As long-term travelers, we learned long ago that to enjoy ourselves, we have to pace ourselves. It’s always about quality over quantity. We see what we see, and as for the things we miss, well, there’s always next time.
We’ve also learned that we need to take a time-out periodically; some time to recharge our travel batteries. Usually, we find a pleasant place to stay where we don’t feel driven to bolt out of bed and hit the cobblestones to see the famous cathedral, castle, or museum. On our recent trip to Europe, Bacharach, Germany was the perfect time-out town.
Bacharach is a very small village in west central Germany. It’s perched on a narrow crescent of land between a lazy bend in the Rhine River and steep valley walls to the west. Although it’s a much smaller town, like Rothenburg, it’s a wonderful walk through the Middle Ages.
There are only a few streets in town, and you can walk from one end to the other in 10 minutes. But you wouldn’t want to hurry and miss any of the amazingly preserved Medieval buildings which line each street.
Bacharach has a long history dating back to the 12th Century. Like most towns on the Rhine, Bacharach owes its early success to river traffic. The area has produced wine for centuries, most of which was transported to market on the river. But shallow water near Bacharach made travel dangerous, so the huge wine casks were offloaded in the village, moved by road around the rapids, and re-loaded downriver.
The village became successful at a time when safety was determined by strong walls, locked gates, and guard towers – many of which still stand today.
As you might expect, today the town’s success depends on tourism. Cruise ships of all sizes ply the scenic river each day, and Bacharach’s fairy-tale ambience makes it a regular stop. Our roundtrip cruise downriver to the small village of St. Goar was delightful. Hilltop castles, charming villages, and hillside vineyards make this section of the Rhine Valley particularly attractive. Stalwart skippers like Captain Hans make sure that river cruises are safe.
We wandered the quiet streets enjoying quaint Medieval cottages, a 1000 year-old castle and ruins of a Gothic chapel, which added a dash of mystery to the mix.
We clambered up the rocky trail through steep hillside vineyards for panoramic views of the valley, and drank delicious local wines in the cafes.
But mostly, we relaxed. Our hotel, which actually was a small second-floor apartment with a pleasant, colorful balcony overlooking the town’s main street, was the perfect place to sit in our PJs, sip coffee, and listen to the quiet hubbub as the village came to life.
We only spent a couple of days in Bacharach, but it was just what we needed, and was one of the highlights of our entire trip. It’s a very special place, and all visitors to Germany should add it to their list.
Caveat Emptor – The Rhine and the valley it carved have been a transport bottleneck for centuries. On each side of the river there is a highway as well as a busy rail line for both passenger and freight trains. There are a few riverside hotels that have enticing-looking balconies with beautiful views of the river, but unless you enjoy the raucous sound of trains hurtling through 24/7, check the hotel reviews to make certain noise isn’t a problem.
James & Terri
Photo Credits: 2. Fritz Geller-Grimm via Wikimedia Commons