The famous rock that juts out into the Rhein (it isn't actually in the Rhein) is enormous, but nowhere near as impressive as I'd been led to believe. With all the hype and history I'd thought it would be an outstanding sight on its own, but as I passed it on the boat it seemed much like the many other cliffs upstream of it. Historically it is very important, and its forceful presence in the river at this bend caused many a Rhein riverboat man to lose his life in the treacherous eddies it created in the water. It'd danger led to the creation of the legend of the sirens, the singing mermaids who'd lure sailors down to their deaths in the depths. Apparently the views from the top of the rock truly are outstanding, but I didn't get the chance to see.
Imagine you are on a cruise headed down the Rhein River near St. Goar – the part of the river in Germany that is UNESCO designated as a natural wonder. As you look from your ship upwards on both sides of the river, you see castles at every turn, flanked by vineyards, small villages, and forest. A beautiful sight!
Now, fast forward several hours later into the night as your ship makes the return trek back to its starting point, when the sun is setting and darkness overtakes this beautiful region. Nothing can be seen in the forests, the castles blend in with the landscape, and the villages are mere shadows along the water's edge. Now is the time to take your place for a special event…Rhein in Flammen (Rhine Aflame).
One by one, the castles begin to light up in various colors – reds, oranges, greens, and blues – seen from your ship in the middle of the river. Bang! What’s that?!? Fireworks! From the small villages and vineyards, a series of firework displays are set off. Large white shells fill the sky, small swirling red hummers, green and blue spiders…a pyrotechnics delight!
This spectacular show continues for the duration of your cruise home. For the grand finale, your ship takes its place in the center of the Rhein River, between St. Goar and St. Goarhausen, where you are treated to a thirty minute show from both sides of the river. Villages, vineyards and ships light up under the massive explosions of color, people “ooh” and “ah” while photographers attempt to catch it all for posterity; it is a night to remember.
We can see fireworks at many celebrations throughout our lifetime, and, yes, they are typically beautiful and worthy of our “oohs” and “ahs”. But how many do we actually remember? Rhine Aflame is one of those displays that you will not forget! Photos don’t do it justice; you have to be there to truly appreciate it. These festive displays occur about four times a year at various parts along the Rhine. If you find yourself in Germany, try to get to one of these events – you’ll be glad you did!
There are four nights in the summer that the fireworks are set off along the Rhein in Germany with St. Goar’s being held the in September. Our cruise was a nice dinner with friends as we cruised up the river and then, as darkness approached, we went to the top of the ship to take our places for the show. It was a great night.
If you don't want to take a ship to see the fireworks, you can head to St. Goar or St. Goarhausen by car or train view the fireworks on both sides of the river from the shores.
The legend of the Lorelei is about a beautiful young water nymph who lives in this part of the Rhein, banished to the cliffs. While combing her long blonde hair, she sweetly sings to the ships below, luring the men up to the rock and the cliffs. These seekers of the Lorelei fall to their death in the waves below. Die Lorelei is a well-known German folksong written by German poet Heinrich Heine in 1827.
The waters of the Rhein below the Loreley are some of the most dangerous along the Rhein with a strong current and shallows. Those sailing on the Rhein must be vigilant or risk losing their lives, as others have done in the past.
Today, the Lorelei attracts travelers and bus groups to the top of the cliffs. The road to the top is a fairly easy drive – follow the signs in Loreley/St. Goarhausen along route 42. You will turn into the town on the L338 then turn right onto K89. Follow the road to the end to the cliffs overlooking the Rhein. Parking is €1 for a car. You can walk all around the cliffs, enjoying a beautiful view of the river. Beside the restaurant that sits in this location is a statue of the Lorelei maiden.
by Heinrich Heine
I do not know what haunts me,
What saddened my mind all day;
An age-old tale confounds me,
A spell I cannot allay.
The air is cool and in twilight
The Rhine's dark waters flow;
The peak of the mountain in highlight
Reflects the evening glow.
There sits a lovely maiden
Above so wondrous fair,
With shining jewels laden,
She combs her golden hair
It falls through her comb in a shower,
And over the valley rings
A song of mysterious power
That lovely maiden sings.
The boatman in his small skiff is
Seized by a turbulent love,
No longer he marks where the cliff is,
He looks to the mountain above.
