Traveling throughout Germany

Greetings from Germany! Or should I say, "Guten Tag!"

(I'll be adding more pictures from this area at a later date, as the place we're staying has limited Wifi and won't load photos...If you're interested in seeing the pictures, I've already posted most of them to Facebook.)

We have been traveling throughout the western part of Germany from Dusseldorf to Freiburg for the past four days. This area is known as the Rhineland and the towns we've visited border the Rhine River. This area is also very prominent in the wine community for their dry Riesling and Pinot Noir, so we feel like we're right at home.

Germany is actually very similar to Oregon-- especially some parts towards Southern Oregon and in the Willamette Valley as well. They grow their grapes on steeper terraces than we do, but currently the weather is hot and dry like Oregon, and the green trees and rolling fields abound everywhere amongst the small towns we've been staying in. It's quite nice to not have bustling suburbs and cities everywhere and to just have a lot more space and countryside nearby.

After touching down in Dusseldorf, we picked up a car (an Opel!) and began our expedition to the town of Zornheim, which is where we met some new friends through the community of who offered to host us for the night as we passed through. We regularly do Airbnb for different reasons, but Couchsurfing had also been recommended to us and since we became friends on Facebook early on with our hosts Markus & Anja, we trusted that they would be a good fit to stay with. We were definitely right!

(We did stop in Koln briefly to see the cathedral, but it was thundering and raining so hard and so bad that we decided to make it a quick trip.)

Our intended destination while planning this trip was Bacharach for it's small, quaint village feel and it being a stop on the Rhine River cruise we wanted to do to the castle in St. Goar. However, it's hard to find a room in Bacharach because it is a popular place to stay, so even though Markus & Anja's town of Zornheim is about 45 minutes from Bacharach, it was actually a perfect fit because their house had absolutely gorgeous views of the wine region and they were able to take us to some less-known places in the area that we would never had discovered on our own.

When we arrived to their home, we immediately were treated as friends, and Markus offered to hop in the car with us and drive to some nearby castle ruins in the town of Oppenheim to wander through, and then visit the town for a bit as well. We were so amazed and impressed that this castle existed just a few minutes away from their home for anyone to just walk around!

He also took us to a beautiful lookout viewpoint of the Rhine River and expansive vineyards on the area hills. We have some amazing wine views in Oregon, but none quite like what we experienced! After driving through the area a bit, we quickly realized we had chosen the perfect location for our stay and first night in Germany. Marks & Anja prepared a delicious meal for us, and we spent the whole night talking with them about their unique interests and love of Las Vegas and America! They also have a gigantic collection of Starbucks mugs from around the world... my kind of people. :) If you plan to visit the Rhine area and are open to Couchsurfing, you should definitely stay with Markus & Anja!

In the morning, we shared breakfast together overlooking their beautiful view again and said goodbye as we made our way to the town of Bacharach to catch a ferry of the Rhine. The ferry ride to St. Goar was approximately 45 minutes and was the perfect amount of time to sit on the boat, take in the view, relax in the sun and enjoy the scenery. The boat can actually last a very long time depending on which stops you want to get on and off at, so it's possible to pick it up much more south or north and stay on longer. We just chose the roundtrip route from Bacharach to St. Goar because our travel guide & guru Rick Steves recommends to do so. And he knows his stuff. :)

We absolutely LOVED the ferry ride. It was one of our trip highlights so far. It was warm but not too hot, the breeze was cool and comfortable, the hills were speckled with castles, one after the other, and all the other tourists on the boat were equally as sun drunk and happy as we were. We said to each other, "Let's freeze this moment in our mind and live it over and over again when we're cold and tired in January and February." It was that perfect.

When we got off the boat in St. Goar, we had a Fika break for some first time official German strudel. It did not disappoint! We headed up for the Rheinfels castle after that, fat and happy, to burn off some calories and hike up the hill. It's recommended to be relatively fit as it is a steep hike up some stairs, or there is a more direct but uphill hike as well on roads. The stair hike is shorter but more intense. I recommend the stair hike. You can also take a small "choo choo" train (actually a tram) up the hill, but it was quite expensive for a short ride. Options abound.

We *almost* didn't tour the castle because we were being cheap and it was 5 EUR a person. We weren't sure what exactly the Rheinfels castle had to offer, other than the fact that it's a popular tourist stop. However, our ferry ride wasn't due for another two hours and we had time to kill, so we decided to pay the admission price and we were SO glad we did. How unfortunate it would have been if we missed the castle due to penny pinching!

The castle is mostly in ruins but the major parts (the most interesting parts) like the mine tunnels, the battlements, the soldier barracks and underground tunnel points are still intact and the castle is nearly 800 years old. It has vast views of the Rhine and surrounding villages and you really get a sense for what a strong fortress it was back when it was fully operating. The engineering feat of this castle is extremely impressive and wandering throughout each area with a specific free self-guided tour we were provided made it all worth it. I highly, highly recommend a visit. It was worth every penny.

Once we finished touring the castle, we made our way back down to the town of St. Goar where we caught the ferry boat back to Bacharach. It was a very full 24 hours, but worth all the time and energy we spent for those memories.

Next up: Baden-Baden, Strasbourg & Freiburg!


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