Rudesheim and the Rhine Gorge
A peaceful spot in Rudesheim (above)
If you’ve been hanging out on your river cruise for some serious wine tasting then Rudesheim is your place. This picturesque little village on the banks of the Rhine, at the head of the famous Rhine Gorge, is surrounded by vineyards. Reisling is the grape of choice here.
The Avalon Passion is docked within easy walking distance to the town’s main street. That’s another of the joys of river cruising, you can often explore at will and when you’ve had enough exploring a comfy sun lounger and a book await on the sky deck.
We hop on the gondola (the entrance and ticket office is on the main street) and glide over the grapes to the top of the hill to take in the majestic Niederwald Monument. It was built in the 1870’s to commemorate the unification of Germany. Personally I’m not big on monuments but I’m a big fan of strolling through vineyards and you can do that on the way back down to the town.
View from the gondola (above)
You’ll pass the back entrance to Bromserburg Castle, built in the 10th Century, it was once the home of the Archbishop of Mainz. These days it houses a wine museum.
Bromserburg Castle (above)
As you walk down towards the main street you’ll come across Siegfried’s Mechanical Musical Museum. If there’s an elderly gentleman sporting a long grey beard and a big black hat sitting outside, that’ll be Siegfried himself.
He’s always happy to chat about his magnificent collection which includes self playing calliopes and music boxes from the 18th to the early 20th Centuries. There’s one of the town’s two carillons outside Siegfried’s, you’ll hear them ringing from 9.30am through till 10pm.
The other carillon is at the Rudesheimer Schloss Restaurant and Cafe on the Drosselgasse. (below)
Drosselgasse is a street full of wine bars, cafes and eateries. Visit early in the day before the crowds and indulge in a famous Rudesheimer Kaffee. Its a warming concoction of brandy and sugar cubes, flamboyantly flambeed and then coffee is added and finished with liberal quantities of whipped cream. Its bound to be good for you!
We board the ship for a delicious barbecue on the sky deck as we head downstream to explore the legendary Rhine Gorge. This area was the focus of the Thirty Years War which began in 1618. It began as a holy war between Protestant and Catholic armies but evolved to be a power struggle between France and the Habsburgs. By war’s end in 1648 many of the combatants were bankrupt and whole regions had been decimated. France emerged the stronger and became increasingly dominant in European politics in the later part of the 17th Century. There are more than sixty castles dotted about the hillsides many of them left in ruins by the war. A number have been restored and now serve as five star hotels for wealthy tourists.
The Rhine has been an important trade route since prehistoric times. It has a microclimate all its own that is perfect for growing the Reisling grapes. Vineyards cling precariously to the steep cliffs of the gorge. And little brightly coloured villages dot the river banks, they remind me of the children’s toy railway towns. Just as we think we’ve photographed the ultimate castle, another looms into view. They’re magnificent in the golden light of the afternoon.
Anyone who grew up singing about the Lorelei at school will be keen to see the legendary Lorelei rocks, where it is said a maiden lured sailors to their graves on a treacherous bend in the river. The song rings out from the boats plying the river cruise trade. There’s a statue of the maiden sitting on rocks close to the riverbank.