Our introduction to Germany had us quite confused, trying to buy train tickets at Frankfurt airport at the ticket machines was so frustrating; give us an Italian ticket machine any day!!
Eventually caught the train to Mainz, an easy half hour ride and then taxi to the Hyatt and cuddles with Beth, yeah! It is quite late by the time we arrive and the Hyatt is all that we hoped it would be and the bed is the most comfortable one all trip, yeah, a great nights sleep.
Next morning, we wander up to the historic part of town with its 12th to 15th century half timber houses and it is totally quiet, as it is Sunday morning and all the stores are closed, just like in the good old days. Beth had been around the area the day before and said it had been a buzz of activity with market day and people everywhere, it just goes to show how visiting a town on different days certainly can give different impressions. We stroll around the empty streets happily and visit the Guttenberg Printing Museum, which is very interesting and has wonderful history on print throughout the world.
We also wander into the local cathedral just as a mass is starting; we have a quick look and then retreat. It certainly does not have the ambience or beauty inside that we have seen in Italy (very serious and grim)
The biggest lunch we have ever seen was bought at “Thai Express”, the plate of food and rice was enormous and quite tasty too, so we struggled our way through as much as we could and washed it all down with a tall glass of local beer. After such a big lunch a walk across the bridge was needed but it turned into 15km loop of the area past some quiet leafy spaces and lots of weekend activity in the parks.
We’ve been doing a great deal of walking this holiday, but this was a solid walk and our legs and feet noticed it later. On the way john needed a cafe break so we stopped at a funny restaurant full of families and old folk all dressed up for Sunday lunch and dancing to some Umpa umpa German songs, very amusing. Along the way under the main bridge over the Rhine we came across a group of legal graffitti artist repainting a tunnel and it was amazing art, great to see it so well organised. For Beth the walk was a stroll in the park but we were very pleased to get back.
The World Cup fever is building up amongst the local Germans in the afternoon, the yellow red and black flags are flying and the colours are worn amongst the throng of people wandering the promenade to get their spots at the local bars for the game against the Aussies. The excitement brings life to the area and it is fun watching the build up. We have a scrumptious bbq dinner at the hotel restaurant on the promenade and watch the crowds building for the game. We plan to go to the local beach bar for the game but it is so crowded that the hotel bar is much more comfortable, but we do drop into bar for the beginning of the match and loudly and proudly sing our national anthem, we get a few chuckles from the locals, and then retreat to watch the devastating match at the hotel.
After a lovely breakfast outside we wander up town for a walk before our drive to Oberwesel. John picks up our little black Mercedes and we say auv weildesein to Mainz and head out on the road to our little town on the Rhine. Our first stop for lunch was at Burt’s old home town, Bacarach with its old town square and cute half timbered medieval buildings.
It is beautiful along the river although the river is brown from all hundres of miles of silt flowing into it!.
The architecture is very cute but the interiors of the churches and cathedrals are very doom and gloom, quite a change from the light and colour of the mosques and the churches from Italy. It is certainly not something that draws you into to stay a while like the others did. But it is so good to see Beth again after our trip that no dour german church id going to change our bright demeanour.
We have found the food surprisingly good although we need interpreting from the waitress from the german menu even when we have a german phrase book etc, luckily some of the tourist spots have english translation, so got a reprieve a couple of times. Our first meal at our Weinhaus was really good.
The weather has been great apart from constant threatening clouds so that has made it wonderful to be out and about and outside enjoying the day and slight chill at night, but there is no-one around on the streets at night after dinner, it is so easy walking around in the light at 9pm and not a sound anywhere, so unlike the vibrancy at night of Italy and Turkey. We found out that all the old towers around town have been converted to sumptuous private homes, imagine living in a 6 storey home with one room per floor.
As we only had two full days on the Rhine we decided that one day by ferry on the river and the other in the car so our first morning after a brisk walk up to the Schonburg castle for Beth & John ( beth leading john more like it) we all had a nice breakfast from mien hostess Trudel Weiser( yes Trudel not strudel) in our lovely restored 15th century Weinhaus ( hotel/guesthouse) and then strolled down to the river to pick up the 9.30 ferry to Koblenz.
Of course when we get there a school group of 30, 12 year olds is going as well, joy for joy. On board it appears that half of Korea and a quarter of the 70 plus generation of Japan decided that today was the day to see the Rhine as well but we managed to score 3 chairs on the front deck and rugged up against the cold wind off the water.
Beth enen caught up with some yoga training books on the journey as John studied the castle info book.
All our new friends got off after just 15 minutes at the second stop but were replaced with some humorous Yorkshire folk (well they all thought their jokes were hilarious) that amused us for a while as we cruised down the river with the very fast flowing current.
We managed to see about 18 Castles on the way to Koblenz, some lovely river side towns and lots of gravity defying vineyards clinging to 45deg slopes during the 2 1/2 hour journey.
Once in Koblenz we found a Japanese restaurant and had a nice fresh meal. We checked out the Germania monument where the Rhine meets the Moselle river (green water meets brown) and tramped back to the train station for the half hour trip back to Oberwesel.
Our restaurant was closed that night so with a recommendation we set forth to a traditional German home cooking garten that at first looked daunting but worked out fine once we accepted that we would be eating sausage, cheese and slaw things with some local Riesling. Even Beth had a bite of sausage and enjoyed some cheese but mostly concentrated on the salad.
The next day we jumped in the car for a castle adventure and first took Ann up to the Stronberg sitting above the town, a 13th century castle but now a luxury hotel and then off into the countryside for some forest feelings .
It was then on to St Goar and The Castle Reinfels or should i say the ruins of the castle as Napoleon’s revolutionary army in 1794 decided to blow up all the Rhine castles and unfortunately it never got rebuilt unlike some others.
Never the less it was a fabulous castle with tunnels running underground and through secret passages everywhere. The place was massive, the biggest on the Rhine but 80% was destroyed.
Ann & Beth enjoyed the lovely warm sunshine as John wandered the castle and climbed through dark tunnels.
An interesting lunch was had on the Terrace cafe with stunning views over the town of St Goar.
We ventured down to the river for a car ferry crossing to go and visit the Rhine’s most unique Castle Pfalzgrafenstein( try that in one go) built by Mad, Bad Count Ludwig of Bavaria in his inimitable fairy tale style on a tiny island in the middle of the river.
This was so that he could collect his own toll for goods passing along the river but this stunt had him excommunicated from the church as he was acting illegally and taking money out of the local Bishop’s pocket. It was built in the shape of a ship so that the frequent floods would easily just flow past it either side.
Back to Oberwesel and another lovely meal at the Weinhaus before our final stroll along the old medieval walls of the town and packing for the start of our homeward journey.
We have only seen a speck of Germany along the Rhine and it is very quiet with mainly older people. Last night at dinner Beth said she felt like she visiting a retirement village!!, shades of eastbourne haunting us !!!!!
The rain came the next day so a wet Autobahn faced us ahead and it delivered with a truck filled outside lane spaying bucket loads of fine mist making all the exits and entries fun indeed. We found the airport without getting lost and then relaxed before saying our teary eyed farewell to Beth as she heads off to the UK for a while. thanks Beth for making our time in Germany so memorable.
Our short German experience was fun but by no means as exciting as Istanbul, but think we should reserve judgement until next time.