Monday, October 22, 2012

The Rhein and our first overnight bike trip

Hello friends and family!

SO, we were really excited about going on overnight trips with our bikes, and after a daytrip test-ride (a 3.5 castle day) last weekend, we decided to go to the place with, to my knowledge (and no, I didn't consult the google to verify it) the most castle-y place around: the "romantic Rhine".  All the guidebooks tout the joys of the Rhein, and the bike paths that are clearly marked and that run along its banks and well, we have to admit it truly isn't just hype.  The river between Koblenz and Mainz/Wiesbaden is pretty awesome.

Our trip really started on Thursday as we were deciding that it really was going to be a nice weekend, and we could risk a late-October camping trip, and deciding what we needed to bring.  Friday, I left work early and we took the train from Marburg to Koblenz.  The train ride was pretty, even though we reached Koblenz in the dark, and then with sub-par maps managed to find our way to a nice hotel called the "Berghof".  OK, word of warning, if you want a nice river-level hotel, pick one that doesn't have the word "mountain" in its name: it was quite a schlep up a steep, dark hill with fully loaded bikes, but it turned out to be quite nice.

The next morning, we ate our nice continental breakfast buffet and started out by riding to where the Mosel meets the Rhine at an area called the "Deutsches Eck", or "German corner".  It was nice, but already full of tourists at 10-whatever in the morning.  From there, we headed mostly South and the map was largely superfluous for navigation, since the path was clearly signed, but the map was great for helping with castle identification:

 We were planning on going all the way to a town called Bacharach for the night, but got distracted by a particularly cool castle near St. Goar, set up camp early for the night, and went castle exploring at Burg Rheinfels.  There were tons of tunnels in the battlements and dark rooms at the top of hidden spiral staircases and great views of the surrounding vinyards, so it was definitely worth making Sunday a longer day of riding.  Also, we ended up camping at a smaller campground up a side valley, which was by a bubbling brook and was both away from the railroads and trafficky roads right along the Rhine AND it was practically deserted.  Two other couples were spending the night there, and they were quite quiet, so it was really nice. BUT back to the castle that made it extra worth it:

Sasha and I both have a weakness for the particularly large and ruined castles, and German ones are great, because they pretty much let you wander around at will.  They have metal bars around wells and such, but mostly to stop you from being inadvertently stupid; nobody and nothing will stop you from squeezing out an arrow slit and falling into some trees (if you are skinny enough and want to do so for some reason). 

I expect the castles are all mobbed in the "high season" but while we saw a few handfuls of people, it wasn't close to crowded.  It was nice to find someone to hand the camera to for a shot with both of us in it, though.

Sunday morning was cool and we woke up to a dense fog.  That helped us get through a number of kms early in the day, since I think we missed seeing 2-3 castles and we couldn't really see the Loreley (a rocky cliff made famous by a famous German poet, since he wrote about the mythical Loreley mermaid who lured sailors to their deaths in the treacherous bend in the river...I haven't read the poem, I guess that's what happens when you lean towards German classes about more contemporary issues while in college).

We stopped in Bacharach for lunch, and it was well worth a stop, although we haven't quite gotten used to the leisurely speed of German meal service, so the stop perhaps cut slightly into our castle photographing time.  The food was good, though (starting with my probably pumpkin soup, and continuing all the way to Sasha's apple strudel):

We stopped for one more castle tour, of Burg Rheinstein which was also cool and less ruined than Saturday's stop.  It was pretty cool, although Sasha seemed about as interested in photographing me as in photographing the castle (or was I just "adding perspective??" I guess we have only been married for what, 3 months? Anyway, some other post I'll have to upload the photos from my camera, so I have more of my husband).

The rest of the ride continued in similar castle-filled glory.  At Bingen we took the ferry across the river, because the map said the other side was flatter (And I think my husband wanted to ride in a boat). 

 There were a surprising number of bikes and cyclists that came onto the boat with us, although perhaps that should have been a warning of what was to come, since the next 25 km were largely spent dodging between families on foot and on bike who all seemed completely oblivious to the fact that they should share the path (And not all walk side-by-side). The river was still lovely, but it also flattened out so we were more enjoying the islands and the fall colors, there were fewer castles.

We were both getting hungry and tired and the light was fading when we finally found the Hauptbahnhof in Wiesbaden, but we successfully navigated two separate trains to get home to Marburg and managed to pull our camping gear out to dry before turning in for the night.

SO, the summary is: visit the Rhine if you like castles, rivers, boats, good food, cute towns, bicycles, trains, vineyards, hills, fall foliage, half timbered houses, gratuitous towers of various ages, etc. And if you can't find something you like on that list, well, I'm sorry.

I'll end this post with one of Sasha's favorite pictures from the last part of our trip. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm excited to be able to follow your adventures! In a delayed response to your post on facebook, it WILL be fun to compare similarities (we finally got our oven, it sounds like you did too?). I have to admit, the scenery near you is much more charming than the local scenery here but I'll try not to be too jealous :). Glad to hear that you're both getting settled in a bit. I can relate to feeling like you're on vacation (and to having a husband who's not very interested in blogging :) ).