13th November – 20th November
We had a nice day today. We rode the 4kms into Cologne, parked our bikes and walked a 2km route around the two main bridges, Hohenzollernbrücke and Deutzer Brücke. On the
Hohenzollernbrücke (bridge) there are tens of thousands of coloured locks hung on the wire fence along the train line that crosses the Rhine river. The walk took about 15 minutes and the view back was breathtaking with the Cologne Cathedral and the Gross St Martin church in clear view. We had a walk around for a little while amazed at the work that was going on in the squares. It was only two days ago that the carnivale was on but the amount of work that has been done since then getting the squares ready for the Christmas markets was amazing. A lot of the shops are dressed up ready for Christmas and it was so pretty, I love this time of year, especially in Europe. It seems so much more effort is put into the festive season here. We had our lunch before heading to the cathedral which is the largest in Germany. Among the cathedral’s numerous treasures is the Shrine of the Three Kings a richly bejewelled and gilded sarcophagus said to hold the remains of the kings who followed the star to the stable in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. It is a huge building with beautiful lacy spires and buttresses that make you forget about the sheer height and size of the building. As the weather was raining today we have postponed climbing the south tower, hopefully tomorrow will be better. From the cathedral we had a bit more of a wander around the shops which go for miles, a beer in a nice cafe while updating our blog then on the bikes again and home.
1018 steps, that’s how many we climbed up and down today when after walking into town, we headed the cathedral’s south tower for the climb to the base of the steeple. About half way up was the 24 tonne Peter Bell, the largest free swinging working bell in the world. We were in the bell tower at 11.30 when one of the smaller bells rung twice and the sound was awesome, the Peter Bell is only rung for special occasions. The fact that we had made it that far was a special occasion, but the Germans didn’t think so, so the bell stayed quiet. Once at the top, the views over Cologne were lovely. Looking over the Rhein in one direction, to the magnificent structure of the Gross St Martin church in the old town and over the Christmas markets that are currently under construction. Back down 509 steps and a walk through town before speaking to our eldest son and his fiancé on Skype. There were lots of people around, possibly one of the busiest places we have visited since Munich. We had a nice lunch at a cafe in town before walking the 4km journey home to rest our weary legs!
We are finally heading south albeit only just. A 20km drive has us now parked up 4km outside of Bonn. The drive down along the highway was a bit boring although the alternative was through an industrial area so we shouldn’t complain. We didn’t realise Bonn city area was an Umwelt zone which requires a vehicle to reach a certain environmental standard, suffice to say we got out of there as quickly as legally possible as we didn’t want to get caught and have to pay the €330 fine! The weather today is dry but it is extremely windy however we did venture out for a walk through the huge park next to the stellplatz and along the Rhine for a couple of kilometres. Being Sunday it wasn’t worth a walk into town, will leave that for tomorrow.
We rode into Bonn along the Rhine which was lovely. Once off the bikes we headed off to the centre. First stop was the Rathaus (town hall) and what a beautiful building it was with gold and silver trim. We also visited the Münster Basillica, a Romanesque church with some lovely frescoes on the walls. The Basilica was built on the graves of the two martyred Roman soldiers who later became the city’s patron saints. There was a small market happening in the square and like Cologne the Christmas markets were being erected. We found Bonn to be mainly a shopping town which must have been heavily bombed as there were no historical buildings to speak of apart from the Basilica and the Rathaus. Beethoven was born here however he only lived here for a short time and the house he lived in is now a museum.
