So you may be familiar with those Viking River Cruise commercials, with swooping drone views of a gorgeous river surrounded by foliage, pretty towns, and castles on nearby peaks? Well, I can confirm that they didn’t fake that footage. It’s real, and it’s the “Rhine Gorge” / aka Upper Middle Rhine Valley in Germany. This picturesque area runs from Koblenz in the north to Bingen in the south, and is less than an hour from Frankfurt.
Soon after exiting the highway onto winding B9, also known as “Mainzerstrasse” in many of the German towns along the west side of the Rhine, we began to see the half-timbered buildings so prevalent in fairy tales. Our first stop was for lunch in Bacharach.
Lunch was delicious – we were the only ones in the restaurant, as it was a rainy day and not many tourists were wandering the streets of Bacharach. We didn’t mind, the staff was attentive without smothering us.
Next, we made our way to the smaller town of Oberwesel, about 20 minutes further up the B9, to our lodging for two nights: Castle Hotel Schoenburg. https://www.hotel-schoenburg.com/en/ This was a small splurge, with dinner included in our stay both nights. I’ve never stayed in a castle, and when over the summer I was sadly reminded that our days on Earth are limited, I reacted by booking one. It’s time.
This was really a WOW experience.
The Castle Hotel Schoenburg doesn’t have a street address. Directions are, in essence… Drive to Oberwesel, look up, follow the road. Not good for an uptight planner like me, but we made it.
We stayed in room 20, which, like many of the hotel’s rooms, boasted river views and a small balcony.
The hotel’s public areas certainly felt authentic, even though only the original castle was burned down in 1689 and the castle was not recreated until the 19th century.
Our hotel booking included a sumptuous, 4 course tasting menu style dinner. Dishes over the 2 nights included beef carpaccio, venison pate, wild boar, lobster soup, and Black Forest cake. Very rich and very delicious.
With 2 nights in Oberwesel, we were able to spend the full day in between exploring the river on a KD Rhine hop on, hop off day cruise.
Our northbound transportation:
The day started dark and gloomy, but as we headed north by boat, we found the sun!
Scenes like this one floated by…
We passed the Lorelei, a steep rocky outcropping that has inspired its own fairy tale: the beautiful Lore Lay, betrayed by her sweetheart, is accused of bewitching men and causing their death. Rather than sentence her to death, the bishop consigns her to a nunnery. On the way thereto, accompanied by three knights, she comes to the Lorelei rock. She asks permission to climb it and view the Rhine once again. She does so and thinking that she sees her love in the Rhine, falls to her death; the rock still retained an echo of her name afterwards. (courtesy – Wikipedia). Cool story, bro!
We chose to debark in Boppard, a beautiful riverside town, about an hour from Oberwesel by water. We were in luck: the town’s annual 4-day Wine Festival was starting that very day, so the town was buzzing with local vintners and festival attendees. We wandered and shopped, and eventually settled into a table in the main town square, embarking on a beloved European activity: drinking and people watching.
As the day turned to evening, the wine festival began to fill up. We ended up talking to a lovely family with two young daughters, who hailed from Colorado, for quite awhile. I admired their bravery in traveling to Europe with young children – most of my trips as the parent of young kids involved Disney or a beach. As it turned out, I had actually taken a photo of their daughter, earlier in the afternoon, as she danced and sniffed flowers in the town square. Hopefully if they read this, they don’t think I was stalking them!
The wine festival was just getting started, but we took a train back to Oberwesel . The river runs north, so the southbound boat trip would have been lengthy – we couldn’t miss our second castle dinner! We look forward to returning to the area and particularly Boppard, which was charming but not overrun with tourists.
A fairy tale, indeed.