Tom and Linda’s 2008 Europe Trip

Bacharach in the Rhine Valley

Train through Holland

We decided in Bruges to forgo Berlin for the Rhine Valley. I’ve always wanted to go there.

We had some adventures with trains this morning – got the wrong platform and ended up on a local train to the north of Holland. We found out our mistake after about half an hour and 5 stops.

Got off at a tiny station, changed tracks and headed back, but the train we were on didn’t go all the way to Amsterdam Central Station. We didn’t realize that until it started moving the wrong way from the outer station.

They're Everywhere!

Changed again at the next station, where we saw this sign in the window of the empty station house.

Got back to Amsterdam Central just a few tracks over from the right train – the one we originally meant to catch. Then we had some anxiety about the need for reservations. It was a very nice train and looked like it might be quite full.

Ended up OK, though. We settled in, had a sandwich from the Bistro car and arrived in Colon (Köln) in an hour or so.

The train from Köln to Koblenz was very crowded in second class, SRO with some bicycles in the mix as well, and I think we were the only people in 12-seat the first class section who belonged there.

The conductor came through once and chased everyone else out, but it filled up again with people who were clearly nervous about being there. But no one ever came to actually check tickets – at least not before we got off.


The Rhine Valley

Another big thank-you to Rick Steves. We caught the train from Koblenz down the Rhine Valley just 13 minutes after we got in from Köln. It was a lovely ride and we were on the river side, as he suggested.


So we traveled away from the cities, and found out how much more we enjoyed the small towns and the countryside.

Source of Rhine Wines

Lots of mountain-side vineyards. Liebfraumilch was one of the first wines I ever tasted.


As we pulled in to Bacharach, close to the river, we saw LOTS of cars and tour busses and such, but we were alone on the platform a few minutes later.

We walked past the old abandoned train station down toward the river, then figured out that the town was on the uphill side from the tracks.


Walked back up, turned down Langstrasse to investigate a couple Hotel signs.

We stopped by this little well, and Tom pulled Rick’s book out to see what his advice was for accommodations.

A minute later an enthusiastic and smiling woman walked up and asked, in broken English, if she could help. I told her we were looking for a room. “I have!” she said. Then, “I’m in the book!” I asked her where, and she pointed to her name on the page we were looking at.

Rick makes a small world out of a large one!

Irmgaard's B&B

So we stayed with Irmgaard Orth. Her place is across a narrow side street from another B&B that’s run by her sister-in-law (their husbands are brothers). Between my broken high-school German and her broken English, we got along well.

She served us breakfast at a table in her living room. We didn’t see any other guests, though I think she has two other rooms.

She also makes and sells honey and jams.

Out Back

We were in a room with bath on the 2nd floor overlooking a back courtyard for only €36 per night! Train noise is there, but not too bad. The shower is so tiny you can barely turn around, but it’s a shower.


We had dinner at Altes Haus, the oldest restaurant in town – our first German Schnitzel, and it was quite good.

Cobblestone Streets

We took a little walk around town. There are only really two parallel streets, with little closes connecting them. This is one of the big streets.

Wandering home, we heard a guy playing Flamenco guitar on his balcony and we stopped to listen for a while, just standing in the street below.

The detour to the Rhine valley was magical. It rained hard in the morning, but cleared up (as Irmgaard predicted) and was mostly sunny the rest of the day.

Breakfast was simple but good, with Irmgaard’s homemade jams and honey, boiled eggs, sliced ham and cheese and rolls.

Internet service at the Posthof/TI was coin-op stand-up with a difficult keyboard. I tried to reserve our overnight train to Prague, but couldn’t navigate the Deutche Bahn website. The attendant says we can make it from Maintz tomorrow.

Burg Stahleck

So we hiked up the hill behind the town to Burg Stahleck, which is found in records as far back as 1135.

It’s been a youth hostel since 1925, but had a long life as a center for river-side robber barons, then for the wine region, a way-station for timber from the Black Forest, etc.

It was a pleasant walk up between flower-laden chalets and vineyards,


then became quite a steep climb as we neared the top,

but the views were great.


Castle Hostel

After strolling around the top for a while we bought a sparking apple juice (my new fave) from a machine at the hostel.

The Hike Back Down

Then we hurried back down the hill to make the 12:15 cruise to St. Goar. If we missed it, the next one wasn’t until 15:15.

Cruising the Rhine

Turned out the cruise was running a little late and we made it in plenty of time. They just waved us on with our Eurail pass.

The Rhine river is a major transportation route, not just a holiday spot. There was serious river traffic.

Rhine Valley Castles

Rick says the best part of the Rhine River tour is the part between Bacharach and St. Goar, so that’s the part we did, reading his self-tour along the way.

There were a lot of old castles, built by robber barons who exacted tolls on the river traffic. An early version of "protection money".


St. Goar

The town of St Goar sits on the river below its famous castle. We had a little lunch at a sidewalk café (mostly in the street, really, but it’s kind of hard to tell.)

Kitschy Transport

We rode the Tschu-Tschu Express up the hill to the Rheinfels Castle above the town.

Rheinfels Castle

When you buy your ticket to the castle they give you a self-guided tour map in whatever language you ask for. We followed it, but got a little lost. Should have used Rick's self-tour instead.

The castle is huge and easy to get lost in. And they were breaking down from a concert the night before, so there were bits of stage and electronic scattered about. Quite a contrast to the ancient rock walls.


Quite a view back down over the river.


Castle Model

The little museum in the castle included a model of the castle. We thought this was a layout for a particular battle, but I think it's bits from a lot of different battles. The little placards identify the various armies. It's a bit confusing.

Interesting to see what the castle once looked like, though.

Walked back down to the town via the Vineyard Path, although we were looking for the Nature Walk. It was a pleasant walk back down into town, through parks and churchyards, along the layered streets.

Surely there's something we can get you to buy!

Got back with an hour to spare for the boat back. Had a little ice cream and conversation, then caught the last boat back upstream at 17:20.

Cruising Back to Bacharach

I got a little chilly on the trip back, but my silk wrap helped a lot – rolled small and light, I kept it in my bag for the whole trip.

We got some great light on the riverside vineyards and castles. The one at the bottom here sits on a sandbar in the middle of the river and was built to look like a ship. Probably more effective when the water's higher.

Even the rail tunnels beside the river are castle-shaped.

Back in Bacharach, we had one last night with Irmgaard before heading back out to find our Night Train to Vienna.


1 Beginning 5 Paris 9 Frankfurt and the Night Train 13 Bavaria and Tirol
2 London to Edinburgh 6 Bruges 10 Vienna 14 Motorcycles in the Alps
3 The Fringe 7 Amsterdam 11 Hallstatt and the Salzkammergut 15 Switzerland near Interlaken
4 Scotland and Wales 8 Bacharach in the Rhine Valley 12 Salzburg 16 Home again

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