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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Rhine Valley | Loreley & Bacharach

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Summer has made a sudden and unexpected return to Germany and so I feel inspired to share a little bit more about my day trip to the Rhine Valley a couple of weeks ago. After all, Rüdesheim - while beautiful with its lush vineyards and charming little alleys - wasn't the only place we wanted to see during our visit. The area around Rüdesheim is lovely, but it's when you drive on that you discover the true beauty of the Rhine Valley.

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As you drive north along the Rhine, the valley soon become narrower until there's barely enough room for a street, a train track and the occasional village. Every few minutes your eye will spot a castle up on the hills. Some are quite grand, while others are ruins, but they all have in common that they look like they were taken straight out of a German fairytale.

Our next stop was the Loreley, a rock with sweeping views of the valley and a site that may just be more famous among Germans than Rüdesheim. According to legend, the Loreley is a beautiful maiden that sits on top of the rock and combs her golden hair while singing a magnificent song. The scene entrances the skippers passing by so much that they forget to concentrate on the treacherous rocks in the river and sink to their death together with their boats. Of course, S immediately wanted me to recreate the scenario:

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No boat crashes because of me (should I be offended?), but I just attribute it to my lack of blonde hair. The view of the landscape was really outstanding, though:

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There are no bridges in the Rhine Valley, so the only way to cross the river between Rüdesheim and and Koblenz is by ferry. We made the crossing at Boppard, a small town situated at a horseshoe bend of the river and enjoyed a few quiet moments looking at the picturesque waterfront buildings.

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Time was starting to dwindle down, so we drove back towards the south on the other side of the river. There were many other sights and towns that would have been lovely to visit, but one day just wasn't enough to take it all in.

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We missed the turn to a castle I had wanted to visit and so we decided, based on my Lonely Planet Guide's description, to pull over in a little town called Bacharach instead. And what a gem it is! Unassuming when seem from the road - the town is hiding behind a wall - Bacharach is a picture-perfect fairytale town. I know this description is used to describe places in Germany way too often and has thus become so much of a cliché that I usually don't take it serious anymore, but in this case… the description is actually accurate!

But the astonishing thing is that there are next to no tourists in this place. The French writer Victor Hugo once referred to Bacharach as one of the most beautiful unknown towns in the world and this still seems to hold true today. I cherished how quiet and quaint the town was and was glad to not have to share it with hundreds of other people.

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We decided to go for a walk along the city wall that led us up a mountain. I loved seeing the town from above and it made me realize yet again just how idyllic Bacharach is. My new favorite place in the Rhine Valley? I think so!

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But I haven't gotten to the most awesome thing yet: As any other town in the Rhine Valley, Bacharach has its own castle. Burg Stahleck sits nestled to the side of a mountain overlooking the town, but it's special for other reasons: It is a hostel. Yes, you read that right. Not a luxury hotel, but a hostel. This may just be one of the cheapest options to go spend the night at a castle!&

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Have you visited the Rhine Valley before? Would you want to?
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