The Rhine is one of the longest, and most important rivers in Europe. It runs from the Swiss Alps, through Germany, to the Netherlands. My visit to the area was based in a triangle of towns, Rudesheim, Assmannshausen and Bingen – which, while being close neighbours, were very individual. The place we stayed in was Assmannshausen, which truly was the Germany I had imagined in my head. I found the ‘gingerbread’ houses, beautifully ornate half-timbered buildings and really friendly people. Our hotel, Zwei Mohren was very traditional, but perfectly comfortable. The views from the rooms were stunning. We even found a local pub nearby were we were treated like long lost friends and enjoyed great hospitality over a couple of nights. The village had a real feeling of being undiscovered. Early on the Sunday morning, I was able to wander the streets and didn’t see a soul. There are a couple of ways to get to the nearby town of Rudesheim. Of course, you can use the road, and be there in a couple of minutes. Alternatively, you may wish to use the chairlift and cable car. I will be honest here and say I didn’t even attempt the chairlift, but I hear the view from it is stunning! The chairlift takes you from Assmannshausen to the Niederwald mountain, where you can enjoy a 30 minute forest walk to the Niederwalddenkmal, which is a huge monument to commemorate the foundation of the German Empire. There are breathtaking views across the Rhine from the monument too. The town of Rudesheim spreads out far beneath you, and the most picturesque way down is by cable car…..which I did try… and can vouch for the stunning views and scenery as you glide above vineyards and rooftops.
Rudesheim is a very popular town, and its easy to see why. It’s famous for its fiery Asbach brandy and fabulous white wines. I spent hours wandering round the traditional restaurants, wine taverns and shops soaking up the atmosphere. The place to see and be seen is the Drosselgrasse, a short narrow street which comes alive at night. While we ate (an amazing) dinner on the terrace of the Hotel Lindenwirt, a live band in the corner kept diners entertained with some sing-along tunes, including the Birdie Song (which I hadn’t heard performed ‘live’ since a school concert in 1985) and a line of customers from a neighbouring restaurant performed an inpromtu conga up and down the street. It was that kind of night! Lindenwirt is one of the many taverns which own its own vineyard and produces its own wine, mainly Reisling varieties. They have opened a brand new cellar experience where you learn about the wines and taste what’s available. Nearby, we also visited the Hotel Zum Grunen Kranz, which has been owned by the same family since 1826. The hotel also has its own vineyards and the food they produce is well worth a visit in itself!
One of the quirkier places we visited was “Siegfrieds Mechanical Musical Cabinet” which is home to dozens of self-playing pianos and instruments. Some of these are nearly 200 years old and still in full working order. Rudesheim is a popular stop off for the many cruise boats which travel the Rhine in their dozens. These boats are very well appointed, with sun decks, bars and restaurants so visitors can enjoy the trip on the river, relax and enjoy the scenery. The nearest port, Bingen, is directly opposite Rudesheim and only 10 minutes away by ferry. We visited at the time the Bingen Swingt Jazz Festival was in full flow, and it was great to walk around the various stages in the town centre and on the river bank. Bingen itself is quite a compact town and is not, as yet, on the tourist trail – so I found it quite refreshing that it had that ‘undiscovered’ feel. The town has a stunning “jardins surprise” on the riverfront which presents a number of stunning garden designs and provide for a great area to relax. If you have time to travel further afield, you can visit the town of Lorsch, with its 9th Century Abbey; the Bergastrasse wine region, where many of the vineyards offer tastings and the city of Weinheim with its stunning town square and castles. There’s lots more to discover in the region, you can find further information, check out www.frankfurt-rhine-main.com