Friday, August 24, 2012

The accidental perfect, last-minute trip: Germany's Rhine Valley

The only thing more perfect than an amazing trip is one that happens accidentally and at the very last-minute. You know, one of those surprises you could have never expected? No planning, not much effort, just "oops, that was really cool!"  This last adventure easily fell into that category.

A couple weeks ago, Big R told me he had a case docketed out in Kaiserslautern on the western side of Germany.  I know he had mentioned this to me in the past, but I flat out forgot - that or I wasn't paying attention as I'd been lost in his sea of trials not remembering which one would occur when or where.  Being as little r is out of school for the next few weeks and the western end of Germany is not one we've discovered much, he encouraged me to go with him.  Big R had done this last May when he had a trial in Vicenza, remember that?  Italy is absolutely beautiful, and I was happy that I was able to see that corner of the world, but it was also a tad bit stressful traveling alone with my screaming toddler.

I took a chance and decided to ask a friend here if she would be interested in joining us.  B has a son that is 7-months old, and I was hoping she would be in for an adventure.  Much to my happy surprise, not only did she say 'yes' but she couldn't have been more excited about the trip. We honestly had no idea where we were going to go.  We played around with the idea of visiting a few cities along the Rhine and Mosel, or thought maybe we'd head over to Strasbourg or Luxembourg.  But honestly, we really were not quite sure where we'd end up.

At the last minute administrative issues made it complicated for me and little r to stay with Big R during his trial.  B's response was, "let's go anyway!"  I love this girl...  Since we were leaving from home instead of staying east, and we didn't want any meltdowns from Baby H in the car, I decided I would plan a trip for us in the Rhine Valley.  As a Rick Steves' junkie, it was an area I had not only read about many times, but also one that I had been dying to visit and yet somehow never seemed to get there.  So, we loaded the kids up and headed out for our little adventure to Germany's Rhine Valley...

The beautiful town of Bacharach, Germany, along the Rhine River became our home base for this adventure.  Everything about this trip was easy. It was easy to find, easy to park, easy to find a fantastic place to stay, easy to find good food...  We arrived mid-afternoon, so we parked the car, found a cozy cafe for a delicious lunch with the boys, and then went on a search for a hotel to call "home."

Our home for the next couple of days was this charming little gingerbread house called Pension Im Malerwinkel.  Our original plans of staying in a castle in town changed quickly as we didn't get a good vibe from the place. Fate definitely led us to the right pension. We had free parking, a beautiful garden terrace, a view of the vineyards from our hotel room, and the price could not have been more perfect to keep the costs down for this trip.
Archway adjacent to our hotel
View from our hotel room of the adjacent vineyards
little r in the archway
View from the garden terrace
little r and me standing in the garden terrace at our hotel
The garden terrace at our hotel
Once we were checked in and had the boys cleaned up and readied, we decided to do some exploring in Bacharach.  It is a precious little town surrounded by hills lined with vineyards that is well-preserved in its historic state with a castle peering over a cliff protecting this gem and its citizens.
little r  walking with B and baby H through Bacharach
Building in the center of town.
This saying was made for me. Translate to read, "Life is too short to drink bad wine."
More vineyards...
and more vineyards...
Views as we strolled through Bacharach
B and baby H in the center of Bacharach
Views of the hills across the river from Bacharach
We took our time hiking up to Burg Stahleck, or Stahleck Castle.
Burg Stahleck as seen from the center of Bacharach
The weather in Germany has been especially hot these past few weeks, and our trip was no exception.  It just slowed us down so we could take in the views, and boy, were there views!  I think at certain points we'd come around the corner and literally have to catch our breath because the sight before us was so overly breathtaking.  It was unbelievable!
little r was our fearless leader up the trail to the castle
View of the Rhine River
Ruins seen from Burg Stahleck
little r enjoyed the views as well
Burg Stahleck is now a youth hostel, known to the German's as a Jugendherberge.  The walk up was primarily for the views as there was less to see once we got inside.  We headed back down toward the center of town, and we did a little wine tasting and purchased a couple bottles of wine we had hoped to enjoy a little of during the evenings after our daily adventures. We then discovered what was likely our favorite part of Bacharach - a gelato cafe that made homemade Reisling Wein Eis.  Holy zonkers! This was probably the absolute most refreshing tasting ice cream I have ever experienced.
A little piece of heaven: Riesling Wein Eis
The Eis Cafe in Bacharach - we stopped here at least a few times :) 
little r tried a new flavor each time, and no, he didn't try the Riesling - no worries
baby H discovered his newfound love for chocolate ice cream
The boys were tired, so we headed back to our cozy hotel.  After we all took turns bathing and rinsing off, we took the boys, a bottle of wine we purchased in town, and a few snacks, and we found a quiet spot in the garden terrace to enjoy the evening.  The boys were surprisingly well-behaved, and we had a really nice end to our first day in the Rhine Valley.