I think the waves must fling him
Against the reefs nearby,
And that did with her singing
The lovely Loreley.
This castle was HUGE at one time – the biggest castle on the Rhein. It dates back to 1245 and was seiged by the French in 1692 before being destroyed (again by the French) in 1797. What you see today is just a small part of what it used to be.
As you enter the castle, you will get a map when you pay (€4 adults, €2 children). Instead of following the map, look first for the museum, which should be straight ahead on the path in front of you. I highly recommend you start in the museum. As you enter the museum, begin on the LEFT. There you get a tour of the castle through the years and an idea of what you will be seeing. Also, the best part is the model of the castle at its fullest. Here you will clearly see how massive this place used to be. The rest of the museum is okay and worth a quick look, but the historical part along with the model are what we came to see first. Now, you can go back and start your tour.
You’ll go in and out of all kinds of places, dark corridors, and open spaces. Look for the Große Keller, which was a very large pantry – remember the large castle and its inhabitants experienced at least one siege and needed a place to store their supplies.
Walk up to the lookout and enjoy the view of the Rhein; walk through the mine tunnels to see below the castle. There are still lots of areas that you can envision what it just might have looked like in the past.
Once you have had enough of the castle, you can buy a souvenir or grab a snack at the shops just outside the gate.
Burg Rheinfels is a heart pumping hike UP from the town (follow the signs towards the train station and keep following the Burg Rheinfels signs). If this isn’t something you are interested in, you can drive up to the castle and park in the large lot at the top. If you want to spend the night, they also have a hotel next to the castle.
I suggest sturdy footwear as the grounds are rugged at times and you may be going up and down rough steps. A small flashlight comes in handy in some of the castle areas.
Castle is open daily except on public holidays. The museum is closed from November through March (see specific details on website below).
Its a beautiful castle and is also a hotel. You can walk up in 15 minutes but if you are lazy or tired take a street car called "Castle-Express". You can also take magnificent view of the Rhine river and the surrounding environments. You will enjoy the view.
If you stay in St. Goar, your eyes cannot help but be drawn to the sight of the castle Katz right across the Rhein. You many think to yourself, hmm,,,that castle is so close, I wonder if it is worth a visit? Well, you can go a knockin', but you probably won't be let in. Burg Katz is privately owned. One of the shopkeepers in town said it is owned by a wealthy Japanese businessman who only visits occasionally. You will know he is in if you see a flag flying above the castle.
On the same side of the Rhein as St. Goar, are the lovely towns of Bacharach, Oberwesel, and Boppard. (I listed them in my favorite order)
Bacharach has the most amazing architecture, weinstubes, and there is the mighty castle Stahleck to hike up to. It is now a hostel.
Oberwesel has an impressive amount of castle wall remains still surrounding the town, a lovely town square, and again, weinstubes...
Boppard has a chairlift (sesselbahn) to ride over its vineyards and watch out your window when you're passing boppard by train, you might see the folks trying out the rock climbing.
From St. Goar, take the ferry across to St. Goarhausen. Follow the road along the Rhein heading south. You will pass the statue of the Loreley on the spur of land in the river. Right after, there will be a path starting off in the woods to the left. It is about a 20-30 minute hike from that point.
This is one of the main reasons you came to this area right? To ride the Rhein! Or was it to drink the wine?
The dock to board the ship can't be missed. Just make sure you look for the Koeln-Dusseldorfer sign. (KD) There are some private cruise lines, and you wouldn't want to pay extra!
The boat moves along slowly, chugging along castle by castle by castle. There is running commentary, but if you are on the top deck, you won't hear it. Bring along your own little guidebook. You can pick up one in town before boarding. There is a snack cafe on board, with outrageous prices, as only those desperate for a drink/snack will pay. If you're a snacker, you'd be better off bringing along your own.
It took about 3 hours (10.20 to 1.15) for us to go from St. Goar to Ruedesheim. After wining, dining, and visiting Ruedesheim, we opted for a much quicker ride home. We took the train from Rudesheim to St. Goarhausen and ferried across the Rhein to St. Goar.
The sheer size of this place is impressive. Standing high above St. Goar, you can't miss the massive ruins of Rheinfels Castle. The Duke Diether V von Katzenelnbogen had the castle built in 1245 to protect the St. Goar customs people. It has a long history, which I won't go into here! It became the property of the town St. Goar in 1925.
