Rhine Valley: The Land of Legends
Germany is at its most beguiling as you float through the Rhine Valley. This is the land of the
Nibelungen saga's dwarfs, river maidens and darker heroes, of the enticing siren Lorelei, and of
fairytale castle ruins atop soaring mist-shrouded crags. But it's also a land of historic
vineyards, elegant avenues of poplars and flower-filled gardens. In the cheery, colourful
villages, the quaint half-timbered gingerbread houses look good enough to eat. Rhinelanders
themselves have a healthy appetite for the good life; where better to taste and compare wines
than Koblenz, looking west the Mosel vineyards and south to those of the Rhine Valley?
But it is the small villages that give the Rhine Valley its distinctive character. If
Rüdesheim is the best known of the wine villages, Bacharach may be the prettiest, while
Boppard and Lorch, each with attractive castles and churches, can make equal claims to producing
some of the Rhine's very best white wines. Assmannshausen boasts a potent red wine and hot
springs that have cured aches and pains since Roman times. Bingen is famous both for its wines
and for its legendary bishop, devoured in a dungeon in the middle of the river. And don't let
anyone tell you these legends are not true. Five summer nights are true magic: between May and
September, the 'Rhein in Flammen' (Rhine in Flames) firework displays illuminate the towns,
villages, castles and palaces between Rüdesheim and Bonn—a splendid spectacle viewed from one of the steamers gliding slowly downstream.
The Middle Rhine
Beyond Rüdesheim and Bingen, the Rhine enters the Rhenish Slate Mountains: this is the ‘heroic Gap’, a section stretching 130km (80 miles) towards Bonn. The steep slopes are planted with terraced vineyards and interspersed with castle ruins. Around half way along, the town of Koblenz, the northern door to the Upper Middle Rhine, also provides access to other spectacular landscapes: vineyards of the Mosel River and volcanic hills on the lower portion of the Middle Rhine.
The Upper Middle Rhine
The most beautiful section lies between Bingen and Koblenz, is listed by Unesco as a World Heritage Site and is also known as the ‘Romantic Rhine’.
Directly west of Wiesbaden stretch the sunny southern slopes of the Rheingau vineyards, some of the biggest wineries were founded by monasteries, such as that of Schloss Johannisberg. Alone the bank you will see charming wine villages such as Eltville (km 511) or Destrich-Winkel (km 519). Rudesheim (km 526) is perhaps the best-known of them all. Its Drosselgasse has the liveliest collection of taverns and wine-cellars in the region. Here, in an atmosphere of perpetual festivity, try the Rheingau’s famous Rieslings, sparkling Sekt and locally distilled brandies. Find out how it is all done in the Rheingauer Wine Museum at the Brömserbury castle (built around 1200). Most of the original timber-framed houses were bombed in World War II, but the reconstructed replicas are very picturesque.