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Rhine Valley, Germany, Travel Guide

The Marksburg in Braubach



72 Hours in Germany's Rhine Valley

By Andrea Schulte-Peevers

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Few rivers of the world have captured the imagination of artists and travelers quite like the Rhine, an 825-mile ribbon rushing northward from the Swiss Alps to the North Sea. It lives in songs, poems, paintings and legends of mystical beauty — nowhere more apparent than along the 50-mile stretch between Bingen and Koblenz, aptly named Romantic Rhine. The region's considerable charms were not lost on UNESCO, who declared it a World Heritage Site in 2002.

It’s a near magical realm where dreamy wine villages of dainty half-timbered houses are dwarfed by fairytale medieval castles seemingly carved from the rugged cliffs themselves. In the villages below, often set against the backdrop of steeply terraced vineyards surging skyward, cozy wine taverns alternate with souvenir shops and cafés along bustling riverwalks.

While there's no shortage of hotels and pensions, advance booking is recommended, especially in summer. The Best Western Bellevue Rheinhotel is a princely, nineteenth-century property right on the river promenade in Boppard. If you miss the days of knights and damsels, check into one of the cozy rooms at the Burghotel Auf Schönburg, a medieval castle perched high above Oberwesel. If you have a flair for the modern, you'll feel right at home at Breuers Rüdesheimer Schloss in the heart of Rüdesheim. All of these hotels have superb restaurants as well. There’s even a cheaper hostel for backpackers, with clean rooms (and a superb view) at the twelfth-century Castle Stahleck in Bacharach. Cottage-style bed and breakfasts abound as well, including the charming Loreley Haus Weller near Loreley rock.

Deutsches Eck, a triangular promontory jutting into the water where the Moselle and Rhine mingle
Deutsches Eck

ROMANTIC RHINE DAY 1: KOBLENZ, MARKSBURG, BOPPARD

Your journey begins in Koblenz, right where the Moselle mingles with the Rhine. Spend the morning wandering among the mazelike lanes of the old town to the Deutsches Eck, a triangular promontory jutting into the water where the two famed rivers meet. A statue of Emperor Wilhelm I dominates, perched pompously astride a stallion, seemingly surveying his domain.

High above on the right bank looms Ehrenbreitstein, a humongous fortress, reached by foot or chairlift. The regional museum within its thick stone walls is worth a visit for those with an interest in local history. Most visitors, though, are simply awestruck by the stunning panorama of the town, rivers and surrounding rolling hills.

Centuries ago, about 40 castles crowned the hilltops along the Rhine. Most were ruined either by the passage of time or by French troops in the seventeenth-century led by King Louis XIV. In the nineteenth century, Prussian kings restored several structures, although one survived almost entirely intact: the Marksburg in Braubach. Here you'll discover a true medieval classic, complete with crenelated walls, a soaring keep, and various defensive installations and gates. A guided tour takes you in the citadel, the gothic hall, a large kitchen (still functioning) and a grisly torture chamber (fortunately not).

From Kamp-Bornhofen, catch the ferry across to Boppard, just in time for a well-earned lunch. A good choice is the Landgasthof Eiserner Ritter, which serves inspired German specialties using mostly regional products, including fresh venison, organically fed veal, artisanal cheeses and, of course, delicious wine.

Catching a ride aboard the Hunsrückbahn is a novel way to spend the afternoon; the little train chugs through five tunnels and over two viaducts on its steep journey to Buchholz, five miles away. You can come back the same way or burn off that lunch by hitting the trail which threads its way through fragrant forest and vineyards. Another popular excursion is to the Vierseenblick (Four Lakes View), reached by chairlift.

Marksburg in Braubach, a true medieval classic
Marksburg in Braubach

Back in Boppard, take a gander at the Roman wall and the inside of the twin-towered Church of St. Severus with its colorful murals. The nearby Boppard City Museum is dedicated to famous native son Michael Thonet, who invented bentwood furniture (think Viennese coffeehouse chairs).

Boppard is also home to the Bopparder Hamm, one of the most famous vineyards in the Middle Rhine growing region. Be sure to order a bottle of the local wine over dinner at your hotel, the Art Nouveau-era Best Western Bellevue Rheinhotel, which just happens to have the best restaurant in town. Delicious and cheap German cuisine (pig’s knuckle included) can be found at Severus Stube, just behind the church of the same name.

For after-dinner fun head over to Weinhaus Heilig Grab, the oldest wine tavern in Boppard.

MORE ROMANTIC RHINE INFORMATION

(Updated: 07/31/13 RD)


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