My top 3 things to do in Rüdesheim

 I’d been to the winemaking town of Rüdesheim (Rüdesheim am Rhein, to give it its proper name) before in late autumn and at Christmas, so I was looking forward to seeing the town I’d loved so much on my last visit, this time, in the summer sun.

Arriving in style

As we pulled into the coach park, there was a colourful little ‘Noddy train’ waiting for us, which would take us right into Rüdesheim’s centre. Snaking through the narrow streets, we rattled along in our little carriages as people stood against the walls to let us pass, some of them giving us a friendly wave and a smile as we went by.
 

Your carriage awaits! The little train that took us into Rüdesheim.
Your carriage awaits! The little train that took us into Rüdesheim.

 

Music to our ears

Our first stop was Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Museum, which is where our little train dropped us. Tucked in a small courtyard at the end of the main street, this lovely old building houses a strange and wonderful collection of – yes, you’ve guessed it – mechanical musical instruments. Our guide, dressed in period costume, welcomed us in and showed us around the place, demonstrating the self-playing instruments as she went and telling us all about the history and construction of them.
 

Our knowledgeable guide in Siegfried’s.
Our knowledgeable guide in Siegfried’s.

 
I was surprised at just how big the place was: little rooms appeared left and right and along small corridors, all full of weird and wonderful machines: small music boxes; ornate music cabinets; violins; pianos; organs; huge metal discs which played various tunes; and an old gramophone playing an old record of Doris Day singing ‘Que Sera’, which a few people had a bit of a sing along to. There was one large machine which had little figures all playing their own instrument, and another which played violins using a round bow! Amazing!
 
Siegfried’s Mechanical Museum.
Siegfried’s Mechanical Museum.

 
These violins were played by a circular bow.
These violins were played by a circular bow.

The place to be

Back out in the warm sunshine, I headed to the Drosselgasse. Not far from Siegfried’s, this narrow, world-famous street is always busy and links the main street, Oberstrasse, to the riverside. Full of souvenir shops, wonderful restaurants, wine houses (of course – this town has a long history of wine growers and is situated amongst vineyards), beer gardens and live band entertainment, this is one place that’s great to visit at any time of day or night, even if it’s just to enjoy a walk along it.
 

The Drosselgasse
The Drosselgasse

Time for coffee: Rüdesheim style!

Back up on Oberstrasse the cafés were full of people enjoying the weather, and, judging by their cups and saucers, a ‘Rüdesheim coffee’ – the local speciality, made with plenty of brandy and topped with whipped cream. I was looking for the cable car to take me up to the Niederwald Monument, perched high on the hillside above the town. I found the station at the side of the Christmas shop, and, as I’d already decided to walk back down to the town as it was such a nice day, I got a one-way ticket (€4.50) and climbed aboard.
 

A wonderful cable car ride above the vineyards
A wonderful cable car ride above the vineyards

Above the vineyards

It was so peaceful, sailing over the top of the vineyards. The views from the cable car were fantastic: the path zig-zagging its way through the grapevines; over to the town of Rüdesheim; and across the River Rhine to Bingen. Ten minutes later, I was at the top where it was just a short walk over to the Niederwald Monument – the Niederwalddenkmal – the large figure of Germania which, unfortunately at the time of my visit, was covered in scaffolding as it was undergoing some restoration. The panoramic view from up there was just as wonderful, and there were benches and telescopes up there to have a rest and enjoy the views. (Just a quick note: you need 2 x 50c or 1 x Euro coin for the telescope.)
 

Admiring the views over Rüdesheim…
Admiring the views over Rüdesheim…

 
...and from the Niederwald Monument.
…and from the Niederwald Monument.

 
Heading back down to Rüdesheim, the walk was lovely. There was a warm breeze, the birds were singing and the grass was blowing in the gentle wind. Except for the birds, all I could hear was my footsteps on the ground. I followed the signs – sometimes along tarmac paths, sometimes stones, and in some places, a few steep steps – through the vineyards and back to town.
 
