Bacharach and The Romantic Rhein

Leaving Munster behind us, Dad, Mom, and I piled into the car to drive to the German river lands. Our destination: Bacharach.

Bacharach is a sleepy little town right along the coast of the famous Rhein River. Our drive into the town was slightly stormy and uneventful until we reached the hills that border the river. There, we began to see the stunning views that we would enjoy for the next two days.

The Rhein River region is also the Riesling wine region. These are two things that you should look into. The hills that run along the river are covered with simple straight lines of grapevine, sometimes embroidering what look like 60 degree inclines. We kept wondering aloud, “Who harvests these grapes?” and, “Do they have do they have to harness in to do so?.” However it happens, I’m glad, and I applaud their efforts. Rieslings come in three very good varieties: sweet, half-dry, and dry. Simple enough.

I’m getting ahead of myself though. So, we drive into Bacharach, which has a sustainable center of town for all of half a minute. After that, you’re on your way out again. We find our hotel, Hotel Malerwinkel, complete with idyllic garden patio and trickling creek. Okay, Bacharach.

We promptly started the Rick Steves’ walking tour of the town. Rick claims that it is one of his favorites in Germany. Me too, Rick. We stopped midway for some of that Riesling (not on Rick’s agenda) and some spatzle dinner. End it with strudel, because we’re not messing around with this Germany thing.

We awake the next day and walk down to the Rhein to board a river cruise ferry to the neighboring (not boring at all) town of St. Goar. The Rhein: huge, fast-running, high. As a girl most familiar with the Arkansas River sometimes flowing through Tulsa, I was most impressed with the water level. This thing looks like an ocean. THIS is a river. Also, contrary to all my instincts, the Rhein flows North. Yes, North. How? I don’t know. This really complicated the matters of downstream and upstream for me.

We arrived in St. Goar to hike up its hillside and tour its medieval castle. All of the towns along the Rhein have castles in varying states of remains. They were all separate kingdoms once, making their money charging tolls for ships on the river. Now the castles are luxury hotels or vineyards. I’m looking negotiating real estate here. Ok, maybe I’ll settle for renting.

After lapping in St. Goar, we re-boarded a ferry to lovely Bacharach. Here we realized something amazingly coincidental:

As we took a breather in the hotel room, Dad called to our attention the cover of the (ever-present) Rick Steves Germany Book. “Hey, I think this is Bacharach,” he said. “I think I know exactly where this picture was taken.” Why, yes. The cover of the book is a picture of Bacharach’s cathedral and old chapel ruins, a stunning view. We finished our interrupted town walk and happened upon the exact location of the picture. Utterly tickled, we had to document this. See the proof.

Another glass of Riesling and a great dinner, and we fell asleep in Bacharach to rise and leave the next morning.

Here’s the thing: I like to give rivers tag lines  My family started doing this after we went to Zambia. There, it is not the Zambesi River. It is always The MIGHTY Zambesi River. It makes it more mysterious. It should be said with wide eyes and some “boogidy-boo” hand motions, if you can picture that. It’s cemented in my mind that way visually and thematically. So, the Rhein needed an adjective.

The Romantic Rhein. First, the ferry tours promise a romantic trip. The Rhein is for lovers or idealists apparently. Really though, it’s romantic. Not necessarily in the lovey sense. It’s just impressive; it’s breathtaking. It flows fast and strong. It’s filled with high water and history and lore. That is romanticizing. There’s a novel in those waters somewhere.

Bacharach is the guidebook picture. It is the ideal in a way. The Rhein is too. Romantic in its history. Or something like that. The nice German man, Henrich, who lives by Malerwinkle, he has settled on the Rhein. He has transplanted there, in the small town of 2,000. In the town where as soon as you’re coming, you’re going. He’s stayed. That’s sort of romantic. That’s proof.


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