German Rhine Untour, Spring of 2000
by Mary and Arthur Cooper, Marco Island, Florida
Wednesday, June 14:We left very heavily loaded, me with Frey chocolate and Mary with dishes, walked to take the 8:05 train to Luzern, where we had a 20 minute wait to change to Basel. We changed in Basel and in Mainz with about 5 minutes for each. Made them, with considerable anxiety, and arrived in St. Goar at 3:36 PM. Fortunately, Landlord Walter Huppertz met us with a handcart and we walked downhill about 5 minutes to the apartment. Getting hungry, we walked downtown to Lotte’s Keller for dinner. Our apartment is one of 6 or 8 over Weihnachthaus which faces the Rhine at 57 Heerstrasse. The apartment is entered from an alley on the south side of the shop and has windows overlooking two alleys. The toilet is in a separate compartment across the hail from the shower and lavatory The kitchen, L.R. and Bed Room are fairsized but have little light- 18w light in kitchen. I went out and bought some larger.. Separate small wall-mounted electric water heaters for kitchen sink and shower.
Thursday, June 15:Our orientation meeting was in Hotel Loreley, short distance from apartment on Heerstrasse. After the meeting, we lunched in the dining room with part of the group, and then went grocery shopping. Came home to fix supper, kitchen light was so dim, I went downtown to buy larger bulbs. Landlord would kill us for installing larger bulbs. Still can’t see how to wash dishes.
Friday, June 16:This morning, we took small ferry across Rhine to St. Goarshausen and walked about this attractive village, then took train south to Kaub on east bank. Kaub is a small old town 4 km north of Bacharach, where we had been in 1997. Old castle Burg Pfalz is located on a rock island in the middle of the Rhine and served as a toll booth for collecting toll from passing vessels, in the days of the Robber Barons.
On midnight, News Year Eve, 1813, German Marshall Bluecher crossed the Rhine east to west on a secretly-built pontoon bridge with an army. They slipped around the right flank of the French army undetected, and fought their way to Waterloo where they joined with Lord Wellington to defeat Napoleon.. We walked about town, had a delicious lunch where we had eaten three years ago. Then we went to the Bluecher Museum, now owned by the town. This was in an old 17th C. house which bad been used by Bluecher as his headquarters. It displays some of the old furniture, documents, uniforms and weapons of the period, and an interesting diorama of the crossing. We were furnished explanations in English, which told us that many of his troops had uniforms and weapons furnished by the English. It was an international army, including Russians, Mongols, Uhlans and others. It was an interesting display. We would have enjoyed a visit to Burg Pfalz but ran out of time.. It is undergoing repairs so we couldn’t have seen much.
Went home by train to St. Goarshausen and across river by ferry. Had fine supper in apartment with delicious salad, and strawberries on vanilla ice cream.
Saturday, June 17:Mary has always wanted to go to Nurnberg, but our local train station no longer has an information office (typical) and our train book does not have schedule outside this region. We decided to go to Koblenz Bhf for schedule. Arrived in Koblenz about noon, got schedules printed, and looked for tourist “I”. They gave us info and map and we started walking through the business-shopping district north toward the Mosel. Much of it was closed to auto traffic and jammed with shoppers. After shopping for pastries, we bought sandwiches, found a bench in the middle of the crowd and ate while watching people, all very cosmopolitan! Buildings and shops are very modem.
We had decided to return by KD ship so we checked the schedule. The last ship to St. Goar leaves at 2:00PM and it was then 1:40, and the ship landing was about a mile away. We hurried and when we got to dock, ship was still there. Mary went to the ticket office and I went to the gangplank. The ship waited for the “... frau in weisse Hutte” and left, it must have waited about one minute for us. We found a chair on the upper foredeck and sat back for the three hour ride to St. Goar. It was a perfect day, very sunny and crowded- all kinds of people. The shores were covered with people sunbathing, camping out. We docked at St. Goarshausen, turned and crossed to St. Goar on time at 17:05. At 16:00 we had gone below to the dinning salon and had Kaffee and Kasekuchen, a la euro!
After a brief rest, Mary cooked delicious shishkabob and rot kohl, with strawberries over ice cream for desert.
