For many people a Rhine River cruise is considered the most romantic way to see Germany. These cruises can be as long as a week or as short as 30 minutes. The very best portion of the Rhine River (the most castles and the famous Loreley) can be seen on a 1.5 hour cruise from St. Goar to Bacharach.
Bacharach, named for Bacchus, the ancient Roman god of wine, is a medieval walled town only meters from the river's banks. The Rhine river once splashed up against the town's walls, but a landfill has been added to accommodate a road, train tracks and boat docks.
From 1300 to 1600 Bacharach was a major wine center. Due to shallow waters, ships had to unload upstream and reload in Bacharach, so every boat traveling the Rhine had to stop here. At it's peak Bacharach boasted a population of 6,000, though today it is closer to 1,000.
The view of town from the Rhine belies the charm hiding within. The town is a collection of some of the finest half-timbered medieval houses in Germany, some dating back to the 14th century.
Top Sights in Bacharach
Just one visit to the town square is enough to make you fall in love with this jewel of a town. You'll be transported into Medieval Germany as you walk the cobbled streets and admire the quaint half-timbered facades. Life seems to have slowed down here, and you can too among the small shops and Weinstubes.
A weinstube or wine room is an establishment that serves wine and some food. Often the food will be a sampling of cheeses and breads to compliment the wines offered.
During wine harvest in September, Bacharach's town square is adorned with a harvest wreath suspended high overhead.
The town church is located just off the square. While not impressive compared to many in Europe, the mix of pointed Gothic and rounded Romanesque arches make it worth a peak.
A bit further away from the church and on the same side of the Ober Strasse you will find the TI and Post office, or Posthof. Recognize it by the golden horn shaped sign that hangs above the entrance. (These horns have long symbolized the postal service in Germany.) WWII buffs will want to enter the courtyard of the post office to see an eerie reminder of years past - a fascist eagle from 1936 over the door on your left.
Steep steps along the side of the church lead up to the town's castle. Now a youth hostel it is probably not worth the hike if you aren't staying there. However, you should follow the steps until you reach Werner Kapelle, a skeleton of an old chapel with no windows, doors or ceiling. It's a beautiful sight when lit up at night. It was a regular stop on the Grand Tour in the 1800's as a place to contemplate the impermanence of human endeavor.
The Altes Haus, or old house, is also located just off the square. This red and white building dating back to 1368 is the oldest still standing in Bacharach. As with many older buildings, you will find its date on the facade near the top of the ground floor. Today the Altes Haus houses a Weinstube.
From the town square, if you pass the Altes Haus, you will come to Fritz Bastian's Wine Tasting, on your left. This Weinstube, which also has an outdoor garden, is a fine place to sample the wines of the region. For a set price, you get a sampling of about 15 different white wines from the Rhine Region.
Across the street you will find the Münze, or old mint. As with many professions in Germany, the sign tells the story. This one is adorned with the image of an old coin.
From here look up the hill to see one of the town's original towers. For an excellent view, hike up to it by continuing past the Münze and making a left on Rosen Strasse. About 100 paces from here you will reach an old well. Behind the well is a tiny stepped path that leads through the vineyard and up to the tower. If the tower is open you can go to the top of the town wall for a wonderful view overlooking the town and six of its remaining nine towers.
You can also walk along the top of the town's walls on the sections nearest to the train tracks. While some parts are not very attractive and seem abandoned, you'll get a feel of Medieval Bacharach.
Shopping in Bacharach
The Jost family has two stores in town that specialize in steins and other typical Germany souvenirs. One of the stores is located in the town square, and the other sometimes less expensive one is on Rossen Strasse. They are happy to ship purchases back home for you. The shops are open until about 6:00 PM, depending on the day of the week. For a sample of their goods, visit their website at, www.phil-jost-germany.com.
Walking- Bacharach is best seen on foot. You can walk from one end of the town to the other in about 15 minutes. In about twenty minutes you can hike up hill to the castle, now reborn as a youth hostel.
Trains- The train station is about a 5 minute walk from the center of the old town. Exit right from the train station and follow Ober Strasse to the town square.
Ferries- If you arrive by boat, take the pedestrian underpass to enter the town through one of its medieval gates. Continue straight along your route until you reach Ober Strasse, and the town square, which lies only a couple of short blocks ahead.
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