Enjoy One Of The Best River Cruises In Europe
The Rhine Gorge is a place of amazing beauty, history and legend. The 65 kilometre stretch of the Rhine river between Koblenz and Bingen received the accolade of becoming a Unesco World Heritage Site in June 2003.
When you float downstream on one of the river boat cruises, you know why this part of the river is sometimes called the Romantic Rhine. On both sides of the river castles and immaculate vineyards create a fairytale atmosphere.
For hundreds of years the Rhine gorges have been part of an important trade route between the southern mediterranean
countries and the colder areas to the north.
Many of the Rhine River castles were built to extract tolls from travellers using
the river as a business route.
The German cities and towns on both banks are full of charm and history, with lots of attractions for the many tourists.
The Rhine gorges were created by the powerful action of the Rhine River cutting its valley at the same rate as the surrounding lands were being uplifted. When the river erosion and the uplift was over, the Rhine flowed through a gorge that was 130 metres deep.
One of the highest points in the gorge is the famous Lorelei Rock. This is a 433 foot high slate cliff near the town of St. Goarshausen.
The legend of the Lorelei is that she was a nymph who lived on the rock high above the Rhine River.
Her singing lured poor fishermen to their deaths in the dangerous waters below.
Eventually overcome with grief over her unfaithful lover, she herself plunged to her own death in the Rhine.
There is a much visited bronze statue of the nymph by the Lorelei Rock.
Of course this part of the Rhine river features heavily in German folklore. The hero Seigfried is meant to have slain a dragon at the famous Drachenfels Castle. The Counts of Drachenfels have a dragon in their coat of arms.
The Wagner opera,"Gotterdammerung" has one of the legendary Rhine castles as its setting.
The Rhine River and its gorges have seen considerable history. Julius Caesar and his legions crossed the river in 55 B.C. and 53 B.C.
The Holy Roman Empire, so important during the Middle Ages, had the Rhine as its axis.
The river was a trade route but it was also a barrier to invading armies advancing into and out of Europe. During the Thirty Years War between 1618 and 1648, many castles that had been built hundreds of years earlier were attacked and left in ruins.
One of the "must see sights" of a Rhine River cruise is found at Rudesheim.
This is the 10.5 metre (33 feet) high statue of Germania.
It was built to commemorate the founding of the German Empire in 1871.
The commanding position of the statue
provides incredible views of the Rhine gorges.
Tourists taking Rhine River cruises through the gorges between Koblenz and Bingen are often astonished by the number
of castles. In fact there are more castles here than in any other river valley in the world. Some are in ruins while others have been restored and are now luxury hotels, some are open to the public for tours. Possibly the finest of these is "Marksburg Castle."
If you do want to tour some of these castles, it is possible to buy a discounted ticket that lets you see ten of them. You save about 40% of the entry charge.
The time to take a Rhine river cruise is definitely during the summer months when the hillsides and the wonderful
vineyards are green and attractive.
You should remember that this is one of the most popular vacation destinations in Europe
so it is wise to book accommodation before you travel.
However, if you are on a river cruise you don`t have to worry, your accommodation is the boat!
One of the highlights of the tourist season takes place at Koblenz in August and at Oberwesel in September. These are
"The Rhine In Flames" festivals. Spectacular fireworks displays accompanied by music take place. The best way to see these are on one of the convoys of boats through the Rhine gorges. From Oberwesel the convoy of cruise ships goes south to the town of St. Goar
where the Lorelei Rock is lit up. The boats then return downriver passing the towns, churches and castles which are all
Of course, a Rhine River Cruise isn`t the only way to vacation here.
There are two railway lines that run through The
Rhine gorges. The "left Rhine line" (Linke Rheinstrecke) runs along the west bank between Cologne and Mainz. The "right
Rhine line" (Rechte Rheinstrecke) runs along the east bank from Cologne to Weisbaden.
The left bank line is far more
scenic and runs more, and better, trains. Changing between the two tracks is possible at Koblenz.
A word of warning, take
care when buying your tickets as the different zones can be confusing and prices can be quite high.
For those that love hiking holidays, a trail has been opened in the last few years that follows the eastern bank of the
Rhine for 320 kilometres from Weisbaden to Bonn. The trail is called "The Rheinsteig."
The whole walk has been broken up
into 23 seperate stages. Stages 5 through to 12 take in the journey through the Rhine Gorges.
The 14 mile stage between
Kaub and St. Goarshausen is described as the highlight of the Rheinsteig trail with unsurpassed views of the gorge and
its surrounding plateau.
If you enjoy hiking you will really enjoy this great trail through the Rhine River Gorge.
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