We dismbarked the Vater Rhein riverboat in Sankt Goar. First stop for this preggo lady was lunch. We walked past a restaurant when we noticed it was air conditioned (remember, it was about 106°F this day). I didn't even care what was on the menu. I would have probably eaten blutwurst (blood sausage) smothered in Limburger cheese if that's all they had (ok, probably not), but it was air conditioned. It would give us a chance to sit in cooler air and eat after sweltering on the boat, and before we began the trek up the mountain to Berg Rheinfels. For those that have been to Germany before, or even live here, you know what a rare and precious luxury air conditioning is. No one has it. But in my experience, the weather is never too hot for the Germans.
But I digress, as it turns out, it was a schnitzel restaurant, much more preferable, and more palatable, than Limburger cheese covered blutwurst. All they served was schnitzel. Jäger schnitzel, Wiener art, covered in cheese, plain, pork, turkey. The food was ok, decently priced, the water was cold (by German standards), and the temperature was much more comfortable than outside, so I am going to call this a win.
After enjoying a schnitzel in the air conditioned restaurant, we headed up to the castle. We first had to make our way through Sankt Goar, which is one of the cutest little towns in Germany. It has gotten pretty touristy, but the old half timbered buildings are still cute to walk amongst. I swear that there was an ice cream shop every 50 feet. I told myself that it would be my reward for surviving the trek up to the castle and then back down. Plus I was too full from schnitzel to even contemplate eating ice cream, no matter how cold it was.
The path to the castle was not very hard, nor very long, but it was hot nonetheless. We were rewarded with some amazing views looking over the Rhein. Once we made it to the castle, we paid the admission fee, gathered our self guided map, and headed in.
To get into to the castle, you pass through an old wooden door about 15 inches thick. It can either be fully opened to allow a cart and horse though, or there is a small, person-sized door that can also be used. The small door is the one that visitors use today. Today, Berg Rheinfells is pretty much ruins, but they are pretty well preserved and are actually quite large. There are rules that visitors must follow (stay on the path, don't climb the walls), but still, you are pretty free to explore. There are tunnels, narrow (and short) spiral staircases, underground caverns, and strategic defensive positions in and around the castle. For Aaron and I, it was like a playground for adults. I love exploring stuff like this. And the biggest bonus of all was there were a significant number of tunnels either underground, or with a breeze, that were about 30 degrees cooler than the air outside. It was like natural air conditioning and we spent a significant amount of time in there.
At one point, as we were climbing a short set of stairs that were slightly falling apart, we noticed a tunnel off to one side. Naturally, I had to head down it. Even for me, it was a little short, so I felt bad for the tall German with us. It went straight for a while before taking a sharp left and continuing. Here, the floor started to slope up and the tunnel got a little shorter. Off the sides of this tunnel were much smaller branching tunnels. Eventually, we reached a spiral staircase, climbed it, and emerged somewhere else. Where, we weren't exactly sure, but we soon figured it out. Quick note if you want to visit Berg Rheinfells: bring a flashlight. I think you can buy candles, but who wants to carry around a candle to light their way for a couple of hours? I mean, unless you're into hot wax and all, then more power to ya!
Once the castle was fully explored, we headed back down to the town to grab ice cream and the train. While on the cruise, I had noticed some old church ruins in the town of Bachrach and wanted to visit. It was only a 10 minute train ride from Sankt Goar to Bacharach. By the time we got there though, most of the town was closing up (it was 4PM), but we could still head up to the church ruins. The paneless windows were slightly eerie with their graceful arched shape, elegant and remaining supports. They kept nothing out, and looked out over the river, almost like vacant eyes. Most of the ruins were fenced off, most likely to keep vandals out and people safe.
Bacharach really is one of the most beautiful towns I have ever seen. It's nestled in a valley, flanked by vineyards on all sides. It still has it's town wall and half timbered houses, some of which are over 600 years old (let that one sink in for a minute - this was over 200 years BEFORE the pilgrims landed at Plymouth rock), and the streets are the requisite cobblestone. The meandering streets and slightly off kilter lines in the houses lend this town an almost story book feel. It's sometimes hard to imagine that people actually live and work in places that look like this. Since it was late, and we were hot, we didn't spend a lot of time in Bacharach, but is definitely on my list of places to go back to visit.
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