The Magical and Fairytale Medieval Town of Bacharach

After eating our breakfast and making a picnic lunch to munch on later, we packed up our bags, left the Pathpoint Hostel, and walked back over to the train station in Cologne to board another train about 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, July 28th. We were headed for the medieval town of Bacharach on the banks of the Rhine River.

cologne to bacharach mapOur train journey lasted approximately 2 1/2 hours, and we traveled about 95 miles in a southeasterly direction.  It would have taken about the same amount of time if we had driven a car instead.

There were a couple of sights I dearly would have loved to visit along this particular part of the route. One such example was Eltz Castle – a castle that has been in the same family for about 850 years and is still intact – in the Moselle River Valley. Another place I would have also enjoyed visiting was Sankt Goar, an old medieval town with a ruined castle.  Because we were on the train, however, and not in a rental car, we had to pass them by. I guess I will just have to return to the Rhine River Valley and rent a car to see everything I missed the first time!  Oh, doo!

When we arrived in Bacharach at the train station, it was hushed; not a soul was around. The station is located just outside the village on the northern edge of town. We started walking down the cobbled medieval streets toward the center of town. The place seemed to be deserted. Everything was closed, and the village was absolutely quiet – that’s when we remembered it was a Sunday! We did finally come across someone local to the area and inquired about a taxi.

We were very excited about coming to this town, not only because it is such a charming old-world treasure, but also because the hostel we had booked in this quaint town was located in a real live castle! The castle, however, was perched high up on the hill above the village. We did not relish having to climb stairs for about 1/2 mile with our bags in tow nor take the longer route following the road which wound about the hill for a mile and a half or so. I had read in a guidebook that one could hire a taxi for a nominal fee, and we were extremely interested in exercising that option. I started digging for the name and phone number of the cab when the local person who was helping us stated, “There’s only one taxi in town, and I already know the number. I’ll call them for you!” “Danke!” we replied, extremely grateful for the assistance!

The taxi arrived in short order, and much to our relief, we only had to walk a few yards downhill the last little bit of the road to reach our final destination!

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As we entered, we oo’d and awed!  This was so much fun! It was already exceeding our grandest expectations! The walkway opened out onto an inner courtyard, and the half-timbered and stone buildings delighted us.

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Eventually, we found our way to the Reception desk and checked-in. The facilities inside were quite lovely, and they even had an armed Knight guarding the entrance!

We were quite pleased to find out that our room was located in the Tower. That’s our window – the second one down from the roof on the right in the photo below!

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We entered the double doors at the ground level, worked our way up the spiral staircase to the 4th floor, and when we got to our room and looked out the window, we were exceedingly pleased with the view it afforded!

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After stowing our stuff and enjoying the gorgeous views, we headed back downstairs to explore more of the castle.

They had a little outdoor cafe on the terrace where we ordered a lovely cup of tea for Grace and a couple of Latte’s for Errin and I. We sat and enjoyed the gorgeous view watching the boats lazily pass by on the river below.

We also enjoyed an ice cream. Mine was an ice cream sandwich of the likes I’ve never seen before. It had a sweet waffle-like crispy cookie on the outside with stripes of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream in the middle.  Yum!

After that nice rest, we decided to do some more exploring around the castle following the pathway down around the backside of the castle, which leads to the vineyards along the hillside.

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We discovered some interpretive signs and learned that the castle was built by the archbishops of Cologne in the 12th century. It protected the town and collected tolls from trading ships passing by on the river. The castle was also heavily fortified and surrounded by a partial moat once upon a time. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in the late 17th century by the French during the Thirty Years War. However, it was rebuilt in the 20th century and became the first hostel in Germany.

This is what the town and the castle looked like way back in 1832 (left) and then again in 1932 after it became a hostel. Bacharach 1832Stahleck castle 1932

We explored every inch of the immediate area and had worked up an appetite. Luckily, about the time we wandered back inside, it was time to head downstairs into the dining room for our dinner.

The dining room was a hub of activity. Many of our fellow guests were families with young children, and the place was buzzing. They offered a very nice hot meal for a very reasonable price, and the food selection was fantastic.

