|jacket||–||The North Face|
About a year and a half ago my husband’s aunt had a stellar idea: taking a Viking River Cruise together as a family. After some research, we landed on the Danube Waltz cruise, which travels between Passau, Germany and Budapest, Hungary in May of 2017.
My husband and I are maximizers, and so we decided that since we were already flying to Europe, we might was well tack on an extra week of vacationing in Germany to the cruise, so we put together an itinerary that began in the Rhine, went through Franconia, and ended in Munich, after which we’d drive over to Passau to begin our cruise. I’ll be documenting each leg of this trip in separate travel diaries.
Enough chit chat, let’s get to the Rhine!
For our pre-cruise week in Germany we were joined by my husband’s parents. We all boarded a red eye flight together in Chicago on Friday evening and landed in Frankfurt Saturday morning. Sleepy but excited, we hopped in our rental car and drove off to wine country. The Rhine is conveniently only about an hour west of Frankfurt, so we arrived in Bacharach, the quiet little wine town we had chosen with the help of Rick Steves, in time for lunch.
We decided to take Rick Steve’s recommendations many times during our three-day stay in Bacharach, and he never led us astray. For our first lunch, we ate at the Alter Posthof, which is situated in a charming courtyard and serves delicious house-made sausages. We tried the lamb, pork, and venison along with traditional German sides.
I hope you like pictures of kraut, because I couldn’t get enough of it while I was there. I think my German roots show most strongly in my love of traditional German fare.
It may not have been the best idea given our post-red-eye status, but after lunch we decided to wander the town in search of wine tasting.
We quickly found what we’re looking for at Weingut Karl Heidrich. I’m a big fan of German rieslings–they’re much less sweet and more complex that what you find in the states. I also love the traditional glasses they’re served in. Aren’t the stems great? We ordered two flights to share: the trocken (dry) and halbtrocken (semi-dry). The flights came with a nice basket of local bread–seriously, I couldn’t get enough of it–and we whiled the afternoon away sipping, snacking, and chatting.
Pro-tip: when traveling in Europe, commit to carrying a giant water bottle around with you. It’s much easier than asking servers to bring you water, which always come in tiny glasses and sometimes cost a ridiculous amount of money.
After our wine tasting, we wandered the streets. I’m not going to lie–this was mostly because we all knew that if we went back to the hotel we’d immediately fall asleep and we were doing our best to reset our internal clocks. As an added bonus, Bacharach an incredibly charming, quaint little town. I wish we had more time to just get lost in its winding streets.
We even saw a wedding coming out of the local church, and paused to wave to the bride and groom as they drove off.
We didn’t make it up to the castle, which I’m sad about. I had the energy to hike up the steep hill to get there, but my travel companions didn’t, so I contented myself with the view from the ruined church about 1/3 of the way up the hillside.
We had a lovely view of the surrounding vineyards.
After our walk, we decided to finish our day with an early dinner and then early bed. We took Rick Steves recommendation again and wandered to the far side of town…
…to Kleines Brauhaus, a quirky restaurant situated in an old defunct carousel. It had a decent view of the river, and we order some local beers, some local food, and watched the sun slowly set.
I had one of my favorite guilty pleasure dishes–Currywurst, which I had discovered in Berlin on a previous trip. It’s pretty much just hot dogs in a tangy ketchup sauce with curry powder on top. Worth every calorie.
After we downed our drinks and our food we were thoroughly tuckered out. We collapsed into bed and slept like logs.
We stayed in Hotel Zur Post, which I actually found just via searching around the Internet. After seeing that they had rooms with nice balconies, I requested on for us and I couldn’t believe how nice it was when we arrived. We had a great view of the main street through town. It felt so peaceful to wake up to the sun streaming in the windows and step out onto the balcony and hear the birds singing, the church bells chiming, and watch people wandering down the street. I was never able to fully capture it in a picture, but this video does a decent job.
After drinking in the morning on the balcony, we went downstairs and enjoyed a hearty German breakfast spread including fantastic bread, cold cuts, cheeses, homemade jams, muesli, and yogurt.
This day we had our sites set on my favorite castle in Europe. Curtis and I had visited Burg Eltz on our first trip to Germany several years ago, but we liked it so much that we wanted to take his parents back to experience it as well. On our first trip, we hiked about five miles to get to the castle, which was a fantastic way to do it. This year we drove, and that was nice too. But no matter how you get there, you can’t help but have your breath taken away when you first see it.