A steady walk back to Rüdesheim
A steady walk back to Rüdesheim

 
Walking amongst the vineyards
Walking amongst the vineyards

 
Almost there: the path to Rüdesheim
Almost there: the path to Rüdesheim

 
Back in the town, the little bars had filled up and there was a buzz about the place as I made my way back to the coach. So that was it. My taste of ‘summertime Rüdesheim’ had been just as good as my autumn and Christmas experiences. I’ll have to try springtime next time!
 
Auf Wiedersehen, Rüdesheim.
Auf Wiedersehen, Rüdesheim.

 
I visited Rüdesheim on Leger’s Romantic Rhine, Fairytale Castles and the Black Forest tour.
 
 

The Rhine Valley: on land and water

A day out on Leger’s Romantic Rhine, Fairytale Castles of Bavaria and the Black Forest tour took us along just a small stretch of one of Europe’s longest rivers, the mighty Rhine.

Pastel-coloured buildings of pink, green, yellow and mustard lined the banks of the river amongst clean white churches and half-timbered buildings, all looking like tiny matchboxes against towering hillsides. Above them, I noticed how the land resembled a patchwork of deep green corduroy – stripes left to right, up and down – as if it was a large blanket, holding the hills together.
 
Colourful buildings line the Rhine
 
As we began sailing along the calm waters of the Rhine we passed one of the many castles which cling to the valley: Burg Maus – ‘Mouse Castle’, with its distinctive round tower, sitting above the small village of Wellmich on the east side of the river.
 

Burg Maus
Burg Maus sits high on the east bank of the Rhine.

 
Through the commentary on our ship we learnt that the castle – official name, Burg Peterseck, and also known as Thurnberg – was built by the archbishop of Trier to protect its borders against the Counts of Katzenelnbogen who had previously built a castle on the opposite side of the river: Burg Rheinfels. In response to the building of Thurnberg, the counts built a larger castle, the name of which was shortened to Burg Katz (Cat Castle), and, according to tradition, renamed the archbishop’s castle Burg Maus (Mouse Castle), saying that Burg Maus would be eaten by their nearby Burg Katz!
 
Burg Katz sits along the river from Burg Maus
The larger Burg Katz sits along the river from Burg Maus.

 
A bit further along we passed the rather unusual Zur Klosterschenke – a church which is attached to a pub! To get to the church you actually have to go through the bar. Here, the priest apparently serves at the bar when he’s not covering his other duties. That’s something I’ve never encountered before!
 
Zur Klosterschenke
Zur Klosterschenke – see how the church is adjoined to the pub!

 
In Kamp-Bornhofen the two castles of Sterrenberg and Liebenstein stand high on the hill and hold a couple of interesting stories about two brothers from the 13th century. Legend has it that the brothers, who shared the castles, became enemies and a wall was built between the two structures. These castles – one white and one black, seen clearly from the river – are sometimes referred to as ‘The Warring Brothers’.
 
Cruising along the river
 
It was a beautiful, sunny day as we continued along the Rhine. Our party were sitting in deck chairs laughing and joking, enjoying a drink and a chat in the sunshine. It was so relaxing, just sitting there, listening to the commentary and taking in the scenery. Flags were flapping in the welcome breeze and everyone appeared to be having a great time.
 
Cruising down the river
Cruising down the river
 
Off the ship and back on dry land in the lovely town of Boppard I enjoyed a short walk along the Rhine Promenade before we left for our next visit. Along the promenade people were walking their dogs while others strolled along, eating ice cream or pedalled past me on bikes. Baskets of red and pink geraniums lined the railings against the river adding a hint of colour to the view.
 
