Rhine River, Germany
The Rhine River, Germany
For many people a Rhine River cruise is the most romantic way to see Germany offering both beauty and history within its gorge of terraced vineyards, castles and legends.
The 820 mile Rhine River has been a major trading route for over two thousand years. Economically speaking, it could be considered the most important river on earth.
Day trip river cruises on the Rhine are included with most rail passes, and point to point tickets are easy to purchase up to the time you board for the journey. Most ships are operated by the KD Line, and sail many times a day from April through October.
If you want a relaxing full day on board ship watching the ever changing scenery pass by, consider a cruise from Mainz to Koblenz. This stretch includes some of the most beautiful landscape in Europe.
We usually prefer taking a shorter cruise of what we feel is really the best segment of that route. We stay in the town of Bacharach, take a 15 minute train to St. Goar, and after visiting the town and it's castle, take the one and a half hour boat trip back to Bacharach. This is our favorite experience, and it makes for an enjoyable and relaxing day on the Rhine, without feeling trapped on the boat.
On the banks of of the river you will see large black and white kilometer marking signs. These three digit markers can also help with your sightseeing. These short cruises do not have commentary, so we've outlined the major sights in our favorite portion of the Rhine by their marker.
Marker 557: St Goar and the Rheinfels Castle. Board the boat in St. Goar after spending time visiting the Rheinfels castle. As the boat departs, make sure you get a look back at this 13th century castle that was once the most powerful on the Rhine. The town of St. Goar was a famous stop for boats either before or after their navigating the deadly Loreley.
Marker 556: St. Goarhausen, Burg Katz and Burg Maus. From St. Goar, your boat will almost immediately cross to the other side of the river to the town of St. Goarhausen. Above the town you will see Burg Katz. This 14th century castle, along with the Rheinfels castle had views up both directions of the river. This allowed them to control the flow of traffic and levy taxes on boats coming up and down the river. Today Burg Katz is a luxury hotel. To the left of Burg Katz is a rival castle, Burg Maus.
Marker 555-554: The Loreley. At marker 555 you will see the statute of the Loreley, a lovely though deadly nymph. The actual Loreley is a cliff that is just ahead at marker 554. The cliff rises some 450 feet above the river helping to create the most narrow and deepest point of the river. The legend is that the song of this beautiful maiden (Loreley) would attract boatmen to the rock and untimely to their deaths in the turbulent waters below. Because of the cliff and the turn in the river, it is said that a person has seven echoes here.
Marker 552: The truth about the Loreley, the reefs. Just upstream from the Loreley is a series of reefs that have claimed many more boats and lives. These reefs are marked by red and green buoys and are referred to as the seven-maidens. Anything to do with the seven echoes? You decide for yourself, but notice how carefully your captain avoids the reefs.
Marker 550: Oberwesel and Schönburg Castle. This 4th century Celtic town was once a Roman military outpost. Today Oberwesel has the best preserved Roman wall and tower you will see on the Rhine. Above the town is the Schönburg Castle.
Marker 546: Pfalz Castle and Burg Gutenfels. The Pfalz Castle was an ancient toll booth of sorts, and today is probably the most photographed castle on the Rhine. Built in the 13th Century, this castle is on the river bed near the town of Kaub. It, along with the Burg Gutenfels (now a hotel), made the town of Kaub one of the wealthiest on the river. When boats would approach, the castle would raise chains to the opposite bank of the river. If the boat paid a toll, it could pass without a problem. If tolls were refused, the boat would be seized and the crew was put on a raft in the well of the Pfalz castle. Boats that tried to bypass the tolls would be ripped to pieces from the chains and the strong current.
Marker 543: Bacharach. If you started your journey in Bacharach, you are now back at your home base. As you approach Bacharach you will notice the Burg Stahleck Castle, which is now a hostel.
More information about the River Cruises.
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