Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Europe: Bacharach, St. Goar, Rhinefelds Castle

We travelled to Bacharach on the Rhine. I've stepped out of the bus into a fairy tale. Each corner I turn is like turning the page in an illustrated story book. Later edit - view photos here.

We dined overlooking the Rhine, slept in one of the nine remaining towers from the original city wall. Now a picturesque inn. Right beside the railroad tracks, but it wasn't a problem. German engineering ensured they were speedy and quiet - more like a hum than the bone jarring skreech and clang of CP Rail in Canada. Morning took me for a quiet time beside the banks of the river to hear God's voice.

We took a walking tour along the town wall, streets and vineyards with Rolf Jung, a retired school master, who had us laughing and crying, shared his view of WWII from the perspective of a German boy who watched flyers killing each other above his town and losing his own brother to the Russian front... presumed dead. His down to earth manner was a complete treat. He took us through town to the local artist whose watercolours brought the town architecture alive and whose piano playing had us all singing. Katie returned later to play classical selections on his circa 1900 piano.

St. Goar's Rheinfels Castle (largest on the Rhine, built 1245) had more treasures. Though in ruins, you could easily imagine the knights and the ladies, the royalty, the battles, the seiges. One path took braver ones among us through mine tunnels - 3 feet high, dark, damp, 200 metres of crouching progress, single file, claustrophobic, but exciting. They used to pack these tunnels with explosives and blow them up as enemies approached. I likely wouldn't have done it without a guide and my flashlight. Another path took us to the highest tower where we had breathtaking views up and down the Rhine Valley.

Cruised the Rhine back to Bacharach for night 2, seeing ''Loreley'' and several more castles along the way. We wrapped up our activities for the day by biking with the Shields family (Wayne, Kathy, Katie & Tim) south along the banks of the Rhine to the next castle. Dined in a rustic inn - on Wild Boar Headcheese and applestrudel. Celebrated Katie's 17th birthday. Hiked to the ruins of a church. Misty morning came early and I hiked the 380 steps plus incline to the former castle above the town, now a youth hostel.

I'm quite certain Hansel and Gretel share a cottage near where I walked.

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