The Rhine Promenade
 
Leaving Boppard, our next stop was the small town of St. Goar (Sankt Goar). After a short walk along the edge of the Rhine, I was in the centre of town, and immediately spotted the cuckoo clock shop – not hard to do since outside it displays the world’s largest free-hanging cuckoo clock. Behind the clock, up on the hillside I could see the Burg Rheinfels (one of the castles built by the Counts of Katzenelnbogen) which was apparently the largest castle on the Rhine until Napoleon’s army came and blew it to bits! Today, while some of the castle is still in ruins, other parts of the building are a hotel and restaurant.
 
The world’s largest free-hanging cuckoo clock in St. Goar
The world’s largest free-hanging cuckoo clock in St. Goar.

 
As I continued along the town’s pedestrianised, central street, lined with souvenir shops, inviting cafés and kondotorei, I could hear the loud ‘tick tock’ of the ‘world’s largest free-hanging cuckoo clock’ following me for quite a distance. I spotted a few members of our party sitting at the cafés, enjoying an afternoon tea break: a pot of tea, a cold beer or a large ice cream.
 
St. Goar
Rheinfels Castle can be seen from St. Goar’s main street.

 
Up in the quiet backstreets of St. Goar, the only sound I could hear was my own footsteps. The maze of cobbled streets lead me to a picturesque church, tucked up into the centre of the town, amongst old buildings and streets lined with colourful planters. Following the paths back to the main street, I sat beside a couple of men enjoying huge slabs of cake – a strip of biscuit base holding orange sponge, pink mousse and topped with strawberries. Yum!
 
Tasty cakes from the konditorei.
Tasty cakes from the konditorei.

 
But there was no time for cake for me. The day had all-too-quickly come to an end and it was time to leave the lovely little town of St. Goar and the picturesque Rhine Valley after a wonderful, memorable day by the river.
Have you been to the Rhine Valley or experienced a cruise along the River Rhine? Have you been on Leger’s Romantic Rhine, Fairytale Castles of Bavaria and the Black Forest tour? Share your stories with us.
 
 

Destination: Germany's River Rhine

The River Rhine is arguably one of Europe’s most beautiful waterways and because of this it has captivated visitors for over 200 years.
It is like something straight out of a picture book – medieval castles perched on virtually every hilltop, pretty villages lining the river banks, quaint half timbered buildings, precipitous cliffs and lush vine clad slopes.

The stunning River Rhine

The Rhine has more castles along its length than any other river in the world and they are seen as such a characteristic feature of the river landscape. The castles were built in the Middle Ages by powerful rulers, on hilltops and in the lowlands as moated castles, to protect estates and their inhabitants. Therefore they were seen as purely defensive structures. However it cannot be denied that some are rather breathtaking and many visitors today see them as objects of mystery, splendour and romanticism.
A well known focal point along the Rhine, on the Eastern side, is The Lorelei (also spelt Loreley). It is a rock which soars some 120 metres above the waterline and marks the narrowest part of the river between Switzerland and the North Sea.
Lorelei is also the name of one of the beautiful Rhine maidens who, according to legend, sat upon the rock and lured passing navigators to their doom with her alluring singing, much like the Sirens of ancient Greek myth. A bronze statue of Lorelei overlooks the river. Thanks to its favourable geological location, the Rhine Valley is covered in vineyards, which were originally planted by the Romans.
During the day the sun warms the grapes on the vines and in the evening the golden wines sparkle in the glass. There isn’t a royal house in Europe at whose table these wonderful wines have not been served. Imagine sitting on top deck of your cruise ship, cruising along the Rhine Gorge with a chilled glass of wine in hand, or sitting outside one of the river side cafes in a pretty Rhine town and sampling one or two of the different varieties.
The scenery along the Rhine is the stuff of dreams, and places like, Koblenz, Rudesheim, Boppard and Cologne epitomise the wonder and charm of this remarkable area.
Cochem is a village along the River Moselle, just off the Rhine, and is dominated by the late-Gothic imperial castle, as well as being dotted with medieval squares and lovingly restored timber-framed houses. The castle is 1,000 years old and stands more than 100 metres above the River.
Other places of interest in Cochem are the historical mustard mill (Senfmühle) built around 1810 (the last one of its kind in Europe), the market square and the well preserved sections of old town walls.
On the famous Deutsches Eck (German Corner), where the Rhine and Moselle rivers meet, stands Koblenz. The town is set amidst four ranges of hills, and two thirds of the surrounding countryside consists of woods, open green spaces and water.
The view of Koblenz from the River Rhine

