Rhine in Flames
Helen Rose Diary October 2016
September is an important time on the middle Rhine in Germany as it marks the time of the grape harvest and the start of the winemaking. It seemed a good time to go on a river cruise on the Rhine from Cologne to Mainz. In the past I have studied Gothic Cathedrals and Cologne Cathedral is one of the biggest acclaimed Gothic Cathedrals.
We boarded the boat at Cologne after flying direct from Edinburgh to Cologne. The weather for the duration of the cruise was hot and sunny with clear blue skies. Life on board the boat was leisurely with good food and drink. It was an ideal way to visit the towns on the Rhine and take in the scenery cruising. Every day we saw hill top castles. Our first port of call was Bonn and the highlight of the walk around this town was the visit to the Beethoven Museum. Ludwig van Beethoven was born here and we saw the room where he was born in December 1770. The Museum contains the largest Beethoven collection in the world. Its impressive authentic documents bear witness to Beethoven’s life and compositions.
Back on the boat our next stop was Konigswinter where we took a bus to Ahrweiler passing through the vineyards and rushing rivers. Like most of the Rhine towns, it is very pretty with the half-timbered houses well maintained. The Gothic church of St. Laurentius is the Catholic parish church of the town. The church was erected in the 13th and early 14th century. It is one of the few medieval buildings that survived the fire of 1689. It was good to drive through the countryside as views from the boat were limited to the banks of the river. In the evening we were entertained on the boat by a singer/ musician who gave us great fun with German Oompah songs traditionally taken from the Oktoberfest Beer Festivals.
We stopped at Koblenz which was the only town rebuilt after World War Two and much bigger than the other towns we visited. This is the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle Rivers but our route continued on the Rhine to Boppard, my favourite town on the trip. From Boppard, the chairlift takes you to the most beautiful views of the Rhine Valley at a height of 915 metres over the hillside vineyards
From the top there was a magnificent view of the largest Rhine loop from the Vierseenblick. The bend in the river looked stunning although on the boat we had no feeling of rounding a corner. We continued to walk into town to see the Romanesque-Gothic St Severus Church walking through the Romantic squares and through the Old Town. A pleasure to visit. In the evening we travelled to Oberweisel for the fireworks display over the river to celebrate the Rhine in Flames Festival of Wine. Oberweisel is a medieval town and a perfect backdrop for the Wine Harvest Festival. The display starts with a cannonball fire and music accompanies the pyrotechnics. All very dramatic but the best fireworks I have ever experienced. Tents selling wine are set up on the riverbank and a flotilla of riverboats are on the river. It really is party night!
The following day we stopped at Rudesheim and although lovely was a little too touristy for my taste. However, we took the small road-train around and it took us through the vineyards which had not been harvested to under the Neiderwald Summit. We walked back to the boat through the town which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site by the Drosselgasse, a street with very old beer halls and the Eagle Tower dating back to the fifteenth century.
The following day it was Mainz, again a beautiful town and with a red sandstone Romanesque Church dating back to the eleven century. Sandstone was used as the primary building material for the cathedral. The inside was plastered white under the Archbishop Bardo, probably in the middle of the 10th century. During renovations ordered by Henry IV in the late 11th century, much of the outside was also plastered, but the cornices were left exposed in their original red and yellow. I found this cathedral fascinating as I have never seen a red sandstone church and the stone was pristine. Unfortunately, being Monday and closed we could not access the Gutenberg Museum where the Gutenberg Bibles can be seen.
The next day we were sailing all day passing the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen, famous in World War Two and still flying the US flag on one of the remaining piers which are black from the bombing. We reached Cologne in the afternoon with time to disembark and walk to Cologne Cathedral, a Gothic Cathedral with construction starting in 1248 but not completed until 1880. It suffered bomb damage from the Second World War due to the proximity to the railway station and bridge. It has been mostly restored to the original style including the stained glass windows. The platform of Cologne Cathedral’s south tower offers an impressive view from the 100 metre height. In order to enjoy the view I had to climb exactly 533 steps. There is an impressive panorama from the Cologne Cathedral tower across the city and the Rhine and it is still the second highest building in Cologne.
It was a wonderful week with the combination of historical visits to the towns, relaxing on board the boat and seeing the vineyards of the Rhine.
Coming attraction; Dornoch.
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Filed under: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary
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