Day 6: Up and Down the Rhine

This morning looked like the beginning of another hot day, so we ate breakfast, packed up, and checked out of the hotel ready to hit the Rhine River next.  Our first stop was the Marksburg Castle, as we wanted to get there before the crowds and hot weather seeped in.  We found the castle, parked the car, and hiked up several flights of stairs to the main entrance.  They sure don’t like to make these castles easy to get to – and heaven forbid you are handicapped, as I think you’d have to just look at the castle from afar.  This fortification business is not for the infirmed.

Marksburg Castle

The Marksburg Castle was a lot like the Burg Eltz, with a “keep,” stables, dining room, bedrooms, etc., and our tour was only available with a German speaking guide.  Thankfully they also give you an English handout to follow along with, and we also had the trusty Rick Steves guidebook.  Check it off the list, we’ve been to the Marksburg.

As it was early in the day and we didn’t want to get to our hotel so soon, we decided to drive up to Koblenz, the town at the river convergence between the Rhine and Mosel Rivers.  We were also in search of the Jack Wolfskin store (so I could buy the cute bag I’d seen days earlier and had been dreaming about), but it was Sunday and everything closes in Germany on Sunday.  After a quick ride through town and seeing approximately where the rivers meet, we set off on the road that winds with the river intent on going to Bacharach (our home base).  However, as we were both hungry, we were easily side-tracked by a brewery along the side of the river, called the Konigsbacher Brewery.  We each had a large, cold beer and Jim had a wurst plate (that looked like a handful of breakfast sausages), I had a tomato/mozzarella open faced sandwich and fries.  A successful stop it was, and we find eating in Germany to be a much better experience than eating in Spain.

We arrived in Bacharach in the early afternoon and checked into the Im Malerwinkel hotel, which was a little

The quintessential Bacharach

disappointing.  We weren’t able to get a balcony room, and our room was a bit dark and dingy.  I suppose it’s what you could expect for the money (€53/night).  Oh, well, we weren’t planning on staying in the room that much, anyway.  So we beat feet to get out and explore Bacharach, which is another small town with one main drag.  We stopped in the handful of stores that were open and then made our way down to the river, where we walked along the pathway for a bit before settling into a bench in the shade.  It was hot – HOT! – outside and the shade was a welcome relief.  We sat there and watched the river go by for a bit.

This is a good time to explain the Rhine.  It isn’t nearly as sleepy and romantic as the Mosel, with a good portion of the river banks being fortified with concrete walls, lots of visible train tracks running down both sides of it, the current is much more swift (therefore no graceful swans floating about), and a lot more river barge traffic.  All in all, it is much more industrial-feeling, and we just weren’t feeling it.

Nothin’ but castles on the Rhine

That aside, we decided to catch the last boat of the day from Bacharach to St. Goar, and it happened to be the paddleboat that goes up and down the river once a day.  We hopped on at approximately 17:15, sat in the very front on the main level, and away we went downstream (which is actually north).  The ride took 45 minutes, and along the way we saw many castles and the Loreley, a giant slate rock that was given the name Loreley after a mythical woman who supposedly caused many a boat crash and drowning at this particular spot.  The imaginative me is filled with wonderment, the pragmatic me thinks it really had something to do with the fact this is the narrowest part of the Rhine.  Nevertheless, the Rhine is filled with folklore and this was one of the many tales.

We docked in St. Goar, took several pictures of the environs, then wandered through town.  It felt a lot like Bacharach, only longer and narrow, rather than short and thick.  We stopped for dinner at an Italian joint (naturally), where the service was painfully slow and we, uh, got into a bit of a tiff over something trite at dinner.  This tiff lasted all the way to the train station, where we’d gone to get the first train back to Bacharach (which only cost €3.10 each and took 10 minutes).  As is usually the case, it blew over shortly, and we were back on track with the trip.  Ok, stopping to have beers back in Bacharach helped, too.  The first place we stopped at was in the main little square in Bacharach, but shortly after we arrived they started to close.  So we pounded those beers and were heading back to the room when Jimmy saw another bar that was open called Bistro zur Alt Backstubb.  Glory be, it was the only place open in that town.  We went in and ended up making friends with some Brits who were in the area for a dog show, and who had their prized German Shepherd, Pablo, with them.  Their names were Judy (from Manchester), soft-spoken Billy, who liked quaint towns, Paul, the ringleader of the bunch, and another guy who may or may not be named Peter.  We sat and chatted with them for a few hours before heading off to bed well after midnight.

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