Germany / Travel

Bacharach: The Perfect Time-Out Town

Flower Cottage FI

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 Aerial View

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 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.

Rhine Cruise Ships

Rhine Cruise Captain

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.

Castle

Tower

Flower Cottage

Gothic Chapel Ruins

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.

View from the top

Grapevines

We clambered up the rocky trail through steep hillside vineyards for panoramic views of the valley, and drank delicious local wines in the cafes.

Our Balcony

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.

Rhine Valley Train

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.

Happy Trails,
James & Terri

Train Tunnel Through Mountain

Photo Credits: 2. Fritz Geller-Grimm via Wikimedia Commons

68 thoughts on “Bacharach: The Perfect Time-Out Town

  1. Ha – I was wondering whether you’d include an excerpt of Burt crooning to compliment the mood. More seriously, I couldn’t agree more with you observation about the need to take time out. I found out the hard way how important it is. In fact, to be honest, I usually have to find it out each trip.

    • The realization of the necessity for time-outs came to us gradually Jill. When we were corporate types we always felt the need to squeeze in as much a possible, and consequently, vacations were anything but relaxing. It’s a very different story now, and it makes a huge difference. And BTW, I had forgotten about Burt so I checked, and he’s still alive and kickin’ – 87 years old. ~James

    • Bacharach is off the path a bit Alison, but it’s a lovely destination, and the preservation of the buildings was amazing. I’m still astounded that these wooden structures can survive so long. For the owners, they must be the supreme labor of love. ~James

    • Bacharach is a magical place Yvonne, and a great place to watch the ebb and flow of tourists. It’s one of those places where they roll up the streets after sundown. Some chillage definitely went on here. ~James

  2. While you were having some down time it appears you were in the postcard production business. Some amazing photos from this stop you two! 6,7 and 10 straight off to stock photography in my opinion. 🙂
    We have not been to Germany so thank you for this not to be missed tour.

    • Thanks Sue. Bacharach, like Rothenburg, is a very photogenic place. It’s always a pleasure to visit someplace where it’s so easy to get interesting shots. And given the active nature of your “vacations”, I would think that these German hills would beckon both you and Dave. I can see you pumping up the hillside, snapping photos as you go. It’s a beautiful part of the world, and you wouldn’t be disappointed ~James

    • Thanks Dawn. Bacharach was interesting because it was a working-class town in the Middle Ages. The houses weren’t grand, so the architecture there gave a glimpse of how normal folks lived. ~James

  3. James, I hope this message finds you and Terri well! Loved the opening, as I can truly relate. Photos and description of this German town are outstanding. Thank you for sharing!

    Regarding your opening paragraph – I recently visited Luang Prabang, Laos and felt a visit here would “recharge my batteries” as well. Perfect antidote to too much sight seeing. LOL. Mostly, I just relaxed in my bungalow or went to a local cafe and watched the world stroll by. Say hi to Terri for me. Take care . . . Steve 🙂

    • Hey Steve. I think that I told you that when we visited LP, it was a wonderful travel break for us as well. We’d been in Bangkok for a couple of weeks, and LP was a relaxing change of pace. All those riverside cafes are wonderful, and the night market is great. Are you still in Laos? ~James

      • Hi James . . . No, long gone from there (I was there in late September – visited after Cambodia). I have since traveled to Vietnam, Indonesia and am now in Singapore. I will visit Thailand (again) after I leave here. By the by, have you ever been to Bandung, Indonesia? Located in the mountains approximately 3 hours from Jakarta. Quite pleasant.

      • Yes, we spent a few days there Steve, and have good memories. Mostly, I remember the slightly cooler temps being a wonderful break from the rest of Java. Happy Trails. ~James

      • Hey Steve. It appears that you’ve been on the road a good while. Terri and I knew that you completed the RTW, and then returned to Denver. Are you on another RTW or are you traveling the long road? ~James

  4. Great photos!

    I was recently at Prejmer, a fortified church in Romania, where the whole village could move in with their possessions in time of trouble (i.e. Turkish invasion) and thinking it was such a pity that strong walls no longer provide protection.

    • Interesting point Kathy. All our visits to walled cities provoked a couple of thoughts about them. They’re designed to keep the bad guys out, but they also make prisoners of the city residents. In Nuremburg, they build huge granaries inside the walls to be able to feed the city under siege. ~James

  5. Goodness, but you two are lucky: you can travel as much as you want, when you want. Stringer and I had to save like mad and sell stuff to get to Europe five times; and it wasn’t nearly enough …

  6. I couldn’t agree more about needing some down time while you are traveling. Many times I find I am so wrapped up in photographing every where we go that I forget to actually slow down and just enjoy being there. It is a hard balance to find. Such a lovely town you chose! The remains of the cathedral are impressive.

