Cycling & Rambling in the Rhine 20 May – 27 May, 2012
Rather than write a dry blow-by-blow account of what we did every day, I thought I’d try and explain why I think it’s worth coming here.
When I first visited this part of the Rhine, shortly after I moved here, I was frankly disappointed.
“What’s romantic about it?” I asked myself. “It’s full of traffic and trains blasting through the villages. It’s much too civilised. There’s no wind, no wilderness. No sea, too many trees – can’t get a decent view.” (I’m a Yorkshire lad; I like my wind and my wilderness.)
In the last thirty years, slowly, I’ve come to appreciate this wonderful area. I now realise that the best way to appreciate it is… of course… on foot and on bike.
My first group with Ramblers Worldwide Holidays
In that time the area, too, has changed. Walking has now become fashionable again – ‘cool’, even, as my younger friends tell me.
After a rather fanatically ‘green’ period, it has now become politically acceptable to clear a few trees to provide a good view. Suddenly, there are some really spectacular and unexpected vistas from the forest trails.
Some wonderful, new, long-distance trails such as the Rheinsteig have been created, providing some of the most scenic routes possible along the Rhein valley. So, if you came here years ago – come again and see how it’s changed.
The Rhine is not in the middle of nowhere. If it were, nobody would have bothered to build all those castles – and there truly lots of them. On the other hand, while you’re enjoying those views from the hillsides or walking through the vineyards or through the cool, green woods, it can feel like you’re miles away from civilisation.
As the Rhine has been one of Europe’s main commercial thoroughfares for centuries, it has a complex and sometimes astonishing history. I’m still continually being surprised by some new nugget of information or trivia. Coming from Britain, it’s also fascinating to see the quantity of huge barges struggling against the current and realise just how far they could be travelling.
Some of the small towns en route are highlights: the rose gardens in Eltville are gorgeous, if the roses are feeling so inclined, and Bacharach (no relation to Bert) is a real gem.
You’ll get to see a ridiculous quantity of 16th century half-timbered houses there, and it has some of the world’s most vertical vineyards. All that topped by a hillside castle which serves good, cheap coffee and offers panoramic views of the Rhine.
And then there’s the cycling. On this holiday the cycling is definitely easy: it’s all more or less flat and alongside the Rhine. Nearly all of it is on dedicated cycle tracks and takes you past nature reserves, villages, allotments, parks, ducks, geese, swans and ever changing views of the Rhine, vineyards, castles and forests.
Our first and third cycling days were combined with boat trips along the river (to get a suntan and the best views of the castles) and short stiff climbs on foot up to two castles (to explore the castles and get the best views of the river). On the middle day, I planned an optional uphill cycle ride to an old abbey, where they filmed ‘The Name of the Rose’, so that the more energetic could let off a bit of steam.
The hotel in Rüdesheim is great – they are so helpful and tried their utmost to do everything they could to make our group feel at home – including cooking very nice dinners using fresh local produce.
From the hotel in just a two-minute walk you’re in the vineyards, the quaint old town, or if you prefer, a very kitsch souvenir shop. In five minutes, after dinner, you could be walking beside the Rhine at sunset, enjoying the evening peace and spying on the goings-on in the cruise ships.
Being slightly alcoholically inclined, I love the municipal wine stands! Each village along the Rhine has one, often beautifully located. The local wine-growers take it in turns to man the wine stand and offer their excellent produce at reasonable prices (no relation to the grotty German wines usually on offer in British supermarkets). Purely by chance, several of the walks and cycle rides just happen to pass by one of these stands.
If the folk at Ramblers Worldwide Holidays are kind enough to allow me to lead this holiday again, I’d be happy to show you round, take you on a wonderful walk, a scenic cycle, and who knows, maybe enjoy the odd glass of chilled Riesling with you!
If any of my last group are reading this: hello again, thanks for the memories and I hope to see you again on another holiday!