Don't be surprised if you get lost traipsing around the ruins. We did. So did others. You'll eventually find your way out. There are lots of dark tunnels too! Spooky!
A restaurant, museum, and souvenir shop are located here also.
Admission at the time of our visit was 4 euros. Check the website below for up-to-date fare.
You can follow Schlossberg road up to the castle, or there is a path leading up to the castle starting by the youth hostel. OR, if you don't want to tax your respiratory system, you can take the Burg Express from the Market Place. It ferries folks to and from the castle every 15 minutes or so. A one way ticket is 2 euros. Roundtrip, 3 euros.
There's a great viewpoint in Patersberg, which lies opposite of St Goar and above St Goarshausen. There's a free parking close a to big building which used to be a hotel and you just have to go a few steps to see the beautiful Rhein valley. You really have an amazing view from there – you can see the Katz castle close by, a little bit further there's the Lorelei rock, on the other side of the river there's Sankt Goar with the Rheinfels castle and then a bit more distant and hard to see there's the Maus castle. I'll come back when there's more green to see, but it's even nice in the late autumn!
A little bit up the Rhein (Rhine) river you'll reach "St Goar an der Loreley" where you'll find the 132 m high Loreley rock. It's on the opposite side of the Rhein river, i.e. on the same side as Sankt Goarshausen. The legend says that a maid was sitting there, singing sad songs, which abstracted the captains of the ships so that they stranded or even got killed. The Rhein there is only 113 m wide and today this still is a dangerous place for ships, so that there are lights that show oncoming traffic.
There's a statue at the Rhein river, and also one on the top of the cliffs. On the top there's also a visitors center, but I've never been there... I only enjoyed the view...
The castle Rheinfels, which means "Rhine rock", is a nice ruined castle which was build in the 13th century. It's a huge castle and there's lots to explore. And you have a fantastic view on the Rhein valley! There are information plates (in German) at several places and you'll get a map of the castle with some explanations. The castle also has a museum, but during winter it's closed – and obviously November already counts as winter. But in return the admission was reduced by 1 Euro.
Be sure to take a flash light with you - there are several dark and narrow passages, very interesting to see where you come out! Some were very low (about 1 m high), not easy to go, and I didn't feel very comfortable... it's really adventurous!
There's a parking next to the castle which costs 50 cents per hour. We took exactly one hour for our visit, but only because it was cold and raining much, so rather plan more time!
You also can take the Burg-Express, a little train that drives up to the castle from the town. Not sure if it's running in winter times.
Open daily from 9:00 to 18:00. From mid of November to mid of March only open on Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 to 17:00.
Admission: 4 € adults, 2 € children.
While you're in St. Goar, you have to visit Stefan's Wine and Christmas Paradise. Their website is www.stefans-wine-paradise.de. Stephan's family owns a vineyard, but you can make an appointment for a wine tasting....it's awesome!! He gives you a taste of nearly everything in the store. I especially loved the strawberry brandy and the eiswein. He loves Americans (he's married to a lady from FL) and if you are military and have been deployed, he gives you a free bottle of wein. He's great, so pay him a little visit!
St.Goarshausen & Burg Katz are another highlight of a cruise through the Rhine-valley. St.Goarshausen is opposite of St.Goar and quite close to the famous Loreley-rock. In St.Goarshausen you may still see some old towers - remains of the medieval townwalls - and high above the village is Burg Katz, dating back to the year 1370. The castle was destroyed by Napoleon in 1806 and reconstructed again at the end of the 19th century.
Nowadays you may not visit the castle,because it is owned by the German ministry of finances and used for the recreation of their employees. Not a bad way to spend our taxes :-((
The name "Katz" (cat) comes from the count of Katzenelnbogen, who owned quite a lot of castles along the Rhine. Opposite of Burg Katz, in a distance of maybe 1000 meters you may see Burg Maus (mouse) - see my next tip !
In St.Goarshausen the valley is quite narrow and I may NOT recommend to stay overnight there in a hotel - the trains are running through town all day and night !!
Drive on top of the Loreley-rock , it is just about 5km from St.Goarshausen and there you will not hear these noises !!