Gadget by The Blog Doctor.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Europe 08 Cochem to Rudesheim

As we started out today we did not realise what a long day it was to become.

We split up this morning. Margaret stayed with the ship and cruised to Koblenz while I took the excursion to the Cochem. I disembarked with the others going to Cochem at the village of Winningen. The bus trip took 45 minutes. We had passed the town during the night so we were retracing our night time travel. We passed many small picturesque towns. There were also a surprising numbr of camping / caravan parks along the river.

When we arrived in Cochem, we first went on a tour of the town, which was first mentioned in documents of 866. It received its town charter in 1332. Among the sights that we saw was the a Tower Gate dating from 1332.

We traveled to the castle through narrow, winding, steep streets. The castle was first mentioned in documents in 1051, but most of the current castle does not date from that time as it was destroyed by King Louis XIV's forces in 1689. This was during the War of the Palatinate Succession , sometimes called the Nine Years War. For more details on the history of the castle see this site. Many other castles in the Rhineland were destroyed by the French at this time. Like most of them, Cochem Castle was not rebuilt until the romantic era in the 19th century made old ruins attractive again. In 1868 a Berlin businessman, Mr Louis Ravene bought the castle and rebuilt it in the neo-gothic style. Some of the current building dates to the one that was destroyed. Since 1878 the castle has been owned by the town of Cochem.

The first floor rooms have been furnished so we toured them. They contained some beautiful and expensive pieces of furniture. One of the balconies gave a spectacular view over the town and the river valley. The link to the castle web site above contains a gallery of internal pictures.

The photograph below shows the river, the town and the castle on the hill in the background.

We traveled back to join the Amadagio in Koblenz, at the confluence of the Moselle and Rhine rivers. The name means confluence. The town dates to Roman times and on her walking tour of Koblenz, Margaret saw a roman bridge dating from 49 AD. She saw many historic buildings and and learned some of the history of the town. She shopped for jewelry in the modern part of town, in a Schmuck jewelry shop.

After lunch the crew un-moored the ship and we sailed to the junction of the rivers and turned starboard into the Rhine. It was a beautiful, sunny and warm afternoon to cruise the famous Rhine Gorge, a 65 km stretch of the river between Koblenz and Bingen. The sides of the valley are often steep, reaching sometimes to 200 metres. The natural beauty is part of its charm, but it is most famous for the many castles that are generally perched high on the banks above the river.

One of the most attractive was Marksburg castle, towering on a high crag above Braubach. Is the only fully preserved medieval fortress on the Rhine. It was owned successively by the Eppsteins, the Counts of Katzenelnbogen, and, from 1479, the Landgraves of Hesse, until it fell to the Prussians in 1866, along with Braubach. In 1899 Kaiser Wilhelm II presented the castle to the "Association for the Preservation of German Castles". This association has spared no effort or expense in looking after the building, and has repaired the heavy damage suffered under artillery fire during the last war. The tower, 130 ft. high.

As we cruised the gorge, Lilo, our cruise director, gave a commentary on the castles that we passed. Most of the castles had been destroyed during the Nine Years War, and had been restored during the 19th and 20th Centuries. Watching the beauty around us is was hardly a surprise that the Rhine Gorge had been declared a UNESCO world heritage site.

The Rhine is much wider that the Moselle. The sunny banks were covered with vines and we passed many attractive riverside towns. The valley is a major transport route. The river carries many ships, many of them barges carrying raw materials, and there is a road and railway on either side. Some of the entrances to the railway tunnels looked more like castles than modern constructions. This was done during the second world war, to protect them from allied bombing, as early on there was an agreement not to bomb monuments. That agreement clearly went by the board later in the war. We also passed Loreley Rock which is famous as geographically the narrowest section of the river and in German folklore as the location of a siren who lured sailors to their fates with her hypnotizing voice. Read more here and here . There is a German song about the rhine maiden's beguiling boatmen to their deaths. The words and music can be found here .

At 7:00 pm, during dinner, we arrived at the town of Rudesheim, the most visited of all Rhine villages. It is famous for a little street called the Drosselgasse . This street, less than 100 metres long and less than two metres wide, is jammed with restaurants totalling more than 2,500 seats.

After dinner we boarded a "toy train" similar to the one in Monmatre, and were taken to Siegfried's Musical Kabinett. There we were introduced to a wide range of mechanical musical instruments. One of the first instruments was an original cylindrical gramaphone. The guide played one of the cylinders, and some of you would be interested to know that it was clearly a Salvation Army band and songsters. We are all familiar with pianolas, but many of the music players were much more complex. One included six violins. A circular "bos" moved rotated constantly and the strings were pushed mechanically (outward) to be sounded by the bow! The building that housed the instruments was quite old. There were ceiling murals dating from 1559, which were in the process of rennovation. Naturally we exited through a shop. This is where Margaret bought Amanda's birthday present - a musical box.

We walked back to the boat via the Drosselgasse, and had a Rudesheim Coffee with two New Yorkers, Joe and Sarah. We had an interesting conversation about living in the big apple in a German restaurant. Rudesheim Coffee is a German version of Irish Cofee, replacing whisky with brandy.

The photograph below shows Margaret in the Drosselgasse.

As I said at the outset it was a long day, but very enjoyable.

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