    • I can relate to your point about actually taking time to look as well as photograph Laura. Luckily for us, there are two of us to photograph, and that gives the other person time to appreciate the scenery. Bacharach was a photographer’s dream. ~James

    • Rusha, I suspect that most travelers, whether they plan it or not, have time-out towns. At least I hope they do. When I think back to some of our grueling trips early on, it makes me appreciate the downtime even more. ~James

  7. What a perfect gem of a spot to relax! Your photos bring it to life, though it has been around for so very long already.

    As an aside, how many languages do you both speak? When you are somewhat off the “beaten path” do you ever find yourself struggling to communicate?

    Lovely, post!!

    • Thanks Martha. It’s funny you said “gem of a spot.” I can let you in on a bit of the evolution of titles for this post. My initial idea for a title was: Bacharach: A Gem Not A Rhine Stone (as in on the Rhine River). This ended up on the cutting room floor. As for languages, I speak southern English and passable Spanish and Terri takes care of the French. And yes, no matter where we go, there are communication issues, but over the years, we’ve developed a few coping skills. No matter where we go, we learn the polite greetings etc (hello, goodbye, thank you, please), and the basic numbers. For instance, when shopping, if you want 100 grams of cheese, and can say “100 grams” in the local language, then a finger point eliminates the need for knowing what the cheese, meat, etc is called. Basic stuff, but it gets us by. ~James

  8. I spent a lot of time in the small town of Hochst while on an international work assignment. It had a similar old-world feel. I got to know the shops, restaurants, parks and paths quite well. Although I loved the fact that it was a great launching pad to other destinations (close to airport and trains), I really enjoyed just being there and getting into my own small town rhythm.

    • Thanks for the comment Vickie and for dropping by the blog. Big cities have their appeal no doubt, but the crush of people and traffic always adds a hassle factor that is missing in small towns. And when small villages are close to good transport, then you have everything you need. We’ve been lifelong lovers of change, but having said that, sometimes the comfort of the familiar is warm and cozy as well. ~James

  9. Bacharach looks like the kind of town Florence and I would love to call home while taking side trips through the surrounding countryside. Germany is definitely on the short list of countries will wish to visit.

    We are saving up for our next adventure. Your posts and photos are just the thing to assist us in putting must-see places on our itinerary! – Mike

    • Bacharach would be the perfect base Mike because it’s right on the rail line and not far from Frankfurt and Cologne. We hadn’t been to Germany in a few years, and had forgotten how cool much of the country is. The German rail system is great and makes transport easy and cheap (two good words in the Gallivance dictionary.) I’m sure that you and Florence would enjoy it. ~James

  10. “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.” Now that’s how I describe being civilized, James and Terri. I am feeling a wee bit jealous. (But not too much since Peggy and I are on our way to Sedona, Arizona for Thanksgiving. I think we have a balcony overlooking the beautiful red rock canyons. :)) –Curt

    • Turkey in Sedona sounds pretty neat as well Curt. Bacharach was even better than we expected, and as I said to another commenter, one of my favorite things to do was sit on a sunny bench and watch the river traffic. The Rhine is very busy, and it’s great fun watching all the ships and barges. It’s “no money fun” at its best. This sounds like something that you might like as well. James

      • We also used to stay away from the expensive hotels. (it would have made our travels much shorter) You become a mark, when you come out of a 5 star. The other point is you get to see more down to earth people in the more modest pensions.
        Leslie

  11. So beautiful. And I couldn’t agree more about needing time out days. It’s like I feel guilty if I take one (like tonight, in Venice) BUT I NEED THEM. Because, you know, this is still life. Everyone needs a teeny break, even from awesomeness.

  12. Looks like the perfect place to relax. I´ll put it on our list. We are relaxing at a resort on the Costa del Sol in Spain right now. Visiting some lovely Spanish white villages in the mountains.

  13. these ARE SOEM FANTASTIC photos – and my favs are the flowers – that is a hard call -0 but from my reader -0 that first photo was like “wow” – and the other ones are just at cool angles too – with all that color and depth – but hard to pick fabs when there is a also a castle on a hill! 🙂

    • Thanks Yvette. This old hotel had one of the most colorful, and healthy flower gardens I’ve seen in some time. As you can see, it’s a very photogenic place. It’s also interesting that the hotels rear wall is the old wall that surrounded the village in the Middle Ages. Very cool. ~James

    • The Rhine Valley, and particularly the area around Bacharach, is one of the most scenic places I’ve visited in a while. I thought my photos were good, but honestly, they didn’t do the place justice. It’s that pretty. All the best for the New Year. ~James

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