Schliessen
Schliessen

From Toll Tower to Toll Tower

Anyone who takes a boat trip from the southern entrance of the Middle Rhine Valley will first pass the Bingen Mäuseturm and eventually arrive at the famous Burg Pfalzgrafenstein castle, which stands in the middle of the Rhine by Kaub, the destination of the day cruise. In former times, both structures served a single purpose: to collect tolls – using force of arms, if necessary. Things are far more peaceful on the Rhine nowadays, and voyagers are more inclined to let themselves get lost in the unique, idyllic landscape comprising vine-yards, villages and castles that flank the route.

How very convenient! The cruise through the Middle Rhine Valley can be started from either the left or right banks of the Rhine. This means one less hurdle to overcome in this stretch of the Rhine that’s otherwise rather lacking in crossing possibilities. This is thanks to Bingen and Rüdesheim lying pretty much across the river from each other at the southern entrance to the Middle Rhine Valley. And KD naturally stops at both towns. It’s a good idea to set aside a whole day for an excursion through the UNESCO world heritage site that is the Middle Rhine Valley. Early birds on the right bank of the Rhine can board the first KD ship of the day at 9:15 from Rüdesheim in Hessen, while those from the left bank can join ship a quarter of an hour later from Bingen in Rhineland-Palatinate. It’s pretty cosmopolitan on board ship, with Asian tour groups making the early start along with Spanish families, French cycle tourers and all manner of day trippers from the immediate vicinity of Bingen and Rüdesheim and further afield as well.

Sit back and enjoy

There’s definitely a positive side to the tour’s early start: the morning sun glints off the surface of the water and the gently rolling banks of the river seem a tad surreal. The journey to Kaub takes just 70 minutes, with the strong Rhine current lending a helping hand. The voyager now has to choose how to spend the next hour or so on board: the more meditative type, who wants to immerse himself in the scenery as it drifts by, will want to find a comfortable spot with a view – by the rail on the open deck in good weather, of course, and ideally looking towards the Rüdesheim bank of the Rhine – i.e. the right-hand side when facing the direction of travel.

Because just a quarter of an hour after casting off in Bingen, this is where the next picturesque Rhine village will come into view – Assmannshausen. The village is known as an island of red wine in an area that is otherwise dominated by Riesling. While sailing by, you get a great view of the chairlift that runs from Assmannshausen to the Niederwald hunting lodge. Something you should definitely make a note of as a possible port of call for your next day trip – with the popular KD Ring Ticket, perhaps…?

Just 20 minutes later, the ship arrives at the next small wine village, Lorch, which, like Assmannshausen, also has a KD jetty and is a worthwhile destination for wine lovers in particular.

On-board refreshments

All those who didn’t get round to having breakfast at home because of the ship’s early departure can make up for it on board. The KD breakfast menu is extensive, the coffee aromatic and the service so fast that the 70 minutes it takes to reach Kaub offer ample time to eat your fill without having to hurry.

Anyone finished with breakfast ten minutes earlier has time to catch a glimpse of Bacharach, which is crowned by Burg Stahleck castle that was converted into a youth hostel in the early 20th century, and which is still protected by a mighty defensive wall and numerous fortified towers to this day. Before you know it, it’s time to get ready to dis-embark, because one more left curve and Burg Pfalzgrafenstein castle will come into view. Like the Mäuseturm by Bingen, it lies on a small island in the middle of the Rhine and heralds our arrival in Kaub, the destination of our day trip.

Journey of discovery through Kaub

Although Kaub is the smallest village in Rhineland-Palatinate with just 860 inhabitants, it has an amazing number of attractions to offer. So the early rise is worth it, as it means you can take the time to explore the village and its places of interest without having to hurry. To help you plan your visit, there’s a display board right beside the jetty that lists all of Kaub’s places of interest. How about a stroll along the city wall? Still preserved are the six main towers and the vaulted-archway battlements that to this day still serve as an emergency walkway when the Rhine breaks its banks. Or would you rather climb up to Burg Gutenfels castle that looks down on the village from its rocky outcrop? The castle, which was built in 1220, is in private hands today, and although it cannot be visited inside, it still offers spectacular views over the Rhine, the vineyards and of course Kaub itself.

Blücher everywhere

Back in the village again, and it’s time to find out what Kaub’s special relationship with Field Marshal Blücher is all about, because the Prussian commander seems to be everywhere round here: his larger-than-life statue gazes down on the river from the promenade, the Blücherbach stream runs through the Blüchertal valley towards the Rhine and number six Metzgergasse is home to the Blücher Museum. Anyone visiting the handsome baroque building steps 200 years into the past to the time of the Napoleonic Wars. It was the same Blücher who back then as commander-in-chief of the Silesian army ordered the construction of a pontoon bridge in Kaub, over which around 50,000 soldiers, 15,000 horses, 182 cannons and innumerable articles of equipment and supplies subsequently crossed the Rhine from New Year 1814. Their destination: Paris. The museum documents this spectacular operation, which contributed substantially to the fall of Napoleon, as well as domestic culture of the early 19th century and chapters in Blücher’s life.

Castle in the river

No less spectacular than Blücher’s crossing of the Rhine is Kaub’s most famous attraction – Burg Pfalzgrafenstein, which stands on an unnamed island in the Rhine. A small passenger ferry takes visitors to the island every half hour where they can explore the castle and island on their own. After visiting the battlements and tower room, the surprisingly spacious inner courtyard and the south side of the castle that points upstream like the bow of a ship, you can take some time to relax and unwind on a bench. It’s like you’re sitting in the middle of the Rhine and you can watch as large and small ships head directly towards you.

“... Burg Pfalzgrafenstein, which stands on an unnamed island in the Rhine.”

Anyone in need of refreshment after so much history will find ample dining opportunities in Kaub, including the cafe in one of Germany’s most modern youth hostels. This has been housed since 2010 in the former Kurpfälzische Amtskellerei, with its buildings dating from the 14th and 18th century, set right next to the town wall. Or you can wait until the KD ship reap-pears, as the on-board kitchen is perfectly geared to cater to the needs of hungry sightseers in the early evening too. And as we’re now heading back upstream, you have around two hours to enjoy an on-board meal before disembarking once again in Bingen or Rüdesheim. And before you know it, another day trip draws to an end.

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