This “Middle Rhine” post is one of our collection of stories about taking a Rhine River Cruise.
On the fifth day of our cruise we woke up just before our ship left Rüdesheim. The view from our window was idyllic: clouds were tinged a light apricot and the church across the water was bathed in a soft glow.
This was the stretch of river we’d been most looking forward to: the Middle Rhine Valley, with castles at every turn, beautiful vineyards, charming villages and the Lorelei Rock.
Nowhere else in the world will you see as many medieval castles in one place as on this unique stretch of the Rhine. This part of the Middle Rhine Valley is so special that it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Castles, castles everywhere
It took twice as long to finish breakfast because we kept getting up to run to the lobby, where balconies on each side gave a clear view of the picturesque riverbanks. The Program Director gave an interesting commentary about the towns, castles and other interesting sights as we went along, and reminded us that this is a prime wine-growing region.
As soon as we finished eating we ran up to the sundeck, where other cruise passengers were enjoying the view and the perfect weather: clear, warm, sunny and breezy with only a scattering of fluffy clouds in the sky.
Toll Booth Ahead
The Castles and ruins we saw along the river were more than just residences. The owners realized that the Rhine River was a valuable source of income and set up toll booths on the river. During the millennium leading up to 1800 AD, 79 different locations collected tolls along the Rhine. Since it was the major thoroughfare for western Europe during that time, the ships had no choice but to pay. This made the Holy Roman Empire very happy, as these tolls were a major source of their income.
One guy set up a toll booth in the middle of the river so he could be sure to get them going and coming.
The Lorelei Rock
About an hour and a half after we set sail we passed the Lorelei Rock. This is a huge, slate rock that rises 400 feet straight up at a very hazardous point at the river. The Lorelei legend was made famous by a poem by Heinrich Hesse. According to the legend, the beautiful siren Lorelei would sit atop the rock and sing. Sailors would be distracted by the nymph’s hypnotic singing and not pay attention to their work, and their ships would be destroyed on the rocks below.
It’s true that many ships have fallen victim to the jagged rocks in the narrow, winding gorge. No need to worry now, though. They’ve widened it to make it safer.
A while after we passed the rock our ship docked in Braubach. It wasn’t enough to let us look as we passed by, we got a chance to visit one of the castles. Marksburg Castle will get its own post next week. Meanwhile, take a look at our Middle Rhine gallery; we have over 50 photos to enjoy there.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated certain places in the world as of outstanding cultural or natural importance to humanity.
Read more about why the Middle Rhine Valley is a UNESCO Site on their website.
Or if you prefer, you can read about our own experiences at UNESCO sites.