Intrepid Optimist is the place where I can share my stories; fact, fiction and thoughts from the past and present. It’s Written by myself for people who believe adventure knows no age
If you should ever have to travel by train from Cologne to Frankfurt, there are two choices. There is the super fast ICE train which stops at Bonn-Siegburg and can reach the thrilling speed of 300 kilometers per hour or – there is a more leisurely and less expensive journey from Cologne’s main railway station via Bonn, Coblence, and Mainz.
Despite having to travel to Frankfurt frequently and after a few of those high speed rides down the other side of the Rhine, where the scenery is just one blur, I came out in favour the slower, more measured Rhine Route. It is not just a matter of speed; it is because I am irresistibly drawn to that wonderful 65km-stretch, between Koblenz and Bingham, where the train at times, seemingly precariously, hugs the banks the Rhine.
I never tire of this imposing and enchanting part of the journey. I have enjoyed it through all the seasons of the year, from the stark greyness of the untamed river in winter to the beauty of the golden terraced vineyards in autumn. UNESCO has rightly inscribed this area of the Upper Middle Rhine with its historic towns, their fortified walls, ancient castles and vineyards as a World Heritage site.
Within ten minutes of leaving Coblence -where the river Mosel joins the Rhine, the train begins to weave its way through the narrow valley and along the steeply terraced slopes, following every turn of the Rhine. This is the same route which, for two thousand years, travellers have passed and battles have been waged.
At every bend of the Rhine I am looking out of the train window at history. The fortresses of Ehrenbreitstein, Burg Lahneck, Martinsburg, Lahstein and the magnificent Marksburg Castle are only a few of the many ruins visible on the hills across the river. To the right above the train, similar ancient fortresses remain obscured by the high wooded cliffs, which at times the train seems in danger of scraping.
Halfway along the valley, as the river gouges its path through the Taunus and Hunsrueck hills and with my nose still glued to the window I can see the famous outcrop where the mythical seductress, Loreley, made famous by the poetry of Heinrich Heine, once lured the Rhine boatmen to their death with her enchanted songs and mysterious beauty.
One of the most interesting and fascinating fortifications to be seen from the train is the Pfalzgrafstein (The Palatine Count’s Rock). Constructed around 1327, on a mid-river island, by the then King Ludwig of Bavaria. It was purpose-built to collect tolls from the passing boats and is still one of the best known and most photographed buildings in Germany.
The train continues to pass through – on occasions, straight through the middle – of picturesque medieval towns and villages; Boppard, St.Goar, and Baccarach being the better known of these. Across the river from Bingen, on the side of the Taunus mountain range, I can see the world-famous vineyards of Assmanhausen and Rudisheim.
As the train reaches Bingen, the countryside changes abruptly. Now the hills will level out and the Rhine once again becomes slow flowing and less meandering and only then I will turn my head from the window, settle back in my seat and enjoy my newspaper until the train arrives at Frankfurt.
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