Stahleck castle hostel dining roomThey had a superb salad bar, various types of bread and rolls to choose from, fresh fruit, an excellent cheese selection including deep-fried brie, drinks, and a very delicious chicken pasta dish we all savored.

They even offered dessert!  Such a deal!

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Early the next morning, we reluctantly packed our bags after a nice shower and another satisfying breakfast at the hostel. We headed back down to the train station to determine which train we would need to take to Mannheim, which was about 50 miles south as the crow flies. We figured out (with the help of some fellow travelers from the US) that we could catch the train at 10:46. The timing of the train would allow us a chance to walk around the village, taking in the sights of the beautiful buildings and learn a bit more about its charms.

We noticed that the Tourist Information office had just opened, so we went inside to inquire about the sights to see in the town. The lady was accommodating and even suggested we leave our luggage with her at the TI while we wandered about town on foot.

It was a sleepy Monday morning, and the charming village was just beginning to stir as we worked our way along its cobbled and twisting lanes.

IMG_9547The architecture was quite stunning and somewhat intriguing, like this example near the TI, called the “Rathaus.” It was built in the 16th century and was used as stables and saloons for the manufacturing, storage, and handling of delicious wine in this region. Since 1937 it has served as the “Rathaus,” or Town Hall, where the Mayor presides.

Naturally, the bakery was open at this time of day, presenting their freshly baked, yummy looking wares!

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We particularly enjoyed the unique business signs depicting what they had to offer.

At the center of town in the Marktplatz (Market place) stood St. Peter’s church taking center stage.

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Just across the lane from St. Peter’s church was this beautiful building below. According to the signage, this used to be the Court of Justice in Bacharach. It was destroyed in 1872 but reconstructed in 1902.

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The shop windows sported some fascinating items, including some quite elaborate miniature diorama scenes to enjoy.

As we made our way along the main street, the impressive architecture continued to delight the senses.

IMG_9659This old house is a well-known medieval timbered house with a gable roof and was built around 1368. It has inspired artists over the centuries, and I hear it’s a great place to eat and sample the local wines. It also serves as a B&B that comes highly recommended. In hindsight, I wish I had booked a second night in Bacharach and made a reservation at this place so we could have spent a bit more time in this lovely little village.

 

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We walked as far as Tomi’s Supermarket on the south side of town, where Grace replenished her stash of Werner’s Caramels. Then we turned around and started working our way back through the fairy tale village, finding more narrow lanes to follow and discovering more exciting sights.IMG_9691

 

 

 

 

 

We caught sight of the ancient walls that fortified this village, more inventive places to grow gardens, the village well, coy statues and intricate ironwork on doors. Everywhere you looked, there was something quite unique to marvel at.

We spotted the stairway that leads up to the Wernerkapelle Gothic sandstone church that was built in the 13th century, so we walked up to get a closer look. Quite impressive!

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We took the stairs back down to the village once again. We decided at that point to walk over to the city park, which is on the banks of the Rhine. Along the way, we passed a beautiful cozy little spot where one can sample the wines of the region in a garden setting.  Looks nice!

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We passed through the fortified city walls via a tunnel to access the Rhine River and the park. En route, we spied some cute little wooden figures adorning someone’s window sills that were quite whimsical.  People are so creative, aren’t they?

Near the parking lot of the park, the first thing we noticed was this bee hotel! Another example of creativity in providing places for bees to enjoy and use.

As a finale to our morning, we enjoyed a pleasant stroll in the sunshine along the river. We enjoyed the views of the town and the castle above it, from its banks.

IMG_9729Grace found a handy place in the playground to relax and let all the sights she’d seen soak in for a bit before we headed for the train station.

Bacharach is undoubtedly a pretty little village. It was described by Victor Hugo as one of the “world’s prettiest towns.”  I have to agree and imagine that it certainly qualifies as one of Germany’s best-preserved medieval towns. It was a delight to explore. If you ever decide to explore the Rhine River Valley for yourself, I highly recommend you spend a couple of days in this beautiful village.

The next couple of destinations we will explore along the Rhine River are Mannheim and Karlsruhe. Stay tuned for more adventures!

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving 68-year young American great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

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