May 26, 2013

The Romantic Rhine

“The idea of my heart dancing with delight was far too good to pass up.”  Tahir Shah, Travels With Myself

Carol writes:  One day during a casual conversation in a supermarket, while waiting in line to pay for our groceries, we were told that this has been the rainiest Spring in Europe since 1983!  On a few occasions our campground host has made attempts to apologize for the soggy weather.  Our visit to Koblenz presented us with weather challenges that convinced me I would need more than a raincoat for socked-in rainy days.  So, I now have a new blue umbrella as a souvenir. 

Our campground in Koblenz was situated very close to the historic German Corner where the Mosel meets up with the mighty Rhine. 

Just outside the campground gates, a short ferry ride across the Mosel brought us to a rather grandiose equestrian memorial statue to Kaiser Wilhelm I,

followed by a stroll between rain showers into the gardens around the Basilica of St. Kastor.

The next day we were more than ready to sit back and enjoy the drive along the mighty Rhine.  The Rhine River originates in Switzerland and flows northward for 530 miles to its outlet into the North Sea at Rotterdam; however, it is the tiny section between Koblenz and Bingen that holds the most interest for tourists, so we limited our drive to that section.  The Rhine Valley has a long and rich history of fairy-tale legends and real robber-barons who from their lofty castle perches levied tolls on passing river traffic.  In German folklore, misfortunes along the Rhine were blamed on the irresistible siren call of the fair-haired Lorelei. 

We narrowed our choice to two castle tours along the Rhine.  Our first visit was to Marksburg Castle, the only surviving medieval castle on the Rhine which was never attacked because of its commanding defensive position, 

with cannon poised to attack any invaders.   

I found the full service kitchen

and the master’s bedroom, with its short bed,

to be wonderful representations of what life was like in Marksburg’s heyday.  The beds were short because in the Middle Ages no one slept flat and fully stretched out, as that was a position associated with the dead.  Since everyone wanted to wake up in the morning, they felt it best to sleep slightly propped up, thus the shorter beds.  We passed an ancient wine storage vault,

a primitive indoor toilet,

and a simple but well preserved small chapel.

All in all, Al and I enjoyed Marksburg Castle as much as Burg Eltz.

The most famous ruined-castle experience along the Rhine is mighty Rheinfels Castle in St. Goar.  The self-guided tour

was well worth it for the view from the top.  Can’t take a bad picture here!

After visiting 3 very different castles in varied settings and states of repair, we felt very satisfied with our choices.  A nice finish to our castle experiences was provided by another marvelous campsite located along the Rhine.  Mother Nature granted us a marvelous sunny day, so we took full advantage in Bacharach with some down-time watching the ever-present barge traffic,

and talking with some friendly German neighbors, who named France as their favorite vacation destination (no surprise).   We told them we were headed to Strasbourg the next day and planned to make a slow week-long meander down the eastern provinces of France all the way to the French Rivera.  Our plans more than met their approval.

“Don’t count the days, make the days count.”  Muhammad Ali



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