We made our way into the castle courtyard and waited for the English tour to start. They conveniently have one every 30 minutes. Sadly, no pictures are allowed on the tour, so you’ll have to see the amazingly well preserved rooms and their furnishings in person if you ever travel to Germany–which you should!
After our tour of Burg Eltz, we took a longer-than-expected drive down to Schloss Johannisberg, a castle/winery which has a bustling courtyard full of homemade pizza and pretzel vendors if you visit them on the weekend. We shared a bottle of white over several pizzas. We were so hungry I totally forgot to take pictures.
Post-pizza we made the short drive up to Eberbach Monastery, a well-preserved old complex with an admittedly pricey self-guided walking tour. We took our time exploring the grounds, seeing the tools the monks used to use to make wine (on the right) and sampling the current wine offerings in the tasting room.
We had spent a long day driving around the Rhine, so we decided we needed some hearty fare for dinner. One of the nice things about Bacharach as opposed to other small Rhine towns is that it has plenty of parking. We were able to drive back, quickly stash our car, and head into town for dinner. This night we decided to go to the Alte Haus–the oldest restaurant in town–which came highly recommended. We ordered a local bottle, kept chilled in an earthenware pot, and some of the best potatoes I’ve ever had to start.
The fare was extremely traditional. I had the house roast beef, which reminded me of my parent’s pot roast from my childhood–very comforting.
My mother-in-law had the schnitzel. After dinner, we were in such a good mood we decided to order another bottle of local wine–a sweet desert variety this time–and the cheese plate, which was to die for. It was too dark for a good shot, so you’ll have to go order it yourself to see it!
Our final day in Bacharach was the one I was most looking forward to. We had planned a cruise down the Rhine to tour Marksburg Castle. We were up bright and early, and after another hearty German breakfast we went down to the docks to buy our tickets. I had read in advance that the best way to do it is to simply by your tickets day-of, so that’s what we did. We took the K-D Cruise up the river to Braubach. Above is a picture of Bacharach I took as we left town.
Prepare yourself for gorgeous shots of the Rhine. We secured nice seats at the back of the boat and we treated to sunny vistas of little towns, castles perched on hills, and the steepest vineyards I’ve ever seen. This building was smack dab in the middle of the river–I think it was basically a toll booth on the river.
Did I mention the most important thing about Rhine Cruises? They have a full bar and a full restaurant. We ordered a bottle of riesling to enjoy on our quick jaunt up the river. The Rhine is a swift river, so our ride up that went with the flow only took about an hour. Our cruise back in the evening took 3-4 hours.
On the right you can see Marksburg Castle in the distance.
That’s Marksburg again on the left, and me heading into it on the right. It was a bit more challenging to make our way from the docks in Bacharach to the castle than we had hoped. The City runs a trolley, but only on the weekends. You can walk if you’re itinerant, but we ended up calling a cab to take us up.
If you lived in Marksburg castle, this would be your view.
We had an excellent tour of the castle given by the man in the center of the blurry photo on the right. He took us through the kitchens, the bedrooms, and the stables, and gave us a full history throughout. Castle life wasn’t as romantic, clean, or comforting as its often depicted to have been. For most of the years Marksburg was a working castle, its inhabitants had little water to drink, little heat, little contact with the outside world, and very short life expectancy.
After our castle tour we took a cab back to the docks and hopped on the next Ferry heading south.
Touring the castle had worked up our appetite, so we ordered some currywurst and sausages to share.
The afternoon, with its gorgeous views and sunny weather passed all too quickly.
Too soon we found ourselves back at our own dock.
For dinner that night we ate at a somewhat unremarkable place near Hotel Am Markt. I had a salad for dinner to offset all the sausages and potatoes I’d been eating, but I did have a very nice white asparagus soup as an appetizer. Asparagus is big all over the south of Germany, and I highly recommend sampling it.
Post dinner, we wandered to Gasthaus Jägerstube for a beer before bed, and we ended up meeting a very interesting local guide who was happy to tell us the history of Bacharach from Roman times to the present day. Sometimes you just get lucky.
Stay tuned for the my next travel diary on our time in Franconia and Bavaria. Tschüss!