Koblenz is a ‘small city’ with much to offer and just a quick stroll around the town highlights it’s appeal – the romantic narrow streets and historical squares, picturesque alleyways in the old quarter with the Romanesque Basilica of St. Kastor, plus the Ehrenbreitstein fortress, set high above the baroque town and one of the largest castles in Europe.
Not far from Koblenz is Boppard, which was once a Roman fort, and is seen as the heart and sole of this tourist area. The finest of wines originate here on the slopes of Bopparder Hamm, the largest loop of the Rhine. The wine is world-class and this is because of the fantastic location of the vineyard slopes, which are south facing, but also due to the many
hundreds of years of accumulated knowledge and experience passed down through generations of local wine producers.
A little further down river is Rüdesheim and one well known attraction is the Drosselgasse. This narrow street, just 144 metres long, is in the heart of Rüdesheim’s old town and attracts visitors from every continent. Live music, singing and dancing can be enjoyed in its wine taverns and gardens, which are open daily from late morning to the early hours.
Another place of interest is the Niederwald Monument, which commemorates the reestablishment of the German empire following the Franco- Prussian War of 1870/71.
The main figure is Germania, holding the imperial crown in her raised right hand and the imperial sword in her left hand. There is a marvellous view from the monument far into the countryside.
Cologne is at the top of the river and is renowned for its churches. You’ll find a unique ensemble of twelve large Romanesque collegiate and abbey churches, all true gems of medieval architecture, packed into a compact area within the medieval city walls.
Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany

The city is also know for its cathedral, which is the largest in Germany and a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. Around Christmas time the imposing cathedral is lit up, whilst stalls selling traditional German crafts and food dominate the square below.

Did you know…

There are more than 150 castles in Germany. Some are still inhabited by aristocratic families, others have been transformed into hotels and restaurants, and some are in ruins.
The Berlin Wall was 103 miles long and 12 foot high. It was constructed in 1961 to provide a physical barrier between East and West Berlin, as the city had been divided into a Soviet occupational zone and a joint U.S., France, and Great Britain occupational zone after World War II, with each zone being governed by the country(ies) controlling it.
Brandenburg Gate is one of the most famous landmarks in Berlin. During the Cold War it stood in the land of nobody, in the middle of a restricted area next to the Berlin Wall and it was the symbol of division of the city into West and East.
It took more than 632 years (from 1248 to 1880) to build Germany’s most popular tourist attraction, the Cologne Cathedral.
You would have to try one kind of German bread per day for almost a whole year in order to be able to taste them all as there are over 300 different kinds of bread in Germany.
There are over 1,500 types of sausages, such as Frankfurters (mild), Nuremberg (which are served barbequed) and Bavaria sausages (white).
Germans really do love beer and rank second in world-wide beer consumption per person after Ireland. Beer is officially considered a food in Bayern, where the normal size beer glass is 1 litre. Germany is the cheapest place in Europe to buy beer, but also the most difficult in which to make a choice as there are over 1,500 different brands and types of beer in the country.
Dogs are kings in Germany and can go just about everywhere including restaurants, public transport and shops. They even have their own pools.
Germany is the home of the world-famous garden-gnome. In the mid 1800s, the first garden gnomes were made in Thuringia, Germany. They have spread via central and northern Europe as far as America and Australia and have admirers in all four corners of the world.
The first cuckoo clock was made in Germany in the early 17th century and the world’s largest cuckoo clock (as reported in the Guiness Book of records) can be seen in the small Black Forest town of Schönach.
Images courtesy of flickr users: Michal Osmenda, Dittmeyer, Fugue.