a cute and colorful town, though.

Furstenberg Castle Germany

Right next to Heimburg Castle sits the Fürstenberg Castle ruin. It too is privately owned and not open for tours. Who are these people that own castles in Germany? And how can I be one of them?

Not only were the castles impressive, the little villages that sat on the banks of the river under steep hills were just as eye catching as the castles.

Rhein River Germany

The next castle is Stahleck Castle.

Stahleck Castle

Stahleck Castle was built in 1135 and then blown up in 1689. It has been restored and now is a popular youth hostel. You might be saying, 'Hey, a lot of these castles were destroyed in 1689. What happened then?' Funny you should ask. The Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) was fought by almost every country in Europe, but mainly on German soil. By the end, a third of all Germans had died. France emerged from the war very powerful, but it was not enough for the French king, Louis XIV. He started the Nine Years' War and set out to take parts of Germany where he instituted a "scorched earth" policy where the French troops destroyed everything in their path. They made it as far as this section of the Rhein. Here the Rhein River sits in a deep gorge and is difficult to cross. His troops never made it across, but they decimated the left (west) side of the river. This is also the war that they destroyed the Heidelberg Castle. Read about that HERE. Okay, history lesson over. Okay, maybe it's not over. Germany ceased to be a major player after France had their way with them. The events of the 1600's and then the Napoleonic Wars of the 1800's directly influenced Germany's deep distrust (read hate) of France. This distrust and hate directly influenced the decision for Germany to invade France, and many the events leading up to WWI and WWII. Maybe if France had been nicer 400 years ago, certain events never would have happened. I'm just sayin...

Okay, NOW the history lesson is over.

Bacharach Germany

This is Rick Steves favorite town along the Rhein, Bacharach, Germany. In fact, this town is the cover for his Germany travel book. 

More of the beautiful Rhein.

Gutenfels Castle Germany

Up next is Gutenfels Castle. It too is privately owned and not open for tours. It is, however, a working hotel, as you can see by the paint on the wall. 

The end of the line is in St. Goar. That is where the boat turns around and makes the return trip to Rüdesheim or Bingen.

St. Goar Germany

Beautiful Sankt Goar, Germany with the impressive Rheinfels Fortress in the background. The boats stop at several towns along the voyage where you can stay on or disembark to explore the village. Just make sure that there is another boat scheduled to come later on in the day and you aren't trapped in the quaint village without a way out. At least you know there are several castle/hotel/hostels to stay in along the river.

Katz Castle Germany

Katz Castle was built in the late 1300's and then destroyed in 1808 by Napoleon. It has since been restored and is, you guessed it, a hotel. Want to know more about the castles on the Rhein? Click HERE for a map and descriptions about all the castles including opening times and restaurant information.

Even though our river tour was over in Sankt Goar, it is not the end of the castles.

Maus Castle Germany

Off in the distance we could see Maus Castle, an intact castle built in the 1300's and open for tours and even weddings.

The castles continue on to Koblenz. The river cruise that we took can be completed in about five hours and is great way to spend an anniversary, or any day, just drifting down the Rhein. 

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