Powered by Blogger.

Bacharach, the Romantic Rhine, and the Marksburg Castle Visit that Never Happened

Bacharach, the Romantic Rhine, and the Marksburg Castle Visit that Never Happened | CosmosMariners.com

For the most part, our trip to Germany ran smoothly: we stuck to our schedule, all of the hotels we'd booked were waiting on us, and we stayed on budget.

But, there were a few times scattered across that two week road trip that we floundered despite our best efforts.

And that, my friends, brings me to the story of our time in Bacharach, the cutest little town on the Romantic Rhine, and why Marksburg Castle just didn't happen for us.

As we made our way across Germany towards Luxembourg, we tried to get a taste of as many areas of the country as possible, stopping in Bavaria, winding our way up the Romantic Road, and stopping over for a few days in the Rhine area. After much research, my mom, sister, and I (the architects of the itinerary) settled on Bacharach as our Romantic Rhine headquarters, largely due to the fact that we kept reading how cute, quaint, and adorable it was.

Bacharach had some big shoes to fill on the adorable town front as we'd left Rothenburg ob der Tauber in our rearview mirror that morning. While it was completely different than the walled medieval beauty we'd recently explored, Bacharach's wandering cobblestoned alleys, enviable position along the Rhine, and its imposing castle made us happy that we'd stopped there.

Bacharach, the Romantic Rhine, and the Marksburg Castle Visit that Never Happened | CosmosMariners.com

If you're planning a trip, know that Bacharach's charm is its first and foremost attraction. You won't find museums or big name stores here: the tiny streets are filled with small bars and restaurants, sweet art shops, and half-timbered houses dripping with vines.
Bacharach, the Romantic Rhine, and the Marksburg Castle Visit that Never Happened | CosmosMariners.com

Bacharach, the Romantic Rhine, and the Marksburg Castle Visit that Never Happened | CosmosMariners.com

Bacharach, the Romantic Rhine, and the Marksburg Castle Visit that Never Happened | CosmosMariners.com

We took time to stop and smell the metaphorical roses while we were in Bacharach which was quite a welcome change of pace after the non-stop touring in Munich, the Alps, and the Romantic Road.

Hotel Am Markt

Bacharach, the Romantic Rhine, and the Marksburg Castle Visit that Never Happened | CosmosMariners.com

After checking into our hotel, the Hotel Am Markt, we wandered the streets as darkness fell. We headed back to eat at the hotel's restaurant, which turned out to be quite a good meal (and very convenient as we only had to walk up two flights of stairs to return to our room!).

Bacharach, the Romantic Rhine, and the Marksburg Castle Visit that Never Happened | CosmosMariners.com
My sister, daughter, and I at dinner
Since I was traveling with my sister, my daughter, and my parents, we'd been given the family suite at the hotel, which boasted two bedrooms, a living room, and a full kitchen. I won't lie: my parents snore, and it was always a treat to have a separate--and quieter--room. Oh, the things one deals with when traveling with family (but I wouldn't have it any other way!).

Check out the little turret on the second story (or first floor, for my European readers): that's one of the windows in the bedroom I shared with my sister and daughter!

Bacharach, the Romantic Rhine, and the Marksburg Castle Visit that Never Happened | CosmosMariners.com


Marksburg Castle: You Say Hello, and I Say Goodbye

The next morning, we got up and got ready for a full day of sightseeing along the Rhine. First up on the list of things to do was head to Marksburg Castle, one of the most well-preserved castles in Germany, and a 45 minute drive up along the Rhine. This was something that my mom and sister had both put on the top of their "Things We're Excited to Do in Germany" lists, so they were happy to finally see that day arrive.

Bacharach, the Romantic Rhine, and the Marksburg Castle Visit that Never Happened | CosmosMariners.com

As the trip navigator, I'd been put in charge of locating each day's activities and getting us to and from each place. Up until this day, I'd been successful and hadn't gotten us lost even once. That day's navigations should've been pretty easy: up the highway to Koblenz, turn right on the only bridge for a hundred miles, turn right again onto the highway that ran along the other side of the Rhine and arrive at Marksburg. There's only one road on either side of the river, so I figured the chances of us getting lost were slim.

As we meandered along the banks of the Rhine, we had fun spotting the many ruined castles along the peaks of the surrounding mountains. As our car ate up those final miles Koblenz, we saw Marksburg Castle on the other side of the river, and we were all happy at the prospect of getting out and sightseeing.
Bacharach, the Romantic Rhine, and the Marksburg Castle Visit that Never Happened | CosmosMariners.com
Right castle, wrong side of the river
Just a few moments further down the road, we saw a sign in German. My German's not great, but, since there weren't any blinking lights or police cars next to it, my dad and I decided it was just telling us about a pot hole or something. There weren't many cars on the road with us, but the few that were just veered around the sign, too.

