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Saturday, June 13, 2015

CASTLES ON THE RHINE AND A VISIT TO A MEDIEVAL TOWN

On my return home from Greece last October, I stopped for a few days in Mainz, Germany to visit my friend Patrick. I told him I'd like to see some of the Rhine Castles and he had arranged with his friends Wolfgang and Jurgen to drive us to several sites.  We hopped on the train at Mainz and rode to a town nearby where Patrick's friends were waiting. 


It happened to be a rainy day, but that wasn't going to stop us from having lots of fun. We drove along the scenic river enjoying the views of vineyards that grow up the steep banks and river boats plying they way upriver.Even in the rain the scenery was beautiful. 



Patrick, Jurgen and Wolfgang, my tour guides.


Rhine vineyards

Our first stop was the Sooneck Castle, built on the ruins of a Medieval castle by Prussian princes as a neo-Gothic hunting lodge. The castle was constructed in 1282, destroyed in the Palatinate War of Succession in 1689, and acquired by Frederick William, Crown Prince of Prussia and his brothers in 1834.



Sooneck Castle
An amusing little Russian guide named Leo greeted us as we entered and showed us through the various castle rooms. He explained all the artifacts on display from the long-bow hunting equipment to the bedrooms, which weren't actually slept in but more for show. 
Our Castle guide, Leo 

 bedroom


 dining room
crossbow for hunting
It was still raining when we left the castle but the weather began to clear by the time we reached the picturesque little Medieval town of  Bacharach located where the Steeg Valley meets the Rhine Valley at a juncture near the old Roman road, Aosonius Way, which connected Mainz with Trier, branching off from the Roman riverbank road. The area was first recorded settled in 1094 bu probably was inhabited from antiquity. 
 old gate entrance



 craftsman and his art

In the Middle Ages the town of Bacharach was an important outpost on the Middle Rhine, an economically prominent site as a place of transfer, trade and warehousing for wine and timber.  We entered through a gateway in the original stone wall of the city.  It was like stepping into a picture book, with quaint timbered houses and narrow streets, obviously these days a popular tourist site. 



The Church of St. Peter


 Interior of Church of St Peter


Located in the centre of Bacharach, the Church of St. Peter is dated between 1230/40 but has gone through numerous changes and renos.  It has a baroque style sacristy and is one of the most unique examples of Romanesque architecture on the  Lower Rhine. The Church is surrounded by courtyards and open-timbered houses, many from the late Middle Ages. The town's post office tower dates from the early 1400s.


 Above the church stands the ruins of the  Chapel of St. Werner dating from the early 14th century and above that, stands Stahlick Castle, a fortified castle dating to the 12th century. 



Before heading off to explore Stalick Castle we stopped in a quaint restaurant for a typical German meal of veal schnitzel and beer.







 On our way to Stahlick Castle

Stalick Castle, towers over Bacharach

Today Stahlick Castle is used as a youth hostel. There were children frolicking in the courtyard wearing capes and sparring with pretend swords. 
 http://www.jugendherberge.de/en/youth-hostels/bacharach390/shortportraet 




On our trip back we stopped at  the ruins of another castle overlooking the river, where there is now a first-class hotel and restaurant built in its place. 



View of the Rhine River


 Remains of old castle




The views along the river were magnificent even through the mist. In spite of the weather, we had an excellent day exploring and enjoying the sites along the majestic Rhine. 

  Sunset 
 Town View