Stories of this Canadian girl's adventures exploring Europe & beyond...join me!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

how to impress a canadian girl.

How I impressed a couple of Canadian girls with the three best day tours starting out from Bingen and Rüdesheim am Rhein.

In the last couple of months we've had two seperate Canadians visiting Europe for the first time – sporty spice and marsha brady.  sporty is my oldest friend who I met when I was six months old, although the day wasn’t memorable enough to stick in my mind. The other visitors were my stepmum and her lovely, tell-it-like-it-is, no BS friend, marsha brady (cause she is nothing like her).

I decided to pull out the big guns, rounding up knights in armour, haunting fortresses and gothic cathedrals, while plying them with some of the region's finest grape juice.  Using ships, hips and automobiles, we hiked, biked and cruised along the Rhine listening to stories of torture, murder, intrigue, and theft. 

And in the evening hours we munched on hunter's schnitzel in quaint half-timbered wine bistros, sipped grauburgunder (pinot grigio) on rhine-banked terraces, and grilled bratwurst in our garden by the river. Having Canadians to visit is definitely one of my favourite things...and impressing them here is easy.

I always tell Canadians who are contemplating a visit that they should only come if they like castles and other old things to go with their wine. Don't worry, unless you're a teenager who has grown up here, there's no possible way you'll be bored.

The great summer migration is just around the corner, as wine lovers from across Europe descend upon Bingen for the Rhine’s longest wine festival, the Binger Winzerfest.

But visiting the Middle Rhine Valley at any time of year, for the Winzerfest (THE wine festival), Bingen Swingt (very popular jazz festival), Rhein in Flammen (fireworks magic throughout the Rhine valley) or the Christmas markets (nothing compares to Germany at Christmastime) you will love exploring the great things to do in this vineyard and castle rich area.
Rüdesheim am Rhein
Tour #1 The Ringticket - ferry, foot, cable car and chairlift...with wine on the way.

This tour is easy for all ages. Starting in Bingen, Assmannshausen (yes, that's its real name) or Rüdesheim will determine your first mode of transport: ferry, foot or cable car.
Vineyards looking onto Bingen am Rhein
The as-long-as-you-want-to-make-it journey takes you on a beautiful full-circle tour of valley views, while floating high above the vineyards in a cable car built for two (or three), past castle ruins and freedom monuments...
Niederwalddenkmal Monument
along wooded walks and comfortable trails to either stay on or veer off of...
Rheinsteig hiking trail

and strolls through quaint towns home to some of the oldest original buildings along the Rhine. This tour is a great intro to the area and one you'll most likely come back to for more.

Assmannshausen am Rhein
Tour #2 Castles and Cologne – grand and grander

A tour including the Marksburg Castle, one of the only fortresses to never be destroyed, will knock the socks off any visitor. Marksburg is what I would imagine authentic medieval life to be – like peeking into a middle ages episode of Downton Abbey, with servant and noble lifestyle expertly displayed in all its gore and glory.
Photo source: Wikipedia

Here's some backstory: 

It all began in 1100 when the Eppstein family built a keep on one of the highest points above the Rhine. A keep, which is a fortified round windowless tower of last resort for protection of a royal family (where is Elizabeth’s keep I ask?), is connected to the rest of the castle by a narrow, wooden bridge. When the enemy has penetrated the castle the royals flee into the keep and the bridge is burned. We’ll burn that bridge when we get there! Don’t burn your bridges! The tour guide filled us in on keep-trivia and at least these two Canadian girls were impressed.
Keep with drawbridge in the castle's centre

As sporty spice and I followed the tour guide through secret passages, torture chambers and basement wine cellars, we were exposed to the language, the intricacies, the perils, and the weaponry of daily life in the middle ages. 

Interestingly, withstanding a thousand years of war unscathed as Napoleon, the Romans, the Thirty Years War and WWI passed it by, it was the Americans in 1945 who did significant damage to the Marksburg bombarding it with artillery fire as they approached from the other Rhine side – now what was the point of that?

From the Marksburg we traveled onwards to Cologne. Cruising along the Rhine's curvy shoulder for about an hour without is well worth the scenic drive.
Cologne's crowning jewel and every visitor's bullseye is the Cologne Dome. It is as monstrous as it is beautiful.
Kölner Dom - Cologne's Dome

With 20 000 people visiting a day, it's kind of a busy place. Begun in 1248 it was built in the new-fangled gothic style - the rebels. The cathedral is 144 metres long and it has the largest façade of any church in the world.

The Holy Roman Emperor, Barbarossa, had the cathedral built to house the bones of the Three Wisemen he had “acquired” from Italy. Taking 632 years to build, it’s the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe

Cologne's pedestrian shopping area

Tour #3 Bike (or not) to a church built into a cliff impressed us!
From the Rhine, a beautiful bike ride up the Nahe River will lead you along fields of canola, hills of grapes and cliffside towns. Your trip will take longer than planned because you will surely stop continuously to take photos.
Called the Chapel in the Rocks or Crag Castle, the Felsenkirche in the town of Idar-Oberstein will be worth your biketrip - leave home early, enjoy the scenery, explore this possibly dangerous place to worship high above the rest of town - then take the train back!

Felsenkirche - The Chapel-in-the-Rocks

Legend has it that a girl named Bertha (I’m not making this up) was at the centre of a tragic love triangle. One brother, in a fit of rage, threw his brother out the window of Castle Bosselstein upon finding out that Bertha and his brother had secretly married while he was out of town.
The entrance to the chapel

The Felsenkirche was built into the cliffs at the site where the brother was killed in a long, sad exercise in penance and upon its completion a tiny spring began bubbling out of the rocks right down the middle of the aisle – supposedly a sign of God’s forgiveness (or a sign that one needs to plan building projects better). The spring is still gurgling to this day – impressing the Canadian girls.

Hope you enjoy your trips! Here are some links to help you plan:

Ruedesheimer-Bingen Ferry Ringticket – 14,00€ per adult:

The Marksburg Castle - 6,00€ per adult:

The Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom):

Idar-Oberstein Chapel in the Rocks:


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