Trip Taken: 2005
Waking up in the hostel at the top of the hill in Bachrach was a nice experience. The view of the river below is breathtaking and the sun hasn’t risen over the surrounding hills just yet. I went to get my normal hostel breakfast: toast with butter and jam, a hard-boiled egg, and any kind of deli meats they have. This being a German hostel, the meat selection is better than usual. No Black Forest ham but still better than packaged slices I would find back home. We would only stay one night here and there really isn’t any reason to stay any longer even if we were on a longer trip. The Rhine Valley has so much to offer to stay in only one part of it.
Burg Rheinfels and the Underground Labyrinth
We had two stops on our itinerary for the last day of our trip. The first was guided-tour through Burg Rheinfels. Although you need a minimum number of people to do the tour of Rheinfels, I would highly recommend trying to get a group together to reserve a tour. You could try the hostel you’re staying at or internet. It allows you to go to a part of the castle that is restricted to only tour participants, the underground labyrinth. Let me get into a little about the history of the castle that I can remember. Fortress was impenetrable and it had mainly to do with it being on top of a very high hill. When enemies entered they would go through the labyrinth and many soldiers got lost and died within the miles of dark tunnels that led no where. Our tour guide said that there were several occasions when tour visitors would wander off during the tour of the labyrinth and they would have to take several hours trying to find the lost visitor. He said this right before we headed in.
Now I have no idea why anyone would want to veer off course in this labyrinth. You have to crouch to walk. Several people knocked their heads because they didn’t see a low archway. Plus, all the tunnels are pitch black. The tour guide had a flashlight and several of us used our cell phones as light sources. It was pretty cool in there. I can just imagine all those French soldiers yelling and screaming to find a way out. “Sortie? Sortie?”. The above ground ruins are pretty cool as some of the towers were still intact. It was worth it to walk through a medieval trap that still works today.
The Leisurely Boat Ride back to Bingen
After a tour, we headed toward the docks at the bottom of the hill. We would be taking a very long boat ride back to the train station before we say goodbye to all of our fellow IAESTE interns. The river cruise took about three hours. It was three hours of eating lunch, sleeping, eating what was left over from lunch and playing cards. It is what imagine what people from the 19th century did for fun. Old school fun on the Rhine River. It was the perfect end to the planned portion of the trip. After all the climbing through ruins and hiking, it was nice to be under a covered roof while a calm breeze wafted across you. I say planned portion because the end of my Rhine Valley trip was chaotic.
German Trains are 99.9% on Time
Our boat was on time and us trainees from Stuttgart thought that we would be stopping at a dock near a train station. It did stop at a train station in Bingen but at the wrong one. I was the one in charge of handling our train ride home so it went from relaxing to “Oh, shit!” in two seconds. We had five minutes until our train arrived and departed. The hosts were kind enough to give us a ride to the train station in the back of the van. It was a cargo van so it was pitch black in there and we had no idea where we were headed. After a couple of minutes, the van stopped and the light came shining through the back doors.
We soon realized we were still half a kilometer away with two minutes before the train was scheduled to leave. With adrenaline still pumping from our darkened van ride, we made a mad dash toward the train station. That may have been the fastest I have ran a 500m length. Keep in mind that we all had luggage too. We made it to the entrance of the train station at the exact time our train was schedules to leave, but as luck would have it the train to Stuttgart was still loading passengers because there was a group of bikers boarding the train. Thank you bikers! If it weren’t for them, then I probably would have been under five evil gazes from my fellow Stuttgart interns. But we did make it. We were sweaty and exhausted from our sprint and I can always tell the story of dark van ride and the train station dash.