As we got closer and closer to Koblenz, more cars started to turn off onto other roads until we were the only ones in sight. Like I said, the roads were fairly quiet that morning, but it was unusual to be riding completely alone. About that time, we saw a huge road block covering both lanes and more signs (in German that I couldn't read, naturally), and a road crew cutting a few limbs off of the trees beyond the road block.

There wasn't a detour sign. There wasn't a helpful tree cutter telling people to turn around. Just a huge board stretched across the road.

This was particularly frustrating for a few reasons:

1) There's only one road up the Rhine and one road down it on the other side. Since the Romantic Rhine is an UNESCO World Heritage Site, they don't allow bridges from one side to the other but in a few selected places. Other than the one at Koblenz (which we could practically see we were so close), the next one was over 2 hours away. [Note: if you're visiting in 2016 and beyond, there's supposedly a bridge being built near St. Goar which would've really helped us in this situation.] Even if we wanted to go forward to Koblenz, we were going to have to make our way out of the Loreley Valley into the surrounding mountains, and circle our way back into Koblenz, which was an equally difficult option.

2) We could see Marksburg Castle, but short of seeing if the rental car would float, there was no way to get there that wouldn't ruin all of the other plans we had that day.

Ugh. So, our adventure to Marksburg Castle died a very quick death and we had to rework our beautifully laid plans. When traveling, I love to go off-script if I see something fun or interesting to do, but to have our itinerary derailed by something as banal as a tree cutting team (that didn't even seem as if it needed to close both sides to cut the branches) was as huge let down.

That being said, I still strongly encourage you to visit the Romantic Rhine! Bacharach is gorgeous, and wandering in and out of the little towns of the river is a taste of true Germany.

Know Before You Go:


Bacharach, the Romantic Rhine, and the Marksburg Castle Visit that Never Happened | CosmosMariners.com
Bacharach in the foreground and Stahleck Castle on the top of the hill
  • Bacharach is a great base for your Romantic Rhine explorations. Sandwiched in between St. Goar and Bingham am Rhine, this quaint town is at the center of the Middle Rhine Valley. During the warmer months, sit by the river and wave to the many (many!) river cruise boats that pass the town if you're feeling lazy. Since most of the Rhine is within an hour's drive or so, you could explore everywhere from Mannheim and Worms to Bonn and Koblenz.


  • Stahleck Castle, that imposing hunk of a building on the ridge above Bacharach, is a youth hostel (and yes, you can actually stay in it!). It's had quite the storied history: it was the first large castle in the area back when it was built in the 12th century, was fought over for much of the 12th and 13th century, and ended up in the hands of the royal family, the Wittlesbachs.

    During their ownership, the castle served as a election spot for Ludwig IV as well as the wedding location for Emperor Charles IV and his wife Anna. The castle saw some tough times during the Thirty Years' War when it was nearly completely destroyed, and the ruins were left for nearly three and a half centuries.

    In the early years of the 20th century, the castle ruins were fortified by its new owners, the Rhenish Association for Landmark Preservation, an endeavor that was stalled by World War I. Finally, after World War I ended, the Association slowly began to turn the castle into a youth hostel, and, in 1926, the castle opened for its first visitors in several hundred years. The youth hostel was instantly popular, and demand for its beds outpaced the restoration efforts.

    However, in 1935, the castle was rededicated as one of the Jugenburgen or youth castles that was a part of the early Nazi Youth regime. The Nazi party oversaw additional reconstruction on the property until the castle was repurposed as a military hospital in the early 1940s. During this time, the children who'd been taken from their homes in Luxembourg and Austria were placed here in an effort to educate them in the Nazi party politics. Those who protested were put under house arrest and then sent to the front. 

    After the war, the castle again became a youth hostel despite the poor economic conditions that Germany was facing. Since the late 1940s, it has remained one of the largest--and most popular--places to stay in the Rhineland.


  • If fans of ruins (like myself), don't forget to spend some time at Werner Chapel Ruins. On this spot in the 13th century, a teenaged boy (St. Werner of Oberwesel) was killed; his death, which was blamed (mostly likely erroneously) on the local Jews, led to a wide-spread backlash against the German Jewish population. By the 15th century, St. Werner's Chapel became a pilgrimage site. Besides being a beautiful ruin, the site is a haunting reminder to each of its visitors of how quickly wariness of our fellow humans can lead to anger, hatred, and murder. 


  • Driving in Bacharach is a bit of a challenge. Unless you've reserved a parking spot at your hotel ahead of time, use the car park across Highway 9 (next to the river) and carry your luggage into town. We drove into the town since it was the off season and very quiet, but my dad, who's usually a very confident driver, was second guessing a few of the tight alleyways that double as roads there.
Is the Romantic Rhine on your travel bucket list? What frustrating moments have you experienced on your travels?
______________________________

Want even more travel goodness? Sign up for the newsletter and get the latest Cosmos Mariners updates, giveaways, and travel news right to your inbox!

Newsletter Signup Newsletter Signup