We ended up moving last night because of the train noise and ended up in a car park right on the banks of the Rhine. It was lovely looking out of the window at the house lights and the lights on the boats as they drifted past. We also watched the ferry going from one side of the river to the other which took passengers as well as cars. There are several spots along the river where these ferries run, it is a much cheaper option than building a bridge. We had a short drive to Königswinter so that we could do a hike up to Schloss Drachenburg however we couldn’t find the designated car park for Motorhomes and everywhere else was a two hour limit. We drove around for ages but to no avail. We then decided we would check out how much it would cost to put Milly on the ferry as we needed to be on the other side of the river for our next destination of Remagen. It was only going to cost €3.90 but as the tide was low, we would have bottomed out at the other end which is not what we wanted, so we ended up driving almost back into Bonn and using a bridge to cross. The drive to Remagen was along the waters edge most of the way and upon arrival we had a nice walk along the Rhine into town. Remagen is only a small town and its claim to fame is a steel rail bridge which lasted long enough during the war for American troops to cross the Rhine, contributing significantly to the collapse of Hitler’s western front. Back to Tilly for another short drive, this time to Bad Bodendorf, our overnight stop. We have come here as we are following the Rhine south and this area has been highlighted as a great drive with beautiful scenery and lots of castles along the way.
Another short drive today and we arrived in the lovely town of Ahrweiler. This pretty little town is filled with half timbered houses and is almost entirely circled by a medieval town wall with four gates. After a walk around we hopped back into Tilly and headed to our next destination of Altenahr where there is a hike or two we would like to do. The carpark we are staying in is right on the Ahr river, which runs at the back of us. We had a walk into the town which is only just up the road. Altenahr is in the red wine growing region in Germany with vineyards for as far as the eye can see going up the hillsides. The peak tourist season is in September/October when bus loads of tourists come to sample the wines at the festivals held throughout the region.
Happy 1st birthday, Eleanor Jean.
We finally got our hike in. Our first stop was the Burg Are which was built around 1100 AD. It was destroyed on 1714 and the ruins remain at the top of a peak overlooking Altenahr. We met a lovely German lady up there who gave us a bit of history about the place. From there we joined up with the red wine hiking trail through the vineyards for a little way. We then changed direction and hiked up along the ridge line of the peak behind the town. There used to be a cable car that ran up to the peak from behind the carpark we are staying in, however it looks like it hasn’t been used for a long time, the house up there is all locked up and all of the equipment, including the chairs for the cable car have been left behind. We weren’t supposed to be in there but we snuck in as the view from there overlooking the valley and town was really lovely. The climb down was a bit scary given the path was hidden under a lot of fallen leaves and was very steep. We made it down with only one slip and it was worth the effort.
The weather is about to change over the next few days with snow flurries so even though it looked like rain, we decided to get another hike in, just in case. We walked 5.5 kms along the Ahr river which was very pleasant to the sleepy town of Mayschoss. Like Altenahr, the tourist season is over and it was very quiet. We then joined the red wine trail through the vineyards, up and over the hills and through a small forest. It did start to rain but we have always enjoyed walking in the rain so it wasn’t a problem for us. Some of the grapevines still had some fruit and leaves on them and others were bare so obviously they were different varieties. We did notice a lot of Riesling vines as well as the red varieties. The trail came in at the back of the Burg we visited yesterday and the path down was a bit like a small river but no injuries today on what was a nice outing.
21st November – 27th November
The journey to Urmitz took us through a variety of scenery, vineyards to start with, then forest minus all of the beautiful autumn leaves and the final leg along the Rhine. We also had a variety of weather, starting with sunshine, then rain, hail, more rain and we are now waiting for the snow which has been forecast for later today with minus 5 the temperature for tonight. Let’s see if it actually happens. Our stellplatz is again right on the Rhine and we can watch all of the boat traffic pass.
No snow, at least not that we could see when we woke up. Another short drive to Koblenz through the narrow back streets. We found a car park near the Sportzplatz on the river again, so unless we are asked to move on, this is home for the next 2 nights. We walked into Koblenz which sits at the confluence of the Moselle and Rhine rivers, about 2 kms away from our parking spot. At the point of confluence known as the ‘German Corner’ is a statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I on horseback and a climb up to the base of it gives a great view up the river. We walked into town and the Christmas markets here are all set up and ready to go. They opened on Friday however were closed today being Sunday. We will see them tomorrow when we venture into town again for a good look around.
