May 21, 2012: Cruising the Rhine

Today is our day to cruise the Rhine from Boppard to Bingen. Or at least that was the plan.  We were also supposed to get up nice and early and make the nine o’clock cruise.  Well, needless to say, that didn’t happen.

We had several logistical challenges this morning.  The first was that I was very tired after staying up late working on my course work for RIT last night.  That could not be helped.

The second was that we had to switch hotel rooms today.  We had extended our stay in Boppard and originally had been told that we could stay but not in the same room that we were currently in.  Not ideal but way better than switching to different accommodations completely.  We are dreading each hotel change now that we’ve done it a few times.  We are attempting to reduce those whenever possible now.  But Dominica had issues getting into the hotel lobby this morning – the hotel is pretty much empty after the weekend and they decided to sleep in I guess so breakfast opened late.

The hotel managed to let us stay in our same hotel room for another night which is awesome.  So we needn’t have waited on speaking to them this morning but that allowed me to sleep in so it was not all bad.  I needed the sleep.

So we had a late breakfast in the hotel and then packed up and set out for a walk down to the waterfront to catch the cruise ship.  The walk is very quick down to the river from the Hotel Hunrucker Hof where we have been staying the last several days.  Only a few minutes.  We got down there plenty early and waited in the queue for our cruise ship to arrive.

We were definitely the young ones getting onto the cruise ship.  The average age was likely sixty or higher.  It was the Goethe, a large Rhine paddle steamer which was the advantage of having been running late this morning and taking the eleven o’clock tour rather than the nine o’clock tour.  This is the more touristy of the two tours with the old fashioned, larger boat.  Kind of cool, though.

The boat ride was really great.  It was overcast and we were expecting rain and storms this morning but they never came.  It started out cool and overcast which was perfect for the boat ride up the Rhine.  We started in Boppard intending to go all of the way down to Bingen which would pretty much allow us to see the entirety of the Middle Rhine region (also known as the Rhine Gorge) which is generally considered the most picturesque and romantic portion of the Rhine as it is the section with the high mountainous terrain and the castles around every bend.

The journey upriver truly was magical.  We sat outside and literally every minute there is something really interesting to look at.  So beautiful.  The river boat cruise is free when you have a Eurail pass so this was a total score for us – a full day of really cool sight-seeing for no money at all.  This is one of those “must do” European “attractions” and we didn’t have to pay a thing to do it.

It is hard to describe what it is like seeing a gorgeous little German town, a giant church and/or a castle.  Castles everywhere.  It is crazy.  At times there are castles right next to each other.  There is one out in the river.   Some high on the hills, some down at town level.  And every little town looks so inviting.  Great wine, great plazas and squares, cute little restaurants.

We got a sandwich and some wine on the boat.  We sat out in the back where there were very few people so that we would have space and be as little disruptive as possible as the children were not ready to just sit quietly and stare out at the scenery.  There was only one party of women sitting in the back of the ship with us and they were talking riotously so we were not disturbing them in any way and from time to time Luciana would go over to them and say hello which they thought was very cute.  Other people would come and go but most found the rear-facing view to not be what they were looking for.  The forward decks were packed with tourists and while the view was better it left much to be desired because there was always someone standing in front of you getting their picture taken with whatever we were passing by at the time.

We are very happy that we decided to spend today cruising the Rhine.  A great vacation memory.  As we got towards the bottom of the route, though, we realized just how long this trip was taking and decided that we did not have time to go to Bingen at all and especially not to do any sight seeing on our return journey.  Originally we had thought that we would go all of the way to Bingen and then take the train back to Bacharach, where we had originally be slated to be staying for last night and tonight in the hostel in the castle there, and walk around town for an hour or two before heading back up to Boppard.  But once we saw how slowly the ship was moving, and once we realized how much time we lost by leaving at eleven instead of nine, we determined that we had to get off of the ship immediately and not do any sight seeing – very disappointing.

