The Rhein River is a major transport route and has been since the time of the Romans. It
is also a major wine producing region. Because of the importance of the Rhein River
in transport the people in power over the ages have set up tool booths along it. That
is what the castles along the Rhein had as their first function. You paid the toll
or you were shot at! There seems to be a castle every 10 km. or so. It must have
been as expensive to travel on the Rhein as it is today on French toll roads. The
Rhein (and Mosel, [read the Intermot & On page]) flow in gorges several hundred feet
below the rolling farmlands above. In these gorges (a lot like our own Columbia
River Gorge, but longer) is a climate ideal for growing grapes. The hillsides have
been terraced over the millennia by the locals to create patches for their vineyards.
We visited Burg Eltz, a castle on a side tributary of the Mosel that has not been
conquered and therefore is still in good condition. The owners say that it's because
of their diplomatic prowess that it has not been conquered, others think that maybe
it was too far off the important routes of travel to bother with. In any case it
makes an excellent look into the life of the people in the middle of the last millennium. The
castle was started in the 12th century and has (like all of them) been added to and
remolded over the centuries.
We arrived in the middle of a foggy morning. The parking lot is a kilometer or so
from the castle. We walked down the access road and wondered when we would see it,
and then it appeared out of the fog.
We were on what would have been the drawbridge area before we saw it. The tour is
very interesting, no pictures allowed inside. The courtyard was small, the rooms,
doorways, halls etc. were all for a group smaller than today's tourists. The decorations,
tapestry, paintings, carvings, stained glass, gold, silver, etc. were gorgeous.
On the left is the courtyard, as small as half a tennis court and with the various
castle additions towering over it. The part shown to the left is from the 1600's.
We took the tour and then the Treasures Tour of the gold and silver things from the
16, 17 and 1800's. The workmanship is amazing (I keep saying that, but you don't
see work like that today). The lords had it sweet, the serfs, not so sweet. I don't
know how many it took to run this castle, but it had to be quite a crew for the three
families that lived there. Burg Eltz has been in the same family for 1100 years. It
was attacked once but not hurt and negotiated a peace that allowed them to stay.
When we left the fog had lifted and we headed back up, and I mean UP, the road back
to the parking area. It was a steep climb in full motorcycle gear.
This is from a bend in the access road as it comes down the hill. The interior,
courtyard picture (to the left) was taken facing this direction, right in the center
of the castle. The castle sits on a horseshoe bend in the Rive Elz (hence their
name) and controlled traffic down this tributary to the Mosel River much like the
bigger castles controlled traffic on the Rhein.
From here we took the scenic route (60 km. to go 30) to the Lorelei Rock on the Rhein. It
is a famous dangerous curve on the Rhein River that has lured many a sailor to his
death by the siren song of the famous Lorelei.
On the way there we crossed the Rhein on a ferry and took the road to the top of
the rock. There we found a campground that had another wonderful view. This is
upstream from on top of Lorelei rock and is what we could see from our campsite.
Then we head to Frankfurt. We need to get our helmets fixed and to renew our insurance. Then
it's back to the Rhein and the wine and fireworks we have on Saturday.
The helmet repair was not successful and we made it to Bacharach, called Klaus in
Frankfurt, made an appointment for Monday and found a small (5 room) hotel on a side
ally that was just barely wide enough to ride the bike down it. We got a room on
the first floor and parked the bike under the window. The owner, a lady named Ursula,
couldn't do enough for her customers. She provided breakfast and a simple room for
34 Euros for a double. This was a real bargain and helped with the budget. We left
the bike parked and took the train up and down the river to towns, castles and ruins. All
within 10 miles of our room. We walked up and down narrow streets, looked at tourist
junk (souvenirs) and marveled at age of everything. Even the new buildings date
from the time of our American Revolution. We took regular rest breaks (always in
a wine or beer garden!) and enjoyed the fine weather, good food, local sights and
nice people. The villages were built long before urban planning and the houses and
stores were put where the builder wanted it. If it lined up with its neighbor it
was either an accident or he was using the neighbors wall to hold up his wall! So
the streets vary in width as they wind along through the town. And people park where
they want to. This can make for some interesting driving as these streets have two-way
traffic. Drivers here cooperate and give way and it all seems to work out OK.
On Saturday afternoon we had tickets to a wine festival and in the evening to a dinner
cruise on the Rhine and fireworks afterwards. This was the last festival and cruise
of the season. We spent the day in the town of Oberwesel, where it all was happening,
walking the streets and the ancient city wall with its towers and gates.
The wall dates from before the Dark Ages and still has several hundred meters of
wall and towers intact. Most all of these towns were fortified, conquered, ruined
and rebuilt numerous times before Germany was unified in the 1800's and it all stopped.
At 3:30 in the afternoon we went to the festival tent, got our free glass of "new
wine", an unfiltered, current vintage wine poured for the festival. We also bought
a couple of glasses of Riesling, the most popular local wine. We skipped the food
because we were having dinner on the boat. There was music and dancing on the tables
and a good time was had by all. Most of these people were also on the boat. The
cruise had two different prices, one with dinner and a river cruise boarding at 6:30
in the evening and the other for just the fireworks. We took the whole package but
had lousy seats in the dining hall. We were in the center back as far from a window
as possible. this was probably because we had waited to buy the tickets until we
were sure we would make it to the cruise. We ate early, while most of the other
people (well lubricated from the festival) were boarding and then went up to the
top, open, viewing deck while the boat cruised up and down the Rhine for about 2
and a half hours. Then we docked for the boarding of the rest of the group and went
back to the center of the river and watched the fireworks. They were nice, but not
up to what we had seen in Valencia, Spain in March. In the picture to the left you
can also se the medieval church on the right side of the picture.
From here we went back to Frankfurt and had Klaus reprogram the helmets with the
new communication software. This time it worked and we headed for the home of our
friends in a little town called Pentenried, its near Munich in the province of Bavaria. On
a clear day you can see the Alps from the church's tower.