Romantic castles on the Rhine river: through 1000 years in half a day

RHINE RIVER – WHEN TO VISIT

Upper Middle Rhine Valley with its impressive castles and idyllic landscape represents a UNESCO-protected World Heritage and – for the good reasons. The Rhine, 1 230 km (764 mi) long, flowing through territories of six countries (Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, France, Netherlands), is the second-longest river in Central and Western Europe (after the Danube).

It takes less than 1 hour to come to Rüdesheim am Rhein or Bingen, Rheiland-Pfalz from Frankfurt by car or a regional train to start a river cruise. You can choose whether to come to the left or right side of the river, e.g. the regional train RE2 from Frankfurt, connected to Bingen on the left side of Rhine, on weekends leaves  every 2 hours at 7:06, 8:08, 10:08 and so on. You can check the current schedule at the site of the German railway (Deutsche Bahn website).

We came to Bingen at about 11am on Friday in June, calmly parked our car for 4 euro per day and got a round boat trip at 2pm for about 4.5-5 hours for 21 euro adult/10.5 euro student price. The way downstream from Bingen to Loreley / St. Goathausen took us 1.5 hour and a way back against the current 2.5 hours. I posted a map below to show what this way means being translated in a number of castled seen. Taking such a round trip would give you a plenty of photo opportunities!, however, be aware that if you start your trip middle of the day in summer (as we did), the left bank will be sun-lit and this is why you often will see no blue sky on my photos. However, the way back will reward the patient photographers! Be sure to bring your hat and sunglasses, most likely there will be no spot to hide from the sunshine on the deck.

As the journey begins, there hardly will be any minute without a picturesque castle or pretty town in view! Visiting the castles is a dounting thing, though. Most of them are normally closed for visiting, and those which are open are needed to be checked in advance, as open months and hours might be limited or reservation with a tourist group is required. Just check in advance! Some castles and fortresses now serve as fancy restaurants and hotels (sounds like an easy idea for a Valentine’s day?).

Tourism on the Rhine river is well-developed and provides tons of opportunities to enjoy the landscapes in different times of the year:

  • you can go for fireworks on the Rhine (“Rhein in Flammen” (Rhine with fireworks) – fixed-date evening cruises from May to September with spectacular fireworks and fancy dinners)
  • do half a day round trip
  • do a one-way longer trip from Mainz to Cologne
  • go for Christmas cruise
  • travel all the way down to Rotterdam?!

If you are looking for regular river trips, start with those two companies, Bingen-Rüdesheimer (website in Eng and other languages) and KD (Köln – Düsseldorfer Deutsche Rheinschiffahrt). Please leave a comment to this post below, if you have a useful tip. I will be thankful!

In some towns, like Rüdesheim and Assmannshausen, there are cable cars and, of course, everywhere in the area – hiking opportunities.  Boats do not stop cruising even during the coldest times and make Christmas a very special occasion for lots of visitors! The Christmas market in Rüdesheim am Rhein is famous as the most diverse in the area as it has stalls representing 12 different countries (at this moment I am adding it to my December to-do list!).

LORELEY AND ITS LEGEND

At yet another turn of the Rhine, the rock Loreley has its special legend, inspiring many writers through years. First, in a poem of Brentano, the beautiful Lore Lay, betrayed by her sweetheart, is accused of bewitching men and causing their death. Rather than sentence her to death, the bishop consigns her to a nunnery. On the way thereto, accompanied by three knights, she comes to the Lorelei rock. She asks permission to climb it and view the Rhine once again. She does so and thinking that she sees her love in the Rhine, falls to her death; the rock still retained an echo of her name afterwards. In 1824, Heinrich Heine seized on and adapted Brentano’s theme in one of his most famous poems, “Die Lorelei”. Scroll down to the end of this post to read the poem in German, English or Russian.

0IMG_9261

NOW LET’S GO!

Bingen – this is where our round boat trip started. Castles and fortresses are located on both banks of the river, and even though there are road and train ways left and right along the river, the very best views to the valley are certainly from the water!1IMG_92793GermaniaInRuedesheimamRhein

CASTLES

Castles and fortresses are mostly built in the 10-12 centuries and have experienced very different times. Can you imaging a thousand year passing by?.. Passing by a river, by a landscape, by somebody’s lives. And climbing those rock cliffs 1000 years ago and building walls and protecting them and lifes.. Mind-blowing for me! Now there are some castles and fortresses as seen from a boat.

Ehrenfels

4Ehrenfels

Burg Rheinstein5Rheinstein

Reichenstein6Reichenstein

Burg Sooneck

 

Fürstenberg8FuerstenbergRuine

Burg Stahleck9BurgStahleck

Goarshausen, Burg Katz

 

Burg Klopp12BurgKlopp

And some perfectionist landscapes along the Rhine river:13IMG_937914IMG_940815Loreley1617Niederheimbach1819vineyard20RuedesheimAmRhein

And now it is me, looking for the next destination… Stay tuned!21IMG_9484

DIE LORELEY, HENRICH HEINE

Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten,
Daß ich so traurig bin;
Ein Märchen aus alten Zeiten,
Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.

Die Luft ist kühl und es dunkelt,
Und ruhig fließt der Rhein;
Der Gipfel des Berges funkelt
Im Abendsonnenschein.

Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet
Dort oben wunderbar,
Ihr goldnes Geschmeide blitzet,
Sie kämmt ihr goldnes Haar.

Sie kämmt es mit goldnem Kamme,
Und singt ein Lied dabey;
Das hat eine wundersame,
Gewaltige Melodey.

Den Schiffer, im kleinen Schiffe,
Ergreift es mit wildem Weh;
Er schaut nicht die Felsenriffe,
Er schaut nur hinauf in die Höh’.

Ich glaube, die Wellen verschlingen
Am Ende Schiffer und Kahn;
Und das hat mit ihrem Singen
Die Loreley getan.

LORELEY (translation into English)

I don’t know what it means
That I am so sad
A legend of bygone days
That I cannot keep out of my mind.

The air is cool and night is coming.
The calm Rhine courses its way.
The peak of the mountain dazzles
With evening’s final ray.

The fairest of maidens is sitting
Up there, a beautiful delight,
Her golden jewels are shining,
She’s combing her golden hair.

She holds a golden comb,
Singing along, as well
An enthralling
And spellbinding melody.

In his little boat, the boatman
Is seized by it with a savage woe.
He does not look upon the rocky ledge
But rather high up into the heavens.

I think that the waves will devour
The boatman and boat in the end
And this by her song’s sheer power
Fair Loreley has done.

Перевод на русский А. Блока

Не знаю, что значит такое,
Что скорбью я смущён;
Давно не даёт покою
Мне сказка старых времён.

Прохладой сумерки веют,
И Рейна тих простор;
В вечерних лучах алеют
Вершины дальних гор.

Над страшной высотою
Девушка дивной красы
Одеждой горит золотою,
Играет златом косы.

Золотым убирает гребнем
И песню поёт она:
В её чудесном пеньи
Тревога затаена.

Пловца на лодочке малой
Дикой тоской полонит;
Забывая подводные скалы,
Он только наверх глядит.

Пловец и лодочка, знаю,
Погибнут среди зыбей;
И всякий так погибает
От песен Лорелей.

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