When life gives you lemons, go ride Lemonade!

The Rhein (Rhine) River

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.


On to Munich.