One of the shops we visited in Koblenz was a Spielwarren (toy store). It was the finest we have perhaps seen. It featured dolls, toy cars, trucks and trains. In the window, there was a model Seilbahn (cable car) which Mary wanted to buy at $150 + $40 shp. There were electric trains of all makes (Marklin et al) and sizes. There were dolls very life-like, small to large, priced up to 2500 DM ($1250). One thing was missing-model planes, engines and radio control. Oh yes, no plastic, Leggo or Fischer-Price.
Sunday, June 18:We were a bit lazy, good time to bath, shave, etc. About 3:00, we decided to walk up to Burg Rheinfels, the big old castle above St. Goar. We started walking up the very steep hill, when the tractor-drawn sight-seeing trailers came up. We flagged it down and hopped on, 1 DM each. The original castle dates to 1100 and has been reinforced and expanded numerous times. From it, the owners could sink any vessel not paying toll. It sits high above the river on steep slopes so any attack would come from the west side which was heavily fortified. The French destroyed it when they were forced to leave the area in about 1797. About 40 years ago, the city arranged for construction of a hotel restaurant adjacent to the rums. Inside the castle is a fine small museum full of interesting articles, admission, 6 DM.
In the museum we were approached by a young Argentine attached to the diplomatic staff in Bonn. I guess he wanted to try out his rather weak English- he thought we were from the UK. We walked down the hill and fixed shishkabob. It had been a beautiful day.
Monday, June 19:Up about 7:30 to a beautiful day, we went downtown to buy a Herald-Tribune paper (which we had nearly every day in Europe) and loaf of bread. In the afternoon, we walked down to the river, bought a popsicle and watched the river traffic- lots of ships, passenger and cargo. For dinner, we went up to Hotel zur Krone, near the Bhf and away from the tourist traffic and had a fine Vienna Schnitzel. More meat than we could eat, so we brought half the pork home. It is a family restaurant serving mostly locals in a friendly atmosphere. This morning, we went into the old Evgl. Stiflskirche Reformed Church near the Bhf. Part dates back to about 1100. The organist was rehearsing the old pipe organ for a concert Wednesday. There was a young woman changing altar flowers and fixing things. She asked me to help her move a 12 foot long bench about 30 feet and put it in place. It was very heavy but with Mary’s help, we made it. As thanks, she gave us a copy of the program. We want to return some time to photograph the interior which is free of the gold leaf and glitter found in many German churches.
Tuesday, June 20:This is the day for the group to enjoy wine tasting in Winnigen on the Mosel. We left an hour early so we could get reservations in Koblenz to go Nurnburg on Thursday and a print-out of schedules to go to Frankfurt Airport. The reservations were for the section Mainz to Nurnburg on the IC and EC trains, and cost 20 DM.
At 11:00, we met the group in the Bhf and caught the train to Winningen. There, we walked to Frau Korber’s winery. She gave us a taste of ordinary wine (6 DMIL), next a Kabinet troken (dry) and halb-troken (8.0 & 8.5 DM) followed by spatlese and auslese wines (to 14.5 DM). All were delicious, and as she said, you could begin the day sipping them.. After touring her old winery in the cellar, she served a delicious lunch featuring different wursts. She has changed her operation somewhat. Production has been moved to the site of her vineyard, collecting and pressing her grapes there. She contracts for the bottling by mobile bottle machines.
Regulations have changed since we were there, so that wines are no longer graded by taste only. Chemical analysis must be prepared and alcohol content displayed on the label. Many of the highest grades may have only 9.5 %. We bought 2 bottles of her halb-trocken. As we walked back to the Hbf, we passed by a bottling machine on the street bottling wine pumped from the cellar below the building.
Back in Koblenz, we changed trains to return to St. Goar and experienced a rather ugly scene. We were on the upper deck of one of the new double deckers. Two young American men were struggling to read a train schedule. We offered to help. They had just graduated from college in the states and were touring Europe before working. One, obviously Jewish (the other may have been also) complained “German people are rude and he hates this country” They wanted to go to Amsterdam to see the Ann Frank house that day (already mid-afternoon) and had to go back to Bacharach to Burg Stahleck to get their bags. They thought they would save time by going to Mainz, displaying an incredible lack of knowledge of local geography.
I told them they were wrong about Germans and the country, pointed out I had been here 55 years ago and more recently, and have made friends. The jewish lad asked if I had encountered NAZI death camps and what they were like. Mary responded “we have been married 51 years and he has never described them to me”, but she knows I had helped liberate some. All true. I told them to lighten up some, they should have prepared for their trip before coming. They knew no German, had not reviewed maps or anything. They obviously depended totally on strangers to get where they wanted to go or do. That’s expecting too much of others. Some of their relatives had been involved in the holocaust.
