Rhine River Towns
The Rhine River is one of the major rivers flowning through Europe. This river, like the Nile in Egypt, flows from south to north. The Rhine's source is in Basel, Switzerland, and the river flows north through Germany to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. This river is a major water route and continues to be used as a commercial water highway today. Many of the towns on the Rhine in Germany have high bluffs, castles, and make for a pleasant and beautiful sail on the river. Many of the towns date from medieval times and have both a rich history and unique character. It is possible to sail the lenght of the river and see towns that are mentioned in literature and children's fairytales, like Hamlin. Other towns were important for religious or commercial reasons.
Rudesheim is a lovely medieval town with much of its fortifications, dating from the 15th Century, still standing. The most famous part of this system is the Adlerturm (Eagle Tower). The main market square in the center of town is where the annual wine festival is held each August. Other important and picturesque sites in Rudesheim include the Klunkhardshof, a half timbered building which dates from the 16th Century; Niederwald Monument memorial and the tramway access to this monument; Drosseslgasse, which is a very small strasse that has a wine tavern, many bistros and restaurants on both sides of the 452 foot long strasse; this leads to the Reinstrasse and to Bromser Schloss (castle) which originally stood on the Rhine and was completely surrounded by the river. The schloss is 1000 years old and today is the home of the Rheingauer Weinmuseum. Rudesheim is also home to the remains of Boosenburg Schloss and the Bromserhof, the ancient seat of the noble house of Rudesheim. Inside is the Siegfried's Mechanical Music Cabinet, one of the largest automated collections of self-playing instruments dating from the 18th - 20th Centuries.
The most famous of all products found in Rudesheim is the Asbach distillery where the Asbach wines are produced. It is possible to tour the facility and watch a short film about the history of the Asbach wines. This wine is distilled in special Limousin Oak casks which give this brand a distinct smell and flavor. Asbach is considered the German answer to congac.
Bacharach is another medieval town, several Kilometers down and across the Rhine River. There are no bridges across the Rhine in this area, so everyone takes the ferry. The ferry trip is inexpensive for bikes and autos (about 4 Euros), takes about 5 minutes and is a quick way to see much of what the area has to offer without having to go to a major city to cross the river. Bacharach has a well preserved city wall dating from medieval times. The wall includes 9 towers, and there are many homes and businesses built along and next to the wall. This town also has a plethora half-timbered houses to see and photograph. Bacharach is home to both the restored Stalech Castle and its ruins. The restored castle operates as a youth hostel with gorgeous views of the river and the vinyards. Other points of interest are the Church of St. Nicholas which was a part of the Capuchin Monestery, the Church of Peter, the Posthof which dates from the 16th Century. Nestled along the streets of this charming town are gift shops, restaurants, and speicalty stores. The fountain in the main square is really a neat sculpture. Along the Rhine where the ferryboats dock, there are several cafes and restaurants with both indoor and open air seating areas.
Koblenz is strategically located where the Mosel runs into the Rhine. It is easy to see where the two rivers meet, as the Mosel is a dark brown, and the Rhine is a greenish color. Koblenz was important in Roman times as a port city and continued to be important as the residence of the Elector-Archbishop of Trier. He lived in the Electoral Castle and Koblenz later became home to the neo-Classical Electoral Palace during the 18th Century. There are many beautiful churches in Koblenz dating from several periods in German history. Koblenz suffered great damage during World War II, but many of the house facades with their ornate and distictive windows have been preserved and make Koblenz a neat town to visit. The Bundeswehr (German Army) has a neat museum in Koblenz and it has some interesting artifacts from both World Wars, the Franco- Prussian War, and examples of communications devices throughout the 20th Century. Another picturesque part of Koblenz is near the Rhine Bridge where the Wine Village is located. This is the place where visitors can go to taste wine and buy wine from the different vinters in the area. Koblenz also has Stolzenfels Castle, located in the suburb of Kapellen. The castle was built in the 13th Century and has been incorporated during refurbishing and rebuilding in the 19th Century. This castle follows the designs of the German archtect Karl-Fredrich Schinkel and is noted for its fine antiques and lavish furnishings.
Rhine-in-Flammen (Rhine Aflame)
Every Summer, during July, August and September, various towns along the Rhine put on glorious fireworks displays above the castles and ruins. The purpose of this is to illuminate the castles, walls, towers, and ruins with lights and fireworks. The best way to see these are to sail on cruise ships and be on the water when they begin. They are very beautiful and the boat ride to and from the area holding a display is a lot of fun. Those on the ships can have dinner and enjoy seeing the picturebook castles found on the Rhine as they sail on the river and prepare for the fireworks. Many ships provide live music, giving a visitor a taste of German folk music and modern music as well. Since it doesn't get dark until around 10 p.m. (depending on which show and month you choose to go) it makes for a late evening, but a fun one for everyone. Along the river, you will find hundreds of people with lawn chairs, picnic meals and various vendors with bratwurst, pomme frites (french fries) and cold drinks to sell. Think of the 4th of July in America, and that is what the Rhine-in-Flammen experience is like.
In closing, it should be noted that any of the cities and towns found on the Rhine are a joy to see and exciting places to visit. They all have a long history and are well worth the time to see. Some are larger or older than others, but each has a charm and a beauty that is breathtaking. The people of the towns of the Rhine are wonderful and are very friendly. Should you visit this part of Germany, a gift of wine or glassware from this region is a must. It will most appreciated and provide memories for a long time of the time spent on the Rhine.
Information for this page was taken from the City Map fo Rudesheim am Rhine, Asbach Visitors Center brochure, The Rhine, with discriptions from Basel to Rotterdam, published by Schoning Verlag and the 2 July 2009 article, "Heidelberg Castle Lights Up" in "Travel Section" Stars and Stripes, European Edition, pages 25 and 28, by Andrew Cowin.