Bacharach, Germany
April, 2004

After a couple of weeks in Italy and Switzerland, it was nice to hear that familiar British female voice say "prepare to veer right and follow the B4 for 15 miles", rather than, "you are not in a digitized area".  The instant we crossed the border into Germany the navigation system was back online.
The village of Bacharach, (population 1,000,) is located on the Rhine River.  We toured about 60 miles of this stretch of river which is sprinkled with several small villages.  Bridges are few.  Castles are plentiful.

Many of the castles were "robber-baron" castles, put there by petty rulers, (there were over 300 independent little countries during medieval Germany,) to levy tolls on passing river traffic.  A robber-baron would put his castle on, or even in, the river.  Then, often with the help of chains and a tower on the opposite bank, he'd stop each ship and get his toll.  There were 10 "customs" stops in the 60-mile stretch that we traveled.

Our room was on the third floor of this tower.  The castle can be seen on the hill in the back.  The tower was originally a crane tower, used to load ships and barges.  The river's edge used to be where the train track (bridge) is now.  When we checked in, we asked when the tower was built, and the manager replied that it was over 1,000 years old. 
Here's the tower from inside the village walls.  The river has been moved away from the village with fill, so that a park and two-lane highway could be built.

As you can see, the roads inside of the village are narrow.

200 years ago, Bacharach's main street was the only road along the Rhine.  You can see a 30 inch strip of  bricks laid down in straight lines on both sides.  This was done by Napoleon, so that his cannon wagons would fit. 

Ahead is the north entrance tower to the village.

I'm standing in the park between the river and our hotel.  We were surprised to see an Easter Egg hunt in progress.  From previous travels abroad, we know not to expect to see American customs when it comes to holidays, so we were surprised to see this typical Easter Egg hunt.
We took at short tour of the Rhine on this boat, down the river through the famous and treacherous Loreley narrows, past several castles and small villages to the town of St. Goar.   You can see the vineyards that line the sunny side of the shore.

The cargo ship (below) is larger than they were in the old days.  The crew, the the captain, and the captain's family usually lives aboard ship.

It's hard to see, but on the rear of the ship, below the wheel house but still above the deck, is the captain's family residence.  Often on top of the residence is the family car and sometimes a child's swing set, monkey bars, or slide.

You can see an RV park on shore behind the ship.  I wondered whether these ships ran all through the night or anchored on the currents somehow.  Then I noticed small, short canals that branched off of the the main channel where ships could pull out of the current and anchor.  Like truck-stops, I guess.

It was impressive to see how many castles still stand along the river.  Most were built in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.

As I said before, one technique to stop ship traffic was to string a very large chain across the river. Try passing without paying the toll and the chain was raised, thus cutting into the hull or blocking passage.

Here's a view from one of the castles.  We learned far too much to write about here ... (we don't want to put you to sleep), so I'll stick to the defense of the castle. 

So how did they keep an army of  intruders away?

Canons; lots of canons.
We saw a variety of castles.  Some modern and turned into hotels, some remodeled and furnished in the age of the period, and one huge shell of a castle that has been left as it was.  The castle in Bacharach is now a youth hostel.  Some are private residences.  This one is a museum.  Some were vulnerable to attacks, and changed hands often, others were strategically placed and built for superior defense.  One castle we visited was never conquered by an invading army. 
This is Rheinfels castle, and is the only castle that been left in it's original state of ruin.  I think it was our favorite one.  It stands as a museum of historical originality.  It suffered cannon bombardment and burning, and after many repairs, was finally left in suspended decay.

The boys liked a feature of the backside.  To trick invaders to their death, a maze of small underground tunnels was created.

An opening to the maze was accessible from outside the castle, but made to appear as a secret and hidden entry.  The invading army would find it and rush into the small, pitch black maze of tunnels.  Once the invaders were inside the maze, the pre-set gunpower would be exploded, killing all inside the tunnel. 

Going through this maze is not for the faint of heart or claustrophobic.  It is pitch black, and without written instructions, (courtesy of Rick Steve's guidebook,) and a flashlight, you could get hopelessly lost.  The guidebook instructed us not to veer off the documented path as we crouched and crawled through the maze.

You'll notice Max isn't looking at the camera.  It was so dark in here that he was afraid he'd be blinded by the camera flash.

Time to enjoy the cruise back up the Rhine to Bacharach.

Currently a restaurant called Altes Haus, this building is the oldest free-standing building in Bacharach.  It has many features that are not level or plumb.  Can you imagine buying a building where the real estate listing says "Year Built: 1124."  What would I inspect for?  Asbestos?  Lead based paint?

Our hotel room had modern plumbing, but a fellow we met in town explained that the city water pipes are very old and of low pressure.  This explained why we had no water when water was being used on the floors below.  The shower would go from burning hot, to no water, to cold, to hot several times a minute.  Showers were impossible.  We had read to expect this from time to time.

One final picture.

I just thought this was a neat little dump cart.  It's used on the hillsides in this vineyard.  One man can ride next to the small engine to control it.

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