Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter in St. Goarshausen by Coach

Yes, there is no typo in the title, it was by coach (bus). Isn't it exciting? NO!
Let's go 3 month back: I was on a business trip to Reading and while sitting on a bus I saw an advertisement of that trip. Since Alyona was moaning about living in Europe and not visiting Germany, I thought it is a perfect present for her birthday: a long weekend in Germany. And since the trip is going to be by coach, we will have a chance to see landscapes of Rhine valley rather than airport lounges, or so I thought...
Fast forward to the present: we were picked up on the streets of Eltham (15 minutes on a bus from where we live) at 6:30AM by a shuttle full of pensioners. At first, the driver did not want to let us in, and my guess is because we were too young compared to the rest of the passengers. Anyway, after 45 minutes drive to Dartfort, we changed to a main coach service (from New Castle). Now, don't get me wrong, going with pensioners is not as bad as it may sound. Actually, I was afraid that it will be with a bunch of drunken football hooligans or hooded yobs. Anyway, older generation tend to be more punctual, polite and intelligent, and if you play by the rules (their rule, including sing along 50s songs on a way back to UK) you could have a time of your lifetime. Anyway, to cut the story shorter, that day (14 hours) we crossed 5 countries: UK, ferry to France, then Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany. And after all that, we ended up on the wrong side of the Rhine river...
St. Goarshausen is a gorgeous, tiny medieval town on a bank of Rhine river. On arrival, we checked in to a traditional Bavarian hotel (Hotel Pohl's Rheinhotel Adler), our home for the next 3 days. The hotel is based opposite the ferry, which can take you to St. Goar, but that is quite irrelevant as the whole town can be crossed in 10-15 minutes. For those who do not know, that area (middle/lower Rhine) is famous for its wine; vineyards are literal everywhere! The town is between two hills (or mountains) where Burg Katz (some say that twin Burg Katz towers resemble ears of a cat) and Burg Maus castles are. There are hiking trails around both of castles and I suggest to pop in to the tourist information centre located next to the ferry (or the police station) for a free map, information and guidance. We opted to climb the route to Burg Maus, have a walk around it and then through a potato field to an even smaller village of Nochern.
On the next (and the last full day in Germany), we took an organised full day tour to Boppard which included boat trip on the Rhine and half a day in Rudesheim am Rhein. The first town, although beautiful, is a tourist trap. I guess it is mainly because it is large enough to appear on a map (something that can not be said about St. Goarshausen) and frequent Kohl boat service which links it to a Koblenz and Mainz. The second, although beautiful, is a tourist trap as well. There is a statue of Germania on a nearby hill, which I recommend visiting (there is a breathtaking views from there). You can get there using a cable lift from the centre of Rudesheim. Couple of hours later, on a way back, we stopped on the Loreley cliff. The legend goes that Loreley was a lovely German maid who used to comb her long, golden hair, sing and lure shipmen to their fates with her hypnotizing voice. That evening, we went to a small vine cellar in the old part of the St. Goarshausen with Fred and Florence (thank you guys for a great company!) to try local Rieslings.
The way back was even longer! Since the tour agency had to make some money, we made a stop at the Belgian chocolate “factory” and French wine “warehouse”, both run by British. As Fred said “time is a great healer and memory short”, so looking back it was not that bad (although I didn't think that when sitting on a coach with 12 hour ahead of us). Well, maybe next time we will either drive there ourselfs or take a train (both St. Goar and St. Goarshausen are well connected).
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