In 1838 the French novelist Victor Hugo wrote “The Rhine combines everything. The Rhine is swift as the Rhône, wide as the Loire, winding as the Seine… royal as the Danube and covered with fables and phantoms like a river in Asia.”
And boy was he right!
The common refrain on the lips of everyone who heard we were going for a vacation to Germany, “You must take the Rhine Cruise.”
River cruises fascinate me and having earlier loved the Nile Cruise decided that this is one thing we must do on our trip.
The cruise starts at Bonn, but it’s really interesting from Koblenz till Mainz.
Tip : If you take a day ticket on KD Line you can get off the boat at various places and roam around the charming villages along the way and get back on. I would suggest Braubach to see the Marksburg castle. Unfortunately we didn’t keep enough time for that.
The 65 km stretch of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, between Koblenz and Bingen was added in the UNESCO list of World Heritage on 22 june ,2002 for a unique combination of geological, historical, cultural and industrial reasons.
It is indeed a truly memorable trip. From the minute you board the boat to when you disembark its magical.
The boats are very well equipped and you can enjoy, drinks, meals and desserts.
We opted for yummy soup, some fancy pasta ( I have forgotten name) and an unforgettable dessert.
A huge ice cream float.
The upper deck has very comfy chairs and there’s an atmosphere of peace and relaxed sun bathing, till the name of some castle is announced. Then everyone dove for their cameras and rushed to the rails to get the best pics! You can see the results here.
We drove from Eulanthaler, Overath to Koblenz, parked our car there and took the cruise from there till Oberwesel.
Our return journey was a 30 minute train ride as against the 3+ hour journey on the river.
You can study the KD site and plan your trip in advance
Alternatively you could plan in such a way that you board the boat with your luggage and spend the night at Mainz, or Frankfurt which is 30 min away or Heidelberg which is an hour away.
I am writing this blog in the hope of helping travellers, because I didn’t find much advice on how to plan the trip.
Tip : if you are travelling by car do u
factor in time spent in searching for parking.
Castles and villages on the Rhine River
As you enter the city of Koblenz the first thing you notice is the massive fortress on the east bank of the Rhine opposite the town of Koblenz. It has cable car service from Koblenz .
Again we didn’t have time but it could be worth a visit if you have time.
Ehrenbreitstein Fortress guarded the middle Rhine region from the French troops who repeatedly attacked that region. The fortress was never attacked.
Ehrenfels Castle is today a ruined castle above the Rhine Gorge near the town of Rüdesheim .
It’s an area with extensive vineyards and the grape variety Ehrenfelser is named after the castle.
Stolzenfels Castle is near Koblenz and was finished in 1259. It was used to protect the toll station at the Rhine, where the ships, back then were the main transport for goods, had to stop and pay toll. In 1689, it was destroyed by the French during the Nine Years’ War. In 1815 the ruins were given as a present to Frederick William IV of Prussia by the city of Koblenz , who had it rebuilt as a summer residence .
Keeping the medieval knights in mind, supported by famous neoclassic architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, the castle was completely remodeled in the then fashionable neo-Gothic style.
Burg Lahneck is situated high above Oberlahnstein and was built between 1240 and 1245. The castle served as a residence of the Archbishop-Electors of Mainz
A castle from the 14th century, which was never attacked and so is pretty much as it was in medieval times. Fittingly it houses of the German Castles Association set up to preserve such ancient monuments
It’s above the romantic small city of Braubach.
And a fairy tale village along the way
Liebenstein Castle and Sterrenberg Castle are called the “Hostile Brothers” .
It seemed to me from the boat that they stand facing each other in a confrontationist style of two schoolboys with hands on their hips!
Maus (Mouse) Castle
Maus Castle or Mouse Castle (originally called Thorenburg ) is a castle above the village of Wellmich ( part of St Goarshausen) is on the east side of the Rhine.It was built by the Archbishop Balduin between 1353-1388 for the protection of his newly acquired territory In around 1370 the counts of Katzenelnbogen built the Neu-Katzenelnbogen on the adjoining mountain.
Mouse Castle upclose
The jostling for supremacy between the powerful church and the rich counts and the position of the two castles opposite each other gave the impression of a modern day Tom & Jerry giving them their nicknames. Mouse Castle is open for visitors.
Katz Castle above the German town of St. Goarshausen stands on a ledge looking downstream from the riverside at St. Goar. It was first built around 1371 by Count Wilhelm II of Katzenelnbogen.
What’s this world so full of care, if you have no time to stand and stare!!!
Just relax and let the waters of the Rhine soothe your senses.
Rheinfels Castle is a castle ruin located above the East bank of the Rhine in St Goar, was started in 1245 by Count Diether V of Katzenelnbogen.
It is the largest castle overlooking the Rhine.
Schönburg Castle above the charming town of Oberwesel was called by Ferdinand Freiligrath “the most beautiful refuge of the Rhine romanticism”.
St Martin;s Church with the Schonburg Castle on the mountain
Of course if you are young enough and adventurous enough you could hire a caravan/ motor trailer and camp on the banks of the Rhine…
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!
The Loreley is a soaring rock ( 120 m above the shoreline) on the eastern bank of the Rhine.
It is situated on a sharp bend of the Rhine River and a very strong current and rocks below the waterline made it the scene of many accidents of ships in the medieval ages
The strong currents , dashing of water against the rock and a now extinct waterfall, created a strange murmuring sound and very soon the legend of the beautiful temptress Loreley, who lured sailors to their doom with her song, was born.
The name comes from the old German words “lureln” (Rhine dialect for “murmuring”) and the Celtic term “ley” (rock).
Heinrich Heine: The Lorelei (From German)
By Heinrich Heine
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
I know not if there is a reason
Why I am so sad at heart.
A legend of bygone ages
Haunts me and will not depart.
The air is cool under nightfall.
The calm Rhine courses its way.
The peak of the mountain is sparkling
With evening’s final ray.
The fairest of maidens is sitting
Unwittingly wondrous up there,
Her golden jewels are shining,
She’s combing her golden hair.
The comb she holds is golden,
She sings a song as well
Whose melody binds an enthralling
And overpowering spell.
In his little boat, the boatman
Is seized with a savage woe,
He’d rather look up at the mountain
Than down at the rocks below.
I think that the waves will devour
The boatman and boat as one;
And this by her song’s sheer power
Fair Lorelei has done.
There is a successful hotel and restaurant there.
Vineyards cover the rolling hills
We got off at Oberwesel and explored the town on foot before heading to the station to catch a train back to Koblenz
Oberwesel has many medieval, very well preserved towers
Some of the towers are private residences
Church of our Lady in Oberwesel
We went looking for the famous staue of Loreley in Oberwesel. I used my best miming skills to find out her location in Oberwesel and all I could understand was 5, because the people kept showing me 5 fingers.
Eventually i went into a souvenir shop and bought a fridge magnet with the siren on it and then asked where she was.
The shopkeeper who so far had been giving me various directions to attractions in Oberwesel said, ‘ this madam in St Goar.”
Which was a good 20 min walk and again we didn’t have time so I brought home the magnet
Have a look at these videos
Great Castles of Europe: Rhine Castles (Part 1 of 3)
Great Castles of Europe: Rhine Castles (Part 2 of 3)
Great Castles of Europe: Rhine Castles (Part 3 of 3)
On the Nile Cruise our ship docked by all the important cities and we got off with our guides to see the temples and the important ruins along the side.But of course that was a 4 day trip as against a few hours we spent on the Rhine Cruise.
There are tour companies which take you on such cruises.
I am sure you have got the drift and can research more such cruises if that’s what you fancy.
map from Wikipedia