Day 3-4: Bacharach
Day 3: Open Air Museum and Arrival in Bacharach
Bus to the Netherlands Open Air Museum
We took the bus to Bacharach but stopped on the way at the Netherlands Open Air Museum in Arnhem. We rode in the very front of the bus and had a fun, cockpit-style view of the drive.
The museum had old windmills you could climb, a tram that weaved through the grounds, little towns, a paper mill and print shop, old-style laundry facility operated by hand (or horses), a brewery and more. It also had lots of sheep, that Summer enjoyed petting!
Our group met at the museum cafe and enjoyed a Dutch pancake lunch. These were not ordinary pancakes with toppings, but ones that had them cooked inside. They reminded us of pizza. We sampled three different styles of pancakes; fruit based, cheese based and meat based.
Arrival in Bacharach
We arrived at our 800 year old hotel, Hotel Kranenturm in Bacharach. Our guide, Jennifer, told us that each room was uniquely decorated and had different features.
After arrival, we all left our room doors open and toured each others room to see what they looked like. That was a fun experience! Some rooms had a castle view, while others over looked the Rhine River. A few even had seats with a table connected to the window, like a breakfast nook. It was cool to see how many different and unique accommodations this hotel had to offer. Every stay would be a new experience!
Apertif and Group Dinner
Before dinner, many of the group members met on the patio for an apertif. We both had a local reisling wine. This was another chance for us to get to know more about our “buddies” and meet other members of the tour.
Dinner was really great! It consisted of potato leek soup, salad, chicken with mushroom sauce and spaetzle (a German style noodle).
After dinner we decided to take a night walk of Bacharach. It was so beautiful at night with the cobblestone roads and dim street lights. We stumbled upon Wernerkapelle, a skeleton ruin of a Gothic chapel, that was beautifully lit up. We climbed a tall flight of stairs to get to it and was able to walk around the base. This position also gave us a great view of the city at night. It felt magical and was a great way to spend our evening.
On our way back to the hotel we bumped into our bus driver, Richard. We asked him questions about learning and using the various languages we would need on the tour (German, Italian and French) and he put us at ease. He explained that in the place we are visiting, most people do not expect you to know the language fluently. In America, we do not have a need to know these languages. However, where he was from, the Netherlands, it was crucial for him to know Dutch, German and French because with a half hour in each direction of his home, one person may speak either one of those three languages. He said he now knows 5-6 languages because of his job. He must be able to communicate with all types of people on these bus tours.
The biggest advice he gave us was to be kind and courteous in every interaction, regardless of where you go, and it will get you a long way.
Day 4: Tour of Bacharach
Today we met our local guide Herr Jung, who is a retired schoolmaster that gives tours of Bacarach and recalls its war-stained past. We shook his hand at breakfast and told him how excited we were to meet him (we loved seeing him on the Rick Steves video episode and could not wait for this experience).
He told us the history of Bacharach and shared his personal story of what it was like to grow up during WWII. An emotional time for the whole group was when he talked about how his brother died during the war, but was never found. He took us to the top of a tower that gave a beautiful bird’s eye view of the town. A special treat was when he took us into a painter’s shop and had the owner perform three songs for us on a piano. One of the songs was “What a Wonderful Life.”
A quote that stuck with us from Herr Jung shared was “Every war starts with a lie.”
A Real Treasure
Herr Jung was a real treasure. For us, it was one of the most memorable and wonderful parts of the trip. We are so happy that we go to experience this since he is in his mid-80’s and we are not sure how much longer he will be active as a local guide.
St. Goar and Rheinfels Castle
After the tour of Bacharach we went to the town of St. Goar to have lunch on our own. We had our first German bratwurst and currywurst at a local restaurant. We expected it to come on a roll like in the U.S., but it did not. They were just on the plate with a side of fries and a salad, yet was very tasty!
Then we met our local guide, Gaby, for a tour of Rheinfels Castle. It was so cool inside! There were dark passageways, tunnels, archer cut hole cut outs in the walls to shoot arrows at enemies, ladder up to a tower, aerial views of the Rhine rive and more.
After the tour we were given some time to explore the town of St. Goar. We went into several shops, including one that sold all types of elaborate beer steins, another that sold cuckoo clocks, and even a wine shop. At the wine shop we got to sample an 89 Euro bottle of Reisling, peach brandy and a chocolate wine for free. We bought a 11 Euro bottle of Reisling and a German designed wine opener to take on our Rhine River cruise.
The Name Game
Since not everyone knew each others names in our group, Jennifer had us play a name game to learn them quickly. The group formed a circle and we went one by one saying each person’s name out loud. We would say the first person’s name, then the second person and first person’s, then the third persons, then second and first again. By the end we were repeating 20+ names over and over. By the end we all knew each others names by heart. It was a great idea!
Rhine River Cruise
Our group took a relaxing cruise on the Rhine River. We enjoyed our wine while gazing at the many castles along the way. We also saw the famous cliff where Loreley originated. Sheep grazed the hillsides as well as Reisling grape vines. It was cool to see how much of a struggle it is for vineyards to produce this wine, since the hills are so steep you need a harness just to navigate up and down them! We left appreciating this type of wine a lot more because of this.
Back in Bacharach
We revisited the shop where Herr Jung had set up the piano concert for our group earlier in the day. We bought a watercolor painting of the town as a souvenir, which we found out later was the same one in our hotel room!
Then, we hiked up the hillside to the Jugendherberge Burg Stahleck, a medieval castle that now serves as a youth hostel. It offered the highest and most amazing views of the town of Bacharach and the Rhine river. It was magnificent and a must do activity!
Dinner was on our own. We ate outside at Weingut Fritz Bastian and shared a plate of gouda and brie cheeses, sausage, smoked ham, pork, pickles, onions and pretzels. It was a great meal to end our day!