I got up early for my big day. After breakfast, I was up on the sun deck at 8 am for the departure from Boppard for the 18 castles we will see in the next 4 hours. This section of the Rhine has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001. Our cruise director provided a commentary during our ride.
Our first viewing was the twin castles of Sterrenberg and Liebenstein the homes of two brothers who both fell in love with the same woman. They built a wall in between the two.
We were outside until 10 am viewing the beautiful scenery. We saw much more than just the castles, including the lovely terrace farming of grapes for the wine the region is famous for. By 10 it was just too hot so we retreated to the lounge that was air conditioned and the commentary could still be heard. The lounge slowly filled up with like-minded passengers.
We saw train tunnel openings that from a distance had the appearance of a small castle tower. Apparently they were constructed this way in the hope that they would be viewed as having historical significance and not be bombed in times of conflict. Our cruise director also pointed out his favorite church whose only entrance was through the adjoining local pub.
Many of the castles had been added onto over time and showed multiple building styles particular to different periods of history. Some were in partial ruin. Some were hotels and others private property that did not welcome visitors. One of my favorite castles, Stahleck, still had large segments of the city walls in place and cascading down the hillside and up again. The view from the river was spectacular. I am not sure that land touring could have ever afforded such stunning views of the castles.
Midway through our trip we passed the bend in the River at Lorelei. Lorelei “is a rock on the eastern bank of the Rhine near St. Goarshausen, Germany, which soars some 120 metres above the waterline. It marks the narrowest part of the river between Switzerland and the North Sea.” Many folk stories, poems, and ballads are also associated with the rock and a beautiful woman or mermaid also by the name of Lorelei.
Another specialty of the Uniworld cruise was a traditional German Fruhschoppen, a meal midway between breakfast and lunch, served in the L’Orangerie on the sun deck. The ceiling for this room can be lowered when necessary to pass under a low bridge. There were rolls and salads, but Natasha loves her sausage and I went straight to that, trying each of the 5 varieties offered. There were also wonderful mustards-a sweet, a hot, and a regular.
At the end of our river tour, we passed the Niederwald Monument and arrived at the city of Rudesheim. The monument was built between 1871 and 1883 to commemorate the unification of Germany. A cable car goes up to the monument. No lunch needed, we decided on a short nap before our afternoon tour. We made it out to the small train taking us into town, but literally got shoved into the back compartment; designed for 2, there were 4 of us.
The town of Rudesheim was charming. If you like music boxes there is a unique museum of small mechanical devices. Lots of shopping available and those shops were packed. Lots of tourists in town today. The most charming street was a narrow as could be. I am sure this would be a perfect place for visiting the holiday markets.
Boris took me into one shop where he had found a music box he liked. Inside we met a couple from Texas who had been living in Germany the last four years. They are returning home next month, so they were buying a complete collection of small ceramic dwellings like those Boris and I starting collecting on our holiday market trips. They had the boxes loaded on dollies. With more to go, they let Boris ahead of them to make his single item purchase.
Before going into town, we were told about the Rudesheim Coffee (think Irish coffee, Mexican coffee, etc.) made with the local brandy, whipped cream, coffee, and chocolate shavings. They are even served in a special cup. Not a coffee drinker, I got one with hot chocolate instead. What I really wanted was the funnel cake-like rolled pastry which came in many varieties. We chose simple cimmamon-delicious!
As if we hadn’t already done enough today, after our free time in town (during which I also did a little shopping), Boris and I got aboard the bus (with all our packages) and joined the Uniworld outing the Schloss Vollrads. The estate had been in the same family for 830 years, through 27 generations. They produce wine from the Riesling grape variety.
The “castle” is now divided into rooms for rent for corporate of family functions. There are no overnight accommodations except for a single night stay for couples who have just married on the estate. We went from room to room hearing about the history, the wine making process, the unique corks, and tasting the wine.
They do offer a dry variety, but all four we tried were too sweet for me. They market the wine in a bottle that is unique to the region and use a special glass cork that only fits these bottles. I wasn’t crazy about the wine, but Boris got a bottle of the driest variety and I didn’t mind having a sample of one of those corks.
That night on the ship we celebrated the 60th birthday of one our new cruise friends from Florida. We were honored to be asked to join Kim and Darrell. I recommended that she not tell anyone her age; I thought she was younger than me when I first met her.