The following morning we sail to Rudeshiemer. Clear blue sky and a chilling breeze keep us inside the main lounge where the tour Manager drones on about the features we are passing. The most interesting fact to me was that the river is very low and many of the rocks normally covered are exposed. The Rhine is a very busy waterway. Apart from the tour boats there are dozens of barges carrying industrial goods and on both sides of the river goods trains rattle past very regularly – at sometimes every 15 minutes.
We seem to be entering the major grape growing region as vineyards now appear covering the surrounding hills stretching for miles. Interspersed amongst the vineyards are the ruins of castles and castles still in use today. These castles were used like customs houses collecting tariffs from the merchants and sailors plying the Rhine. In one case they had a novel if somewhat terrorising system for recalcitrants – a cage hung high over the river into which the recalcitrant would be placed until he or she paid up.
As we approached Rudeschiemer there appeared high on the hill another large and grandiose monument. Little did I know then that we would be walking to that monument later that day. We docked at Rudeschiemer during lunch. They have so many tourist boats they have developed docks for day trippers and overnight river boats. The village itself is stretched along the banks underneath the vineyards whilst on the other side of the river is Binger which appears to have the benefit of a wide plain behind it. Not so as we will see later. We walked up through the village to find a chairlift as we had decided against the organised tour and instead planned to trip over the mountain to Assmannshausen then take a boat (yes another boat) back to Rudeschiemer. We walked through the main square where they were giving the trees their winter haircut and found the chairlift kiosk very quickly. The gondolas are designed for two people and are open so the trip was very different from our previous trip on the Ropewalk. The gondola climbed out of the village giving breathtaking views of the Rhine and the vineyards.
At the terminus on top of the mountain there are numerous walking tracks but the main track is past a mock roman temple type structure Tempel Rebenhaus again giving magnificent views of the river around to that massive monument Niederwald Denkmal I mentioned. The track wound through a park now over grown into a forest for 45 minutes with viewing points and points of interest along the way. The track was shaded by mature trees and the sunlight filtered through at times brilliantly and other times it could get quite chill. We came across Rossel an old watch tower which gave us a very different view of Binger than what could be seen from the river.
We also came across a historic Zauberhohle – a stone tunnel the purpose of which I cannot guess. The English translation was “enchanted cave” and the notice board said there was an historical explanation at the rear exit. Kerry switched on the light on her IPhone and we wound through the Zauberhohle exiting at a newly built round room but no historical explanation could be found. Oh well one of the mysteries of life.
After the enchanted cave we passed a hotel in what appeared to be the wilderness but in fact was just off a well formed road and around to the next chairlift taking us down to Assmannshausen. These were open chairs and they glided through the forest until reaching a long drop down to the village. Stunning views once again – vineyards the river and the village. In the village was the picture book you hear about. Quaint German buildings all nestled together with narrow roads intersecting (but watch out for the school bus charging through). We stopped at the Krone Hotel (Crown I expect) and there sample the pinot noir from Hollenberg (the local vineyard) and the Riesling from the nearby village of Losch. The pinot was silky and delicate and the Riesling was dry and lightly fruity. Oh and we also had a piece of plum cake to share.
We could see the ferry terminal from our table in the forecourt of the Krone and thought there would be no trouble to get there for the 4.30 ferry. Except the highway between us and the river. After negotiating our way across the road and under the traffic barrier we caught the ferry to return to Rudeschiemer passing as we did a lonely small vineyard high on a hill, the Rossel, the Mouses Tower outside Binger and the vast stretches of terraced vineyards.