Wednesday, June 21:Lazy day, we did not do much all morning, a bit of TV. After eating supper at home, we went to the Stiftskirche St. Goar for the organ concert at 7:30. There were only about 3 0-40 people there. The old organ had a beautiful sound in perfect acoustics. The concert was a part of the regular Wednesday Vesper Services with the state-employed minister presiding. The Czech organist played 4 pieces including Buxtehude and Bach. I spoke to the lady whom we had helped and she was very cordial.
We saw some Untourists, and we looked about the Kirche. I saw another young lady and asked her if she knew how old the organ is. She was an American and knew no more than we. She was Barbara Dunkelberger from Iowa, studying for an MA in German. Mary invited them all to come to our apartment for coffee, and we had a good time taiking. Barbara took all of them to Bacharach where they were staying in her auto.
Thursday, June 22:Today, we took the train to Nurnburg via Bingen and Mainz, where we changed to an IC. We had reservations but didn’t need them. Our train to Mainz was about 12 minutes late, but the IC waited. The trip took about 3.5 hours. We had lunch in the Spiesewagen, which was disappointing. We wanted Gulaschsuppe which we had enjoyed on another train, but it was not available, only a roll and weak soup- no hot lunches. Nurnburg Hbf, like Mainz, is being reconstructed, but we found our way to the Hauptmarkt Platz and to the Spielzugmuseum (Toy Museum), which has 4 floors of toys, dolls, trains, autos and wooden toys, all displayed by decade of manufacture. Of course, Shucco, maker of wind-up toys such as Terry’s Mickey Mouse car, was well represented. Shucco is located in Nurnburg. Naturally, I was interested in trains. This exhibit was dominated by a model of the train yard in Omaha, Nebraska. It was about 20x30 feet, made in the US.
As we looked for the way upstairs, one of the attendants offered to help. He asked if we were English and on learning we were American, he took us into the lift and asked us to come into his office a minute. He told us he had been inducted into Wehrmacht at age 18, and 4 months later was captured in France. He was sent to a PW camp in Colorado where he spent the happiest 4 years of his life. Having some knowledge of English, he was assigned to be a waiter in the Officers Club, and was befriended by several Americans. He wanted to show us pictures of his American friends when they came to visit him in Germany, in recent years. We had an interesting conversation and parted friends. On the way to the Bhf we passed a Burger King; stopped for a Whopper and fries, and went home. Supper at zur Krone.
Friday, June 23:No plans for travel. Stayed in apartment until mid-afternoon and then went for a walk along flyer.
Saturday, June 24:Today, we meet Joachim and Irmgard Fink from Wiesbaden in Rudesheim. Horst could not come- his dog was sick. Adolpf and Paul (Margret’s brother) were out of town. We crossed the river early and took the train to Rudesheim from St. Goarhausen. We walked up the hill a way to the Siegfried’s Mechanisches Musikkabinett (Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum) and photographed a 1928 Nash auto, parked out front. It was just like one of the Nash’s my dad used to own.. The Museum normally requires at least 4 persons in a group to conduct a tour, so we were forced to wait for two more. Finally, about 11:15, staff gave in and started a tour with just us. While viewing the second exhibit, a couple from Munich came in and joined us.
The instruments included some we had never seen before, such as several polyphones, which use a perforated 24” dia. metal disc picking strings, combination piano, drums, banjo, triangle, castanet and tamborine, mechanical organs and Phonolist Violin. The last one was a musical chair, which had a music box activated when someone sat on the seat. All very interesting and very valuable.
We walked back down the hill to the Hbf and there were Joachim and Irmgard., right at 12:10. They put us in their Mercedes SW and we took off. We drove a bit east to Oestrich-Winkel and then up the hill from the river to Schloss Vollrads, a beautiful old estate overlooking the valley. It was surrounded by vineyards and was equipped with a winery. On one end of the old Knight’s Hall, a restaurant has been added in starkly contrasting modern architecture. There we had delicious lunch, completely enclosed by glass. Afterward, we strolled about the grounds, and took photo’s below the tower, where Joachim told us, the lovely maiden lowered her hair to the ground below the tower so her lover could climb up to her.
