Quick Tips on the Mittelrhein

A stroll through the tiny village of Rudesheim and the nearby Niderwald monument during the summer can be anything but a stroll. It can be more of a crawl as scores of tourists scour the town's lilliputtian streets along the banks of the Rhine River. I first visited Rudesheim and the Niederwald monument in November of 1998. I was in Mainz visiting a business partner. After our meeting, he was kind enough to drive me along the Middle Rhine region. Despite the late season, the weather was clear and crisp and the towns were remarkably devoid of tourists. Yet, such is not the case during the tourist season.

If you're visiting closer to the summer, rather than fighting the crowds in Rudesheim, start your tour of the Rhine a little further north of the river. The second time I visited the Rhine was in May of 1999. We mostly skipped over Rudesheim and took a train from Bingen up to Bacharach, a fascina ting and tiny medieval town with charming architecture, plenty of history and a trail that takes you up to one of the Rhine's countless castles. Bacharach has a population of roughly 1,000 but has more history than some states in the Union.

From Bacharach (or from most of the towns along the Rhine), one can catch one of the frequent boats (Fahrgastschiffahrt!? I love how some German words have fahrt in them) that travel up and down the river to visit nearby towns. Worthwhile stops include the well-preserved Oberwesel and the charming St. Goar and St. Goarhausen. Along the way, one can encounter the famed Lorelei and listen as the boat pipes in a song known to schoolchildren all across Germany. Also worth visiting is Burg Rheinfels.

Trains also offer flexibility along the Mittelrhein as you can use them, for example, to travel from Bacharach to Trechtingshausen (site of the neary Sooneck castle) or to/from other towns. May is a wonderful time to visit as the weather can be sunny and pleasant and crowds have yet to overtake the region. September begins to thin out a bit, as well. You can take a chance, like I did, in November but weather can be risky. Of course, I would imagine December is wonderful once the Christmas markets are all set up.

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