The view after sunset
After enjoying a delicious German-style breakfast of brotchen, meats, cheeses, and coffee provided by our hotel, we were energized and ready for our day.  We had decided that we wanted to take a cruise up the Rhine River toward Saint Goar to explore the Burg Rheinfels.  But mostly, we just really wanted to take a cruise on the Rhine.  There are a couple of different touring companies that do the cruises every couple of hours throughout the day, so we picked the one that we felt would be the best fit.  The first cruise left at 10:00 a.m., and the morning was outright spectacular.  Again we continued to try to catch our breath as we  felt there was an amazing view at every turn.  Such a perfect morning.
One of the towns along the Rhine
Our seat in the shade on the cruise up the Rhine

little r trying his hand at sailing :) 
Saint Goar was a nice town, although not quite as charming as Bacharach.  From the brochure we had for Burg Rhinefels, we had hoped to take a "train" up to the top, but unfortunately it was no longer in service.  The walk really wasn't too strenuous or steep, we were just dripping from the heat and humidity.  Yes, it really does get that hot here, believe me.  We actually had to take a few breaks on our way up to the top just to cool off.

Main road through Saint Goar
Store claims it has the largest cuckoo clock in the world
Burg Rhinefels was a great castle to explore.  It is incredibly well-preserved, and the history of the castle is fascinating. We saw tourists from literally every part of the world.  As much fun as we were having though, we decided we really wanted to get back to Bacharach on the next cruise so that we could enjoy more of the charming town we were calling home.  The cruise back involved fewer pictures and more relaxing.  The boys were definitely getting tired from all the heat and excitement.

We ditched the baby carriers for the strollers and found our way through Bacharach and landed at the quirkiest and friendliest Weinstube and biergarten.  The seating for the Weinstube was inside an old carousel and it sat adjacent to a funky theater that the same family owned.  We think they did marionette type shows, but were honestly were not quite sure what type of theater performances they had there.  Little r's favorite part of this place was an old carnival ride.  The owners also had a child about little r's age and his toys were surrounding the place for all to share.  I think little r played hard for two solid hours if not more.  I had to keep making him take a break to drink water so he wouldn't overheat.
The old carnival ride - little r was in heaven
Inside the Weinstube
View from the Weinstube - breathtaking!
Weinstube was set inside an old carousel, and little r just loved the toy car
Lovely Riesling we enjoyed made from grape grown on the hill adjacent to the Weinstube
The atmosphere of the Weinstube and the happy kinder also meant that B and I were able to truly enjoy our evening, and it was such a perfect and relaxing setting (yet again).  B told me she thinks this was easily the best find of our trip.  We shared a bottle of a local Riesling made from vineyards on the hills adjacent to the Weinstube.  Since the boys were so happy, we eventually decided to just have dinner at this perfect little place and finish out the evening there.  We seriously could not have planned a better evening.  When little r literally could barely stand from playing so hard, we packed things up and headed back to our Pension.

We all slept in the next day, which is no surprise considering how much we had done the day before, and after breakfast we took a couple more hours to stroll through town, along the old town walls, and up inside an old Tower where we got more amazing views of Bacharach.
B and Baby H on the pathway up to the Tower
Burg Stahleck
Kisses on the Tower
The only picture of the four of us on the trip
Beautiful Bacharach
Grapes on the vine
Riesling grows here :) 
We had to get at least one more scoop of that Riesling Wein Eis before we left!  Then we got in the car and headed away from the beautiful Rhine.

To break up the drive, we decided to stop through the town of Rothenburg ab der Tauber.  It's another quaint town where the Allstadt is still surrounded by the old medieval walls.  Big R and I visited here last December when my sister was in town, and we got rained out, remember? I had been wanting to go back ever since, and it was a perfect day to rediscover Rothenburg, especially since B had never been.  Our trip was finished off with a lovely afternoon wondering the streets, eating amazing food at a charming hotel bier garden with delicious food and the friendliest and most attentive waiter I have had yet here in Germany.  (Little r got ahold of the camera quite a bit during the end of our trip.  He took some fun pictures of our lunch including me playing with my phone and some nice pictures of our food - haha.)
My little musician in Rothenburg
Just part of a normal day here in Rothenburg

What are you doing on the phone, mommy?
little r's lunch
Flamkuchen - and no, I didn't share AND I ate it all :)
You seriously could not have planned a more amazing and perfect trip.  The warm weather didn't beat us, we managed to still enjoy our adventures and the boys were so well-behaved it was almost uncanny.  In fact, I would say, the whole trip was absolutely meant to be.  Just perfect...

Thanks B for a fantastic trip.  When can we go back?! :) 

1 comment:

  1. Nan, via a typo you have created a new saying, "wondering the streets". Could have many meanings; what do you think?