Travels in Europe – The Rhine and Bacharach

The Rhine valley from our train.
Castle above the valley. The romance of the Rhine!

We rode the train from Switzerland through Zurich and Bern towards the Rhine, switching in Mainz for the train headed for Koblentz. As we moved up the valley into this gorgeous part of Germany we began to see the river cruise boats wending their paths in grand procession with the barges up the Rhine. Then appeared the small villages; church-steepled with castle ruins and vineyards above, those that we and the cruise patrons so prized.

Bacharach town center

Reaching our destination of Bacharach we found no taxi or bus and so wheeled our luggage into a quaint little German village with our very own Stahleck Castle rising above. We got to town center and took a little breather, asking for directions to get to our hotel. Hotel Bluechertal is just two kilometers uphill or so we were told and we launched off into the afternoon sun. The town in lovely but the joy of the sights began to fade as we moved up past the old Tor at the city walls. After about one fully laden mile my calves and feet began to burn. Our hotel street address was in the 300’s and counting up to get there we ticked off house after house, way past the estimated 2K.

The “Trudge” through the Tor. We live for this stuff!

It was my reservation plan to book this place and both Stefanie and I were soon wondering at my choice. She began pointing out other accommodations with vacancies along the way… just saying. I was in my one-step-at-a-time mode racking my brain for the reasons of economy and vacancy which made me choose this distant abode. Eventually we passed the highly symbolic cemetery. House number 213 below it and house number 214 above.

We eventually made it there and all was forgiven (I think) as we met our young host at the lovely pink and white guesthouse. He was from Romania and his Aunt and Uncle bought the place as an investment, rehabbed it into a real gem and put him in charge. Nice guy. We collapsed in our room.

Gasthaus sur Alten Muhle

Our evening meal was just down the hill a ways at Gasthouse sur Alten Muhle. The propriaters were hustling to serve the full house but got us a fine spread of sauerbraten and duck with a raspberry “is” to cap it off. The beverage of choice was Apfelsaftschorle, a carbonated and slightly dry apple drink that made me an instant convert.

We returned by way of the cemetery where we took a break to sit and admire the graves, each heaped with fresh flowers.

Well tended with fresh flowers, the cemetery at Bacharach.

We had only one day to scout Bacharach so in the morning after a more than ample breakfast at the hotel we scampered back down the hill to find the path up to the castle. First though we poked into the Lutheran church at the center of town and tried to read the Reformation information written on large posters in German. Then we looped through the far end of town downriver, crossing the old city walls towards the Rhine. There was a river cruise boat docked that looked tempting but we took a pass and crossed back into town.

Stahleck Castle
Bacharch, Germany with Saint Peter Kirche and the Rhine River valley

We bought some snacks for the hike up to the castle and clambered up the hill. The Rhine river and the town of Bacharach soon lay spread below us. The castle is impressive and largely intact, now a youth hostel which was today full of excited children on a day trip from school. We took in the views of the valley as a light rain commenced.

The Wernerkapelle

Down another path to the old unfinished cathedral dedicated to the former St. Werner called the Wernerkapelle. That just happens to be my middle name, which I got from my Grandfather Werner Gieschen! That and the songwriting team of Bacharach and David seemed to form a perfectly sensible explanation as to why we chose this town to visit. The story of Werner is both tragic and hopeful. He was a murdered child who the locals used as an excuse to commit yet another pogrom against the local Jews, accusing them of the murder and of using his blood in their rituals. The boy was canonized (since revoked) but now the hollow shell of the cathedral is used as a monument to the dangers of intolerance.


The high path home with Stefanie through the vineyards.

We finished our stroll downhill and spent some more time exploring the town. Finding a lovely high trail on the opposite side of the the road we headed back towards our hotel.




Grapes ready to come in for wine.

This path led through vineyards laden with red and white grapes prime for harvest. The green rows of vines ran up and over the hills above out of sight.





Our evening meal brought us back to the same restaurant. It was the only one serving near our hotel and after our meal the previous night we were happy to return. We felt the same about this town of Bacharach. Maybe next time on a bike or boat tour to see more of this remarkable river valley.

In the morning we had the hotel proprietor call us a cab to the the train station (see above).