Blonde was making the long journey from Bhutan home to Florida and decided to break up the travel instead of enduring an unnecessary marathon of misery. Part of the plan was to spend 2 nights in Frankfurt in order to have one full day to go into the city and explore. But Blonde didn’t follow her own requirement of always looking at holiday calendars before traveling and it turned out that the day she had free was Good Friday. Frankfurt is closed that day – seriously closed.
However, there are still a few companies who are operating tours to places – like rivers – that don’t close for holidays. Based on a recommendation from the hotel concierge Blonde signed up for Green Line Tours Rhine Valley Day Tour. The cost was €81 and for an extra €5 each way they’d transport me to and from my airport hotel. The tour departed at 11:15 a.m. and returned at 7:00 p.m. Deal.
An added bonus was that the area of the tour has been, since 2002, the UNESCO Upper Middle Rhine World Heritage Site. It’s very hard to go wrong with seeing a UNESCO site.
The first stop was for lunch before boarding the ship. We had the option – which Blonde of course took- of paying extra to ride a rickety chairlift downhill to the town. Others sensibly stayed on the bus and were driven there. Blonde had acquired a friendly fellow passenger Iranian/Canadian man who asked if “we” should do the chairlift so “we” rather awkwardly did. The day was beautiful and it was a fun way to ride into the very pretty little town.
After lunch at an acceptable, but thoroughly unremarkable, tourist restaurant we were finally on the Frankfurt Rhine River cruise. You had the option of being indoors or outdoors but it was very windy outdoors. Blonde occasionally crashed through the doors and lurched around snapping pictures then burst back inside to listen to the guide.
The section of the Rhine we were traveling on has a unique appearance resulting from the natural course of the river among the slate mountains. During the past two centuries, this section of the river was an important trade route, a border, a place of exchange between cultures, and a battlefield in several wars. It was also a draw to poets and painters who created works linking fiction and reality (even if they didn’t know that was what they were doing).
There was a ring wall around the castle but that crabby short emperor, Napoleon, demolished it in 1806. Fortunately a wealthy person purchased the ruins and had the wall reconstructed. Supposedly it’s now a hotel. (Supposedly because the link takes you to a page that says the hotel was purchased by a private person in 2006 and closed but there are reviews about it on Trip Advisor from 2013 so you’ll have to take it from here.)
Mountains and water have to produce at least one legend and this trip didn’t disappoint. This rock, Loreley, is very famous as being a place where a blonde (YES!) sat combing her golden locks and singing a baleful song. Sailors would be so captivated by her beauty and singing that they would wreck their ships and she would get the blame!
After telling us the tale the guide played the music “The Siren Song of the Lorelei” (not my fault if they can’t do consistent spelling). Hearing the first few bars of the music gave me goose pimples on my arms and I couldn’t figure out what the association was. After discussing it with a lady from Australia the mystery was solved. The introductory bars are the same as those in the song “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” that was sung by a Hitler youth group in a chilling scene in the movie Cabaret. See how much you learn reading this blog?
When we disembarked we went to a wine cellar for a tasting of wines from the region. The most interesting to me was the ice wine. The sommelier (probably an exaggeration) explained that the first night the temperature drops below 21F all of the grapes have to be hand picked before sunrise. They cannot be picked in clumps but very carefully almost one by one. Because the grapes, at the point where they’re picked, are more like raisins from being on the vines for so long it takes a lot more kilos of them than of big juicy grapes to make the wine. The later in the year they’re picked the less alcohol content the wine will have. The manual labor and the fact that more grapes are required make ice wine very expensive.Our guide said that this past winter the temperatures were so mild there won’t be much ice wine produced at all.
Back at my hotel at the end of the day I felt very pleased to have seen so much, learned a little and exerted so little effort in keeping with my post-Bhutan energy level.
So if you have a layover in Frankfurt and you’re already travel-weary look into a Rhine River cruise and make the most of your time while someone else does the work and thinking for you.