Our main purpose in visiting the charming town of Rüdesheim was to take a Rhein River cruise on the KD line. In researching the town, I was delighted to find that the Abbey of Hildegard of Bingen is also located above the town. If you are not familiar with Hildegard, she was a truly amazing woman that lived during the 11th century. She is famous for many things, but I learned of her through singing her music at my church. We decided to spend two nights here so we would not be rushed.
The train from Frankfurt was quite crowded, but we were traveling on a Saturday morning. A lovely German couple sat with us for part of the journey. She had been an English teacher (he was a retired teacher as well) and so we were able to have a conversation with them. When we travel for a couple of months at a time, it is a real treat to be able to speak to someone other than one’s spouse! They told us that as senior citizens, they are able to use the rail system for free on the weekends. There is a distance limit, but nonetheless, that is a great benefit. They were headed to the town before Rüdesheim to do some hiking. He told us that due to global warming, the summers have become unbearably hot. Air conditioning is rare, so it is difficult to manage the heat. There was no air conditioning in Rüdesheim; at least none at any place we visited. The temperature stayed in the mid-90’s during the day and dropped down to the 60’s at night. I loved the town, but the heat made it really difficult (I don’t manage heat well unless I get the chance to cool off occasionally).
Our train journey took a little over an hour so we arrived in Rüdesheim around 11 am. This was too early to check in to our hotel so we dropped our bags and had a couple of drinks (beer for Clayton; Rüdesheimer Rhine wine for me!). On the short walk from the train station we passed by a castle and a wine museum. We also noticed a cable car taking people up the hillside. We weren’t exactly sure what was at the top so weren’t sure if we would want to take the trip up or not.
The town itself is very small and walkable. Our hotel was on the main street, which runs parallel to the Rhine River. We located the dock for the boat ride that we would take the following day, then found a café for lunch. There is no shortage of places to eat in the town; the streets are lined with restaurants and ice cream parlors. With the hot weather, ice cream was definitely a popular item!
Further down the main street, we found the Tourist Information office. I wanted information on how to reach the Abbey. It is a little over a mile from town but up a steep hill. Normally, we would walk but as hot as it was, we decided we would take a cab. We were given a booklet outlining the main tourists sites in the surrounding area.
After peeking into St. Jakobus Catholic Church, we decided to make a stop at the Medieval Torture Museum. Nothing more fun than torture devices, right? The displays had information in both German and English and so we were able to fully absorb the horror of just how each device caused pain to the unlucky person being tortured. It seemed that most of these were used during the Inquisition. I was unaware that Germany was part of that era, but as you can see from the list of rules below, people had to declare their allegiance to the Catholic church several times per year.
By now it was close to check-in time so we headed back to our hotel (HotelTraube Rüdesheim). The hotel is everything you would expect a small hotel in a German town to be – very charming. It turns out that our room was on the 4th floor (the elevator only went to the third) so we had to haul our bags up a flight of stairs. Normally no big deal, but have I mentioned how hot it was? Our room was “cozy” and extremely warm. There was a small fan on the desk but no air conditioning. We hadn’t really been expecting any but were hoping to be pleasantly surprised. No such luck. We opened the windows to try to get some fresh air going through; I am not sure how much it helped. The hotel did have a nice indoor pool so I was able to cool down a bit by going for a quick swim.
Other than dinner we didn’t do anything too exciting during the evening. Later, as we were trying to get to sleep, we could hear the sounds of accordion music and group singing going on. I sent to the window to see where it was coming from but there were no bars, hotels, or restaurants that I could see that I could attribute the merriment to. It was kind of fun to listen to. The first song was, “Edelweiss” and next up was, “The Happy Wanderer”. That one was followed by several rounds of cheers. It sounded like people were having a wonderful time. Not a bad way to fall asleep.
Breakfast at the hotel was outstanding; lots of delicious choices. Our plan for the day was to take the boat trip up the Rhine as far as St. Goar and to take the train back. We would attend Vespers at the Abbey and then have dinner in town.
The boat left at 9:15 am; we arrived early to buy our tickets. There is a 30% discount for those over 60. A 20% discount is available for those with a Eurail Pass. Just like we experienced in Frankfurt, we needed to pay in cash. There are multiple places on the river that a person can catch the boat, but Rüdesheim is the terminus and so it really paid off to board there. We were first on board and were able to scope out a great table on the top deck. By the time the boat left the dock, it was quite full. Those that boarded at later stops either had to stay below (losing out on the views) or stand until someone left the boat. The day was picture perfect. Though it was another scorcher, there was a nice breeze on the river that made it more bearable.