The next stop that we were able to take was Assmannshausen, just one stop before Bingen, so we hopped off when the ship stopped and took our chances with the local train.  We had no idea what to expect.

The walk through Assmannshausen from the docks to the train station was really magical.  What a gorgeous town.  The crowd getting off to see the town was decidedly small and elderly but they seem to have known something that the rest of us did not.  The town was tiny but made of amazing historic buildings and great looking restaurants with wonderful Rhine views.  We had no time to stop and see anything – just time to walk through town as quickly as we could as it was a really long way to the train station.

To make things more complicated, we were on the wrong side of the river from Boppard so we had to figure that out as well.  We caught the only train that we could with DB telling us that he best option was to ride it all of the way to Koblenz and then taking another train back up the Rhine to Boppard which would take an hour and a half!  That wasn’t a good idea.  So we did some quick research and decided that we could get off in Filsen, walk to the Boppard Ferry landing and just get back to Boppard that way.  A risky move but it seemed to be about half the total travel distance.

On the way to Filsen Liesl had a potty emergency which turned into a really serious emergency when we realized that the only toilette on our rail car was out of service.  Oh no!  When we got off in Filsen we knew that there would be no toilette there so we had to figure something out before then.  We decided to just have Liesl and I jump off at a random stop and make a mad dash for the forward train cars and hope for the best.  So that is what we did.

The mad dash plan actually worked.  We made it to the forward train cars (they are not connected internally) at one stop, used the working toilette there, and at St. Goar we made a mad dash back to the car that Dominica and Luciana and all of the luggage were in.  Dominica had alerted the conductor by the second leg of our dash so she stood outside of the train looking for us to make sure that we made it back.  Crisis averted.

The walk at Filsen wasn’t too bad although by the later portion of our boat ride the clouds had burned off and it was a hot, humid day rather than the expected thunder storms.  So we were pretty hot walking under the exposed sun from Filsen to the Boppard Ferry station.

Using the ferry was very easy and it dropped us off on the Boppard side at a spot that we knew well so we then just walked up, got ice cream from our favourite place and walked back to our hotel just in time for me to get to work.

I worked for a while and then for dinner this evening I walked around town a little bit, first stopping to chat with the hotel manager fora  bit, and then walking east along the “Wine Road” on which our hotel sat and then down towards the Markt to go to the Bopparder Imbiss restaurant which does Turkish pizza and other specialties and got fish sticks for Liesl and a cheese pizza for Dominica and I.  It took me a while but the food was excellent.  Once again showing that living in Boppard wouldn’t be a bad choice at all.

A bit after dinner Dominica was busy packing up the room and didn’t feel like taking a break so I went down alone to sit with the hotel manager and work from my laptop on the square, called the Balz (Balz being the local Bopparder dialect word for “place where chickens are traded”) and enjoy some local Boppard riesling.  Several people stopped by to visit with us while we were there.  It was a lovely evening.

After the wine was done, around eleven, it was up to the room and off to bed.  Tomorrow is going to be a very early day.  We really need to make the early train at just before nine thirty off to Mainz.  We have certainly learned our lesson about opting for a later train.  We need to be moving much earlier in the morning than we think to do what needs to be done.  It always takes much longer to get places and deal with all of our logistics than we think that it will.

Today was our final day in Germany, or at least Germany proper, for this trip.  We are very sad to be leaving.  We really love Boppard, what a great town.  So far this is Dominica’s favourite place in Europe and I have to agree.  I’ve now managed to spent an aggregate time of more than two weeks in Germany and it has been all extremely positive.  Tomorrow we are moving down and across the Rhine to the French Alsatian down of Neuf-Brisach which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and one that looks extremely interesting.

We tried to adjust our plans for the next week to consolidate our hotel stays to make for some longer stays at single locations but that didn’t work out so we are stuck doing three sets of two night stays in a row.  That will be rough.  Later on in our vacation we have a lot of longer stays built in from the beginning.  We are heading into the most trying part of the journey now.

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