Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Romantic Rhine River

In the midst of a mighty snowstorm we ventured to Germany to see the Rhine River. Not sure we thought it out all the way since it was snowing in Brussels....which meant it would for sure be white and icy in Germany. After a harrowing drive we made it, and it was worth it in the end to witness the Romantic Rhine! Here are some of the images I found online... I never knew there we so many castles dotting this river region. It is absolutely incredible.We had hopes of dropping by Frankfurt on the way, but when snow started dumping on the mountain roads we thought it best just to make it to our home base in Bacharach, Germany safely before dark. We got there and breathed a half sigh of relief only to be fretting again when we saw the icy, treacherous hill leading up, up, up to our hotel. We drove 2 feet before the tires slid and decided there was just no way. I was so excited about staying at this castle-turned-hostel, but the location towering above the city proved an initial downfall. That is our hostel-castle at the top of the photo above. We were to stay at the Jugendherberge Hostel in Bacharach's mighty hilltop Stahleck castle built in the 12th century. These were the images of it online that had me all jazzed up about our 40 euro castle overnight deal.Of course in the snow far below with no way up things look mighty different. We parked the car in a lot at the Rhine and decided we would just have to find a way on foot to make it up to our castle. Thankfully we packed very light. Not so thankfully all Connor wanted to do was play in the snow and hiking with a strollerless 2 year old was not my idea of fun...memorable, yes, but not joyful.

We saw these signs and were a little relieved that there did seem to be a footpath up.After a lot of huffing and puffing, sweating and asking ourselves, "What the heck are we doing?" we made it up the 300 steps to the Jugendherberge Castle Hostel. Connor still gleeful but her Mom and Dad exhausted and grateful simply to have made it.
The views from the top proved worth the climb. The snow around the river and the vineyards gracing the hillsides were perfect. I can only imagine in the leafy-green state it is beautiful too, but this was a wonderful winter wonderland without the crowds of summer.
The hostel was warm and welcoming. They served dinner in a family cafeteria that Connor gobbled up and then a hearty breakfast the next morning, so we didn't have to leave once we nestled in.
We had a cozy, private room with a sink and the bathroom a few doors down the hall. Quite the deal for 40 euros. And the views out our castle windows were something else...In anticipation of our castle adventure I packed these wooden "friends" to go along with the medieval theme. We had fun with them - stacking them, making them fall like dominos, and making the dragon growl.And best of all, this hostel had - dum da dum....a toy room! We let Connor loose in the morning while Kirk and I moved slowly, enjoying the view from indoors. Every hotel should have such a thing. It was heavenly.
When we finally did get up the gumption to leave our castle hideaway and trudge back down the mountain we were better prepared and dressed for snow play along the way.
We taught Connor how to make snow angels. And now she just cannot get enough!
Everywhere we went she wanted to plant herself in the snow and wave those arms and legs.
We explored Bacharach and then drove up and back the Rhine River Valley. Spotting castle after castle after castle along the way.I still don't totally grasp why there are so many castles along the Rhine, but they were gorgeous and fun to point out.
These are near the Lorelei curve in the Rhine. Supposedly a very dangerous turn to navigate. The gigantic barge boats were everpresent scooting quickly through the river.
We tried to explore Reinsfeld Castle in St Goar (below) but it was closed due to all the snow. Too bad.Driving the Rhine River Valley was a terrific overnight trip from Brussels. The snow complicated things a little, but in the end it made for a funny all-around memory. And Connor's first snow angels...priceless.

Click here for full album photos of our Romantic Rhine trip in the SNOW!


Dallas said...

Looks like a really cool hostel. If you have Rick Steve's Germany book, he does a good job of explaining the history of the castles. That's a beautiful area to drive along.

Kirk, Reid and Connor said...

"...if we have the Rick Steve's Germany..."

You know us better than that Dallas! I think we own at least one edition of every country he's published!

Karen said...

This makes me really excited about planning our trip for the spring!