My new guidebook, Daytrips in Germany's Rhineland, has been selling fairly well on Amazon, so I'd like to celebrate by offering another free chapter. This one is easy to reach from the Frankfurt area, and will be enjoyed by anyone who loves good wine.
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That's the title page on the right. The little map on it shows all of the daytrip destinations.
Rüdesheim & Bingen
Wine lovers will rejoice in a trip to Rüdesheim, Germany's favorite wine village. The vintages have been flowing there for some two thousand years, ever since the Romans settled the area and began growing grapes. You can have a wonderful time sampling the result — some of Germany's (and the world's) best white wines — or in just exploring this delightful town and its surroundings. Whatever you do, you won't be alone. Rüdesheim is very popular with tourists from all over the globe, but you'll be seeing a whole lot more than most of them on this do-it-yourself daytrip.
The suggested tour begins in the neighboring village of Assmannshausen and includes a ride across the Rhine to Bingen for an encounter with Hildegard. If these don't interest you, it is entirely possible to spend the whole day in Rüdesheim and not get bored. Tipsy perhaps, but not bored.
Trains depart Frankfurt's main station for Rüdesheim several times each morning, some from the main level and some from the lower S-Bahn level. In addition, there are trains and buses from Wiesbaden, which is easily reached by S-Bahn commuter trains. The direct trip takes about one hour. Return service operates until mid-evening. Be sure to check the schedules carefully, especially to determine whether the train you want also stops in Assmannshausen. If not, it is only a short distance by bus or taxi from Rüdesheim.
By Car, leave Frankfurt on the A-66 Autobahn and stay on it past Wiesbaden to Eltville. From there take the B-42 road into Rüdesheim, which is about 72 km (45 miles) west of Frankfurt.
This trip should be taken between April and the end of October, when all of the attractions are open. Good weather is essential. The Tourist Information Office (Verkehrsamt) for Rüdesheim, T: (06722) 194-33, is at Geisenheimer Strasse 22, east of Hahnenstrasse. In Bingen, they are at Rheinkai 21, T: (06721) 184-205.
FOOD AND DRINK:
There is an extremely wide selection of places to eat and drink in the Rüdesheim area. A few are:
Krone (Rheinuferstr. 10, near the train station) An old inn overlooking the Rhine; classic German cuisine. T: (06722) 40-30. €€€
Altes Haus (Lorcherstr. 8, a block northwest of the chair lift lower station) An historic 16th-century inn with good food. T: (06722) 403-50. €€
NEAR THE NIEDERWALD MONUMENT:
Jagdschloss Niederwald (near the top of the chair lift) A ducal hunting lodge featuring traditional wild game and other dishes. T: (06722) 710-60. X: Jan. to Feb. €€€
Traube-Aumüller (Rheinstr. 6, near the Brömserburg Castle) A good choice in a touristy location. T: (06722) 91-40. X: Dec.-Feb. €€
Zum Bären (Schmidtstr. 24, a block east of the market place) Good-value international and regional cooking. T: (06722) 902-50. €€
Rüdesheimer Schloss (on the Drosselgasse) Local dishes and wines in an 18th-century tavern, with good-value lunches. T: (06722) 90-500. X: Jan.-Feb. € and €€
Numbers in parentheses correspond to numbers on the map.
Those making the complete tour should begin at the train station in Assmannshausen (1). Follow the map through this romantic old village, whose existence was first documented in 1108. Oddly enough, it is the home of Germany's best red wines. The narrow streets lead past several half-timbered houses and an interesting late-Gothic church to the chair lift (Seilbahn) (2). Purchase a combination ticket to Rüdesheim and be seated for a comfortable ride to the Niederwald. Along the way you will have superb high-level views across the Rhine Valley (photo, above).
Getting off at the top, walk around past the Jagdschloss (3), a former hunting lodge of the dukes of Nassau. It is now a very attractive castle-hotel and restaurant complete with another panoramic vista. From here take a leisurely stroll of about one-half mile or so along a forest road to the Niederwald Denkmal (4) (engraving from 1877, left), one of the most colossal monuments in Germany. A late-19th-century expression of overblown nationalism, its heroic figure of Germania symbolizes the unification of Germany in 1871 and is still deeply revered by the German people — although to foreign eyes it may seem somewhat amusing. The enormous bronze relief depicting military heros surrounding Kaiser Wilhelm I and Bismarck, incidentally, faces France. There is a fabulous view across the Rhine.
Take the nearby cable car (Seilbahn) down across the vineyards to its lower station (5) in Rüdesheim. Make a right on Oberstrasse to the Brömserhof (6), an aristocratic residence dating from 1542. The interior now features a curious exhibition known as Siegfried's Mechanical Music Cabinet, a collection of antique self-playing musical instruments. T: (06722) 492-17. Open March to Dec., daily 10-6. €€.
Nearby is the Mittelalterliches Foltermuseum (Medieval Torture Museum), where you can delight in the imaginative use of torture during the Inquisition and other dark periods of history. Oberstr. 49-51, T: (06722) 475-10. Open April-Nov., daily 10-6. €.
Rüdesheim is world-famous for the Drosselgasse (photo, above), a narrow lane that is usually jam-packed with hundreds of thirsty visitors. You may want to return here later to relax in one of its many colorful wine taverns. Until then, however, there are several other worthwhile sights.
Continue to the bottom and turn left on Rheinstrasse, passing the tourist office. The Marktplatz (Market Place) has an interesting 14th-century parish church. At the eastern end of the Rheinstrasse is the Adlerturm (Eagle's Tower) (7), built in the 15th century as part of the medieval defense fortifications. Return along the bank of the Rhine to the:
*BRÖMSERBURG (8), T: (06722) 23-48. Open mid-March through Oct., daily 10-6, last admission at 5:15. €.
Formerly a refuge for the archbishops of Mainz, this ancient castle (old engraving, above) built on late-Roman foundations between the 11th and 14th centuries now houses the *Rheingau Wine Museum, a must-see for any visitor to Rüdesheim. Displays here cover the entire scope of wine-making — and drinking — down through the ages.
A short stroll along the river brings you to the passenger ferry dock (Personenfähre) (9). From here you can take a quick boat ride to Bingen, just across the Rhine. This was once the home of Hildegard von Bingen, the 12th-century composer whose works have become so popular in recent years.
Leave the Bingen ferry landing (10) and follow the map past the tourist office up to Burg Klopp (11), a heavily rebuilt castle whose origins probably date from the Roman era. There is an exceptionally good view of the Rhine Valley from here. Head downhill on Salzstrasse and turn left on Hindenburganlage to the:
HISTORICAL MUSEUM — HILDEGARD VON BINGEN (12), T: (06721) 990-655. Open Tues.-Sun. 10-5. €.
Bingen's favorite personality, the visionary, scholar, abbess, healer, writer, and composer Hildegard von Bingen, lived from 1098 until 1179; a life filled with remarkable achievement. Her legacy is celebrated in this riverside museum, whose other attractions include a collection of 2nd-century Roman doctor's instruments and a survey of the entire Rhine Romantic epoch.
Return to the ferry dock and Rüdesheim. The train station is just across from the dock, but you will most likely want to enjoy a bit of wine sampling along the Drosselgasse before heading back to Frankfurt.
Text and maps copyright © 2007 by Earl Steinbicker. Color photos courtesy of the Rüdesheim Tourist Office.
Interested in photography? Check out my "Assisting Avedon" blog.
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