We slept late this morning, not getting up until 8.45! Oh the retirement life. We headed off into town again after breakfast and we’re delighted to see the Christmas markets open with all of their fairy lights lit. The markets here are quite small but the feeling is just the same, you can’t help but smile as you walk around looking at all the wares. Th smell of Gluwein (hot mulled wine), lebkuchen (a ginger and spice biscuit) and 1/2 metre long sausages filled the air. We toyed with the idea of a Gluwein to warm us up, but it was a bit early in the day for it. We walked around the markets and shops for awhile before stopping at a really nice cafe for lunch. A walk back along the Rhine home and we are still waiting for the snow. I dare say once it comes, we will be wishing it away.
Our journey today has us continuing along the Rhine river through what is known as “The Romantic Rhine Valley” through the Rhine gorge which starts at Koblenz. This section of the Rhine is said to be Germany’s most dramatic landscape with craggy cliffs and nearly vertical vineyards on the hillsides. Villages appear around every bend and medieval castles sit high above the river. Our first stop was Boppard, a town on a horseshoe bend in the river. We had a walk into town along the riverside and back through the Main Street. It is only a little place but is a gateway to some great hikes, one of which we did. The Gedeonseck, a 240 metre hike straight up gave us some amazing views on a hairpin bend and up the Rhine. The four lakes panoramic outlook there creates the illusion of four lakes rather than one river and it was here we had our first touch of snow for this trip that had fallen last night and was still on the ground. We travelled a bit further up the road to St Goar which we will explore tomorrow. We are again parked in a carpark next to the Rhine watching the many barges and some river cruise boats go past.
Today we caught the ferry across to the other side of the river to the town of St Goarshausen. Not quite the Rhine River cruise I had in mind, but we needed to do this crossing to hike up to Loreley, the most fabled spot along the Romantic Rhine. It is an enormous, almost vertical slab of slate that owes its fame to a mythical maiden whose siren songs are said to have lured sailors to their death in the river’s treacherous currents. At this point the Rhine is at its narrowest and deepest. The climb up was not too bad, only 400 odd steps but again the views in both directions were worth it. Upon our return journey on the ferry we walked into St Goar and found most of it closed! We are finding this more as we get closer to Christmas, a lot of tourist attractions have shut for winter, however we can still walk around places, we just can’t get in to them, but that’s ok. We did notice when we were at the peak on Loreley and on a couple of houses and cars up there that there had been some snow last night, but none where we were parked. The rest of the day was spent watching the river traffic which I will never tire of.
We drove a short distance to Bacharach again through the rugged scenery along the Rhine. We walked through one of the thick arched gateways under the train tracks to find a medieval old town full of half timbered houses. As with St Goar, a lot of shops were closed for the “winter pause” however we walked up to the ruin of the Wernerkapelle (church) which gave us a view over the Rhine. From there, we headed to Bingen Am Rhein, 20kms up the river where we will stay for a couple of days. Rüdesheim Am Rhein is on the other side of the river and will be the starting point of our hike tomorrow.
Our walk into Bingen Am Rhein this morning along the Rhine was through very thick fog, so thick that we couldn’t see the other side of the river. There a lovely boardwalk along the Rhine leading into town with several wine bars and restaurants along the way. After a walk around the small town, where the shops were actually open, we caught another ferry across to Rüdesheim am Rhein which is famous for its Christmas market. As it was so foggy, we decided that it would be a waste of time doing the hike as we wouldn’t be able to see anything. We walked up through Drosselgasse, a tunnel-like alley full of every souvenir you could possibly want as well as lots of restaurants and pubs. The Christmas markets were all around this and some of the surrounding streets, it looked so pretty. There are so many Christmas decorations we would like to buy, but they would be in pieces by the time we got them home which is such a shame as some of them are quite unique. We had a cup of Gluwein (hot mulled wine) purely to warm us up as the temperature today is minus 2, the coldest day we have had so far but still no snow.