Commentary was given in multiple languages. For the most part, the commentary consisted of announcing which castle was coming up next. As you can see, I took plenty of pictures along the way! This is but a small sampling of my many photos!
We had read in Rick Steves’ book that the most scenic part of the river was between Rüdesheim and St. Goar. Eventually, the castles all start to look the same. Rick was right; we were on the boat until around 11 am and had seen all the castles we needed to!
Many people disembarked in St. Goar (fellow Steves fans?). Right off the dock is the town square. There was some type of festival going on. Many costumed people were standing around while bands played and speeches were given. I have no idea what was being celebrated but many of the participants were holding chalices of wine, so…The speeches kept referring to what sounded like, “der pumpen” and there were German, Australian and US Flags being waved. I don’t think the group waving the American flags were actually from the US; they didn’t seem to understand English when I greeted them!
Oh, die schönen Kinder!
To the right of the town square was the main street in town which was lined with multiple places to eat. We found a table outside a café and ordered a couple of sandwiches. We ordered one ham/cheese; one ham (no cheese). We got a ham/cheese and a cheese sandwich! I guess something got lost in the translation. Good thing I like cheese (Clayton doesn’t eat it). To our surprise, a parade composed of the costumed people in the town square marched past us! And, even more surprising, they turned around at the end of the street and marched past us again. It was really fun to be part of; very unexpected. I tried to look up on-line what the celebration was about but couldn’t find anything. Maybe it is something they do every weekend for tourists, who knows? Whatever the reason, it made the day pretty special.
Though we could’ve taken a boat back to Rüdesheim, we decided to take the train since our Eurail Pass allowed us to travel for free. Besides, we had already seen the beautiful scenery of the Rhine Valley and all of the castles that line the river. It took a little longer than expected because there is no direct train; the towns are across the river from each other. So, we ended up taking the train to Koblenz and then transferring to a train that took us back to Rüdesheim. There were a few more castles visible from the train!
Vespers was at 5:30 so we wanted to arrange to have a cab pick us up at 5 pm. Unlike Frankfurt, not too many people in Rüdesheim seemed to be able to converse in English, including most of the people that worked at our hotel. The first front desk person didn’t understand what we wanted so she found someone else that seemed to comprehend our request. He said he would make arrangements for us.
The cab was a bit late, but that was OK because the drive was just over a mile. The driver spoke no English whatsoever and despite us asking the front desk person to communicate ahead of time where we wanted to go, apparently this did not happen. I had my tourist book with me so was able to point out the Abbey. How much do you think a 1 mile cab ride should cost? We were mightily surprised to find that it was 11 Euros! Incredible, but what can you do? Since the town is so small, I wonder if they inflate their mileage charges because anywhere you would want to go is close. Anyhow, I wanted to make arrangements to be picked up after the service. I typed in my request into Google Translate; he shook his head no and gave us a card with a phone number to call instead.
The vespers service itself was interesting in that the nuns that sang were not visible. There was also no priest or nun to lead the service; for a half-hour, we sat while the organ played (also not visible) and the prayers and psalms were sung. It was a bit disconcerting to have no idea what the order of service was. But, the music was beautiful. By the time it was over, the gift shop was closed, which was too bad. The views from the abbey were lovely. Ideally, it would be better to visit earlier in the day but that didn’t work with our other plans. There is a café located there which is open for lunch that is supposed to be quite good.
I was able to call for a taxi with relatively little trouble. The dispatcher spoke enough English to understand where we needed to be picked up. The same taxi driver that drove us to the abbey picked us up, but he did not appear to remember us whatsoever. I asked him to take us HotelTraube; he whisked us down the hill and dropped us off at Hotel Trapp. I guess my German pronunciation needs a little work. Fortunately, the town is small enough that we could find our way back to where we actually wanted to go with little difficulty.
We had dinner at a café on the main street and then headed back to the hotel to pack up. We also paid for our room to save a little time in the morning since we would have a train to catch. Oddly enough, as I was drifting off to sleep, I once again heard Edelweiss, the Happy Wanderer, and the sounds of groups of people cheering. Exactly the same as the night before. Something is fishy here!
Our next stop is Berlin. The weather will be in the upper 90’s while we are there. Unfortunately, that will probably have an impact on our plans due to my problems due to my problems with heat. I guess some of that will depend on how much ac is available there!