Our alarm goes off at 6am although I had been waking every half hour or so since 4.30am, we have to catch the early morning train to Koln, our first stop on the trip to Bacharach. With the sun not yet in the sky, mist hanging over the canals and the locals cycling to work, we heave our bags onto our backs (they’re hybrid backpacks, not the ‘real’ backpack) and make our way down the street towards the tram stop. We are sad to leave Amsterdam, our stay has been relaxing and pleasant albeit cold and occasionally wet. The people we met were mainly friendly and extremely helpful, some less so however they were the exception rather than the rule.
No time to have breakfast this morning, the cheese and crackers and pieces of fruit that we packed would have to suffice. The Central Station was filled with commuters and fellow travellers, our train to Koln was a fast train, a couple of hours was all it would take to get there. Having a Eurail pass made it easy, just hop on the train and wait for the conductor to check the ticket, only problem for us was that the date on our reservation was incorrect so the seats we had booked in advance were not available. Thankfully we were able to get help from the conductor, she identified seats that were empty and we made ourselves at home in one of the ‘quiet zones’. The countryside of Holland and Germany are pretty to travel through and even though there are no blue skies to brighten the landscape, there are plenty of farm houses, cottages, flowering trees and animals to keep our attention.
From Koln we catch a train to Koblenz and then transfer to another train to get to Bacharach. Panic sets in when we get off the train at Koln, there is a train waiting on the platform opposite and it appears to be going to Koblenz but there are two destinations listed on the information sign on the platform. Everything is in German (of course), Marty asks the conductor for assistance and he tells us that this is indeed our train, time to jump aboard and find a seat. The distance between each destination is not great, the scenery is spectacular, Marty and I point out castles to each other and vineyards growing on the side of the hills, finally the sun is shining and the skies get more blue as we go through Boppard and St Goar. We are in Bacharach by midday, a gentleman at the station walks us to our hotel, he is not local but he is German and explains a little of the history of the area – no tips expected, just a good deed for two confused Australian tourists.
Bacharach is a picturesque village on the edge of the Rhine, the Burg Stahleck (castle) sits atop the town and offers cheap accommodation and meals to travellers in addition to extensive views of the area. My head was constantly turning as we rolled our bags down cobblestone streets, our hotel sits in the middle of the older part of town and near the church, the bells ring every 15 minutes and remind us of the time. Creative and decorative signs hang above shops and restaurants, ivy grows over rock walls and slate and there is an almost medieval appearance to the buildings. I fell in love with the town as soon as I saw it, could I live here? What would we do for work and would my waistline expand much on a diet of dumplings, schnitzel and potato? Our hotel is not open, I ring the bell at a neighbouring building to let the owner know we have arrived, she is young and very friendly and shows us to our huge room complete with spa bath in the bathroom. I had booked the Am Markt hotel through expedia for a very reasonable 80 euro per night, it has turned out to be an excellent choice.
We meet an American traveller, Larry, he is travelling around Germany by himself and wanted his photo taken. For half an hour we talked about the town, our travels and the places he has seen over the last 30 years and perhaps we will catch up with him on a Rhine River cruise tomorrow. Spring is such a beautiful time to be in Europe, flowers are blooming and the winter colours are changing from brown to vivid greens, yellows, pink and white. The weather is perfect, children are playing in the park, dog owners are taking the pooches for a walk and many are relaxing on park benches by the water. The walk to the castle takes about 15 minutes, the trail is muddy and we regularly stop to look around at the landscape and get a different perspective of the town. The remains of a chapel built in the 13th century lies to the left of the path, gargoyles point down from the top serving as downpipes as well as a decorative feature, spotlights surround the chapel and the path is well lit so I’m looking forward to seeing the effect at night.
The town is relatively quiet apart from the church bells and small amount of traffic, a school group is staying at the castle which means lots of laughter and screaming can be heard as the children see the sights and feast on the local ice cream and cake. Where to have dinner is the biggest decision we have to make this evening, rabbit, schnitzel and apfel (apple) strudel is on the menu for the few restaurants open during the low season. During our walk around Bacharach we pick up the scent of baked pastries and cake, the shop assistant doesn’t speak English but is still able to understand that we want to try the chocolate torte and berry shortcake, heavenly.
The view from the castle is amazing and we debated whether to have dinner up there in the bistro, the children running around and the walk up the hill on a muddy track convinced us otherwise and dinner was in a nice little restaurant down the road. Not many of the restaurants and cafes are open at this time of year, we looked at a couple of menus and for 7.50 euros Marty was able to savour a vegetable soup, salad, schnitzel and fries, I went for the venison with cranberries, potato dumplings and red cabbage for 12.50 euros – the soup and salad were also included.