Driving to Eltville, 4 or 5 km east, we went to the Kloster Eberbach, an old monastery hidden away in the lower Kisselbach Valley. It was established in 1136 by the Cistercians Order and it became one of the major factor in the economic growth of the region by introducing advanced methods of growing grapes and making wine. It became the first to store wine in casks in the cellar or Kabinett, and so improved Kabinett quality wines came on the market. The monks left the monastery in 1803, and it is now owned and operated by the government. The Queen of England still gets a cask of wine from here every year. During the Napoleanic era, according to Joachim, when his troops entered the area, the locals attacked them and they took refuge in the Kloster. When Napolean finally arrived, the soldiers were all drunk. Several old wine presses as old as 1668 are installed and the kellar is full of casks. Of course, there is a shop.
Next, we headed back toward Rudesheim, climbing up to the Schloss Jobannisberg, on a ridge offering a spectacular view of the Rhine valley. Open to the public, it’s owned by a Russian princess, whose husband lost all her money racing autos. We walked through the garden and took photos of the valley from the vantage point. Afterward, we went down to Assmannshausen on the river to take kaffee and kuchen in the luxurious old grande Krone Assmannshausen Historischer Gasthof dating back to 1541. Joachim is very familiar with these old establishments because he has sung in them, and sung professionally in many.. He obtained two brochures for the hotel for us, one for Kurt and one for Arne Nillsen.. It is truly elegante!
Another treat for us. Joachim drove up to the Niederwald Monument and walked to the (Germania Monument, 225 m above the Rhine). This very tall monument is a memorial to the unifcation of the German state in 1875, I believe. It can easily be seen north of Rudesheim, up high, from a ship on the river. We took some pictures and drove down the bill and north to Lorch, where we crossed the river on the ferry and on to St. Goar. When they entered the apartment, after looking about, they remarked “This is nicer than your apartment in Bacharach”. After we reached Marco, Margaret told us he told her he was embarressed for us that the apartment was not very nice. It was a bit nicer than we expected and except for the lighting was OK. We knew it would not be a “Five Star”. We had enjoyed our visit with them tremendously and are deeply grateful for their showing us all those lovely sights. As he remarked, “The tour bus never gets here”. Three cheers for the Bus Fink!
Sunday, June 25:Today, the highways are closed to auto travel between Koblenz and Bingen. The weather is cool with showers and everybody is out on their bicycles. There are many kiosks set up along the road, and we bought cherries. We walked south past the Loreley Rock along the river bank. We were fascinated by all the river traffic every day, and we photographed the vessels as they navigated the sharp turns in the narrow gorge.
Monday, June 26:We took the 9:27 train to the Frankfurt Flughof and walked through the terminal so we could have a better idea of how to get to our plane on Wednesday. We decided to take the Sky Train to Terminal 2 and looked into the availability of carts. Then we rode the train back to Mainz. We walked through the Buch Markt in Schiller Platz, and left on Ludwigstr. to the Dom Platz. We entered the six-towered Dom which was begun in 975 and is one of the supreme achievements of Romanesque religious architecture. It was heavily damaged in WWII but has been fully restored. We then walked to the St. Stephans Kirche (14 C) with its famous windows by Marc Chagall. After that, it was time to return to the Bhf The streets of Mainz are full of people and everyone is having a good time. We liked Mainz as we liked Nurnberg.
Tuesday, June 27:This is the day we pack our bags and throw out superfluous brochures. This is difficult because you want to keep everything. Our landlord came by and we made arrangements for him to help us with our bags tomorrow.
Wednesday, June 28:We took the 9:27 train to the Frankfurt Flughof, leaving two un-used days on our 10-day rail pass. As we departed the train below the airport, we picked up a baggage cart, at no cost. We are real proud to have learned drive one of those loaded carts up and an escalator. It made our task much easier.
Our flight was uneventful. The plane, a Boeing 767, was fully loaded. We encountered head winds of 40-60 mph across the ocean, flying at 31,000 feet most of the way. Arrival in Atlanta was a few minutes late, but passage through immigration and customs was a breeze. Of course, we had nothing to declare. What with the dishes and chocolate, we had all we could carry.
Our arrival in Ft. Myers was a bit late. It was a thrill to be met with a big hug from Jennifer and Jason and Jonathan, who helped us carry our backpack and bag. They lead us down to the carousel; our bags must have been the last to be removed from the plane. Frank and Maria drove us to their house and we cranked up our car, driving very slowly till we reached home about 12:15 AM. This was the end of a wonderful trip, after about 25 hours awake.