Our second full day of the Christmas market cruise began with a stop at the German Corner where the Rhine and Moselle Rivers meet. The landscape is dominated by the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress on one side of the Rhine and the Statute of Kaiser Wilhem I sitting on horseback atop a pedestal on the opposite side where the rivers converge. We detoured onto the Moselle to dock along its banks at the city of Koblenz.
The Teutonic Order founded one its command posts here in the 13th Century and the statute was added in the 19th Century to honor that history and “to rouse German nationalistic fervour”. The statute had been destroyed during the war. With the history of its purpose in mind, it is no surprise that after WWII it was many years and arguments later before the statute would be replaced (in 1993).
Leaving the ship for our land tour, we made a stop beside three segments of the Berlin wall that had been removed and erected here. Walking along the water front, there was more attempts to symbolize unity with the flags of several nations flying along the water’s edge. We made a stop at the monument before turning the corner to walk along the Rhine. On my last visit we took the cable car across the river for a visit to the Ebrenbreistein Fortress. I recommend both the cable car ride and the fortress visit.
Touring Koblenz, we stopped at the Basilica of St. Castro, formerly part of a monastery that stood here. Although we saw the exterior on our last visit, this time we were able to go inside and enjoy the church with its modest advent decorations. The facade features beautiful Romanesque towers. The Basilica is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the oldest church in Koblenz. “It was at this place in 842 that 110 representatives negotiated the division of the Frankish Empire.”
Leaving the Basilica, we toured through parts of Koblenz, with our guide noting the locations of many of city’s Christmas markets. We saw the “Schangel” fountain in the courtyard of the town hall (Willi-Horter Platz) depicting a spitting boy in reference to one of the Schang boys (slang reference to the boys born during the French occupation). I was more intrigued by the Renaissance and Baroque Jesuit Buildings. The town hall is the former Jesuit College, with towers on either end and a beautiful portal in the middle. The Jesuits had a presence in Koblenz for almost two hundred years before they were expelled in 1773.
We also caught a glimpse of the Liebfrauenkirche. After our tour, we had time to walk around the town and visit the various Christmas Markets. I bought only a few things, some unique jewelry and an ornament. Since the markets are in the various squares, often beside a church, I got to sightsee while shopping.
Much of Koblenz was destroyed during WWII, but I spotted a few architectural finds that depicted a traditional Germany city.
All too soon it was back to the boat for our lunch of German sausages and our scenic tour of castles on the Rhine. Even though I have been to Koblenz before, this morning was an interesting look at this charming city during the holiday season.
Only minutes after leaving Koblenz, we came to a lovely castle on the Rhine, Schloss Stolzenfels. Schloss means castle in German. It was built in the 14th century, but was destroyed in the 17th century by the French during the Nine’s Years War. Eventually the land was gift by the city to Frederick William IV of Prussia in 1823. He rebuilt the castle in a romanticized Gothic-Revival Style. Today you can tour the fairytale castle by taking a winding garden path. Going inside this schloss is just one more reason for Natasha to return to Koblenz.
For the next several hours, we sailed along the river with commentary by our cruise director and had the opportunity to see the many castles along the Rhine. Last time I came in the summer and it was too hot to sit out for long. Today it was too cold. I braved it-bundled up-for as long as I could. In addition to the castles, we saw an example of a German tradition. It was not uncommon for people to head straight from church on Sundays straight to the brewhouse. This location eliminated the delay by attaching the two buildings; the church and the brewery are connected.
We also passed the famous Lorelei. Lorelei, or Loreley in German, is a “steep slate rock on the right bank of the River Rhine in the Rhine Gorge (or Middle Rhine) at Sankt Goarshausen in Germany.” The formation of the rock contributes to a particular sound heard with wind travels around the corner. Loreley is the subject of many legends, poems, and songs. “An old legend envisioned dwarfs living in caves in the rock.”
“In 1801, German author Clemens Brentano composed his ballad… [which] told the story of an enchanting female associated with the rock. In the poem, 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”. It describes the eponymous female as a sort of siren who, sitting on the cliff above the Rhine and combing her golden hair, unwittingly distracted shipmen with her beauty and song, causing them to crash on the rocks.”
Accidents at the dangerous corner only reinforce the legends. In 2011, a “barge carrying 2,400 tons of sulphuric acid capsized…near the Lorelei rock, blocking traffic on one of Europe’s busiest waterways.” Guess what was the easy target to blame? After Loreley we were losing light. We will dock in Rudesheim tonight where I am going on an Abbey wine tasing tour before touring the Christmas markets in the morning. More to come…