26 November 2007

Rhine Wine Weekend!

We took a few road trips over this past extended holiday weekend. My fabulous husband decided to give the family an opportunity to see whatever they wanted to see in Europe. My mother-in-law and I wanted to visit a good old fashioned castle, akin to what we would see in classic Disney films. Hubby's brother, however, had a different agenda. At the tender age of 15 years old, he had ‘Amsterdam’ on his mind.

Leaving me, Maggie and my mother-in-law at the apartment, hubby and his brother gassed up the rental car and headed west for the Netherlands. They got back that night by around 9pm, bringing McDonalds! Yum 

The next day (almost when it was still morning!), we headed for the Rhine!

Using some jankety web site, my darling husband was able to get two rooms in the city of Bacharach Germany, which earned a half star rating from a single previous review. The hotel earned this one star status based on its supposed lack of cleanliness, wood paneling, and proximity to train tracks (approximately 10 feet). Needless to say, we weren’t expecting much for €58 a night.

However, after arriving at the hotel on Friday evening, we were delightfully surprised. We were upgraded to the larger triple room at no cost, both rooms were surprisingly clean, and the train tracks were probably more like 12 feet away rather than 10. It was quite the score.

The town of Bacharach is a neat little town. Everything is built on the old city layout from a thousand years ago. The hotel itself is situated in one of the nine original guard towers. The four foot thick stone walls made the trains (which passed by every 3 minutes or so) virtually unnoticeable. Inside the city walls, all of the streets were old cobblestone and just a little bit wider than the width of one rental car. The town had one old church and one new one. The “new” church was built in the 1600’s some time. Finally, the town is over looked by the Castle Stahleck or ‘Burg Stahleck’ as the Germans say.

After checking into our rooms and parking the rental car, we quickly walked through the little village and grabbed dinner at a local restaurant. My mother-in-law sampled some of the famous Rhine area whines while hubby stuck with his favorite Alte (old style) Bier (beer). I tried a Dunkelweizen (dark wheat) which was also quite tasty.

The next morning after breakfast, we headed off on our castle hunting expedition. Our main goal was to tour the famous Rhine castle “Marksburg.” All of the Rhine castles had originally been destroyed (typically by the French) and rebuilt from the rubble at one time in their thousand year(s) existence. The only exception to this is the Castle Marksburg. Not only has it been mostly restored, but all of the structure and foundations are as true today as they were when originally build back in 1100 AD.

The drive down to Marksburg was nothing short of spectacular. The scenery along the Rhine River is straight out of a fairy tale. All the little villages look like something in a childrens’ book. Each little village seemed to have some sort of castle or remains perched above on a hill side. Half way to Marksburg, we had to take a ferry boat across the river since there are no bridges across the Rhine between the cities of Koblenz (50 km away) and Mainz (75 km away). Besides, what trip to the Rhine would be complete without a river cruise of some sort?

Abandoning the navigation system’s crappy advice and instead going by instinct (i.e. following the damn signs) we eventually found the visitors parking lot for Castle Marksburg. We each pony’d up the five Euros for the guided tour since this is the only way you are allowed to walk inside the castle. On the (German spoken) tour, we able to see the batteries, kitchen, guard towers, ye’ old toilet, stables, and chapel with its original paintings from year 1100AD. The castle was pretty incredible and well worth the money. The tour guide even stopped and repeated some of the REALLY cool stuff in English, even though we already had an English written handout that explained each room.

On the way back to Bacharach, we made a pit stop and explored the “Loreley Rock.” The Loreley Rock is a famous section of the Rhine River. Since this is the narrowest portion of the (navigatable) Rhine River, the current at Loreley is pretty fierce. The legend is that the devil himself tried to slam shut the river valley, but the power of the Rhine was too strong and eventually prevailed. However, the Loreley Rock was the devil’s final strong hold and some say he is still trying to close off the valley to this day. Because of this, many sailing ships have crashed on the shoals surrounding the Loreley. Whatever the legend is, this was a really great vantage point to take many pictures of the Rhine River below.

Returning back to our hotel in the town of Bacharach, we ventured out in the evening to take a closer look at one of the other old city gates on the far end of town. This one particular gate is still being used as the main entrance into town from the west. It is only one car width wide and serves as a reminder that this village is much older than anything which passes through this gate. The light from the full moon above helped add to a certain ominous quality that was already in the air.

On Sunday afternoon, we dropped off my mother-in-law and brother-in-law for their (hopefully) quick and peaceful return flight back to the states. It sure was nice having them around to help with the baby and everything else. After getting back to our apartment on Sunday evening, we commented on how quiet things suddenly were and how much larger the apartment felt.

No comments: