Individual Days - Germany

Bacharach

September 13, 2023

We started our day bright and early with an amazing spread for breakfast!!

We met our local guide, Thomas. Thomas shared the history of Bacharach. It originally was called Baccaracus which is a Celtic name. In 1356, Bacharach officially was categorized as a town. The town is very proud of this designation.

Bacharach was extremely wealthy because of taxation on goods shipped down the river Rhine. The waters to the north were rough and shallow. Because of this, smaller boats were used to ship goods. Bacharach was the furthest port north for the large shipping boats to dock. Timber and wine shipments from the north were transferred from small boats to warehouses to be taxed. The wine was then labeled as wine from Bacharach. While Bacharach does make local wine, it claimed all wines from the north as their wine as well. Then goods were transferred to large trading ships.

It was touching to hear Thomas’ stories of how the town was affected by Hitler and the Nazis during World War II. There is a long history of antisemitism. In 1289, the Wernerkapelle shrine was built to honor a murdered local teenager, Werner of Oberwessel. When his body was found, the Jewish community was blamed. Over two dozen local Jews were attacked and killed.

In 1689, the shrine was destroyed when the French blew up the Stahleck Castle on the hill above the shrine. The Wernerkapelle Ruins remain.

Stahleck Castle is now a youth hostel and restaurant. However, during World War II, Stahleck Castle was used as a detention center for youthful opponents of the Nazi regime and as an indoctrination camp for young Germans. Many Jews were killed or taken to detention camps. Thomas related stories of Jews that were close with his family. Through the town, you can see the stolperstein or “stumbling stones”. These memorials were placed in 2014 around Europe in memory of the Jews who once lived there.

Thomas discussed that some of the younger generation doesn’t believe the Holocaust happened. This is true is the US as well.

Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Before we finished our tour, we walked up on the hillside through the vineyards. Most grapes were white as the region is known for their Riesling wine, but I thought the red grapes showed up better in the pictures.

St. Goar/Rheinsfels Castle

We took a bus to St. Goar for a quick group lunch and then to hike up to Rheinfels Castle.

Rheinsfels Castle sits high above the city of St. Goar. It was a steep walk up, but the views were amazing. We met our castle guide, Alwin. This castle was nicknamed the Elbow Cat. Looking out over the river, we could see a castle to the right (Little Cat) and one to the left (Little Mouse). Surprisingly, there are castles every few miles along the river.

We learned about the natural defenses of the castle. On the exposed side, guards protected the castle. There is a labyrinth of low-hanging tunnels with sharp rocks on the walls. They used these tunnels to trap or kill enemy troops. Alwin took us into a dungeon. We walked in through a door, but at the time there was no door, just a trap door from the floor above. The phrase “throw them in the dungeon” was literal here.

At the end of the tour, Alwin serenaded us. Here is an excerpt.

Rhineland River Cruise

Rather than taking a bus back to Bacharach, we boarded a boat, enjoyed a drink, and took in the views along the way. Did I mention there are castles every few miles?!

The picture below may look like a castle, but it is actually a train tunnel. During World War II, the tunnels were made to look like castles in hopes that allied forces wouldn’t bomb them.

Stahleck Castle

The castle is now used as a youth hostel. When we walked up to the castle, a large group of young students had checked in for a field trip. What a fantastic place to explore! There were stairs, bridges, and look-out posts.

Stüber’s Restaurant

Tonight, we had dinner at Rick Steves’ favorite restaurant in Bacharach – Stüber’s Restaurant. We were joined by 2 couples from our tour group. Several of us decided to try the Slow Food Menu. What a treat!! We had tastings of every appetizer and dessert. Mark and I both chose the roast for the main course. Fantastic!!

We walked 8.5 miles today.

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