I have always loved watching the PBS travel show titled ‘Smart Travels with Rudy Max’ and I remember the episodes showcasing dreamy Rhine River Cruises. While living in Germany for a bit, I had the chance to enjoy a half-day Rhine River cruise and was so captivated, I returned to take the same river cruise again to absorb the beautifully vivid colors displayed during the Summer and Fall seasons. From a sightseer’s casual vantage point to take in the Rhine River cruise vibe, I loved it so much, I had to do it twice. Raise a glass of Riesling on the Rhine River.
Ranked one of the most spectacular scenic rivers cruises, the Rhine River slowly winds through the snaking river flanked by breathtaking landscapes. This scenic route is lined with well-preserved hillside medieval castles, steep gently rolling hillside vineyards, Churches, traditional fishing marinas, and river towns with delish culinary culture.
There was a tour guide periodically on the microphone sharing local German history and points of interest. The guide’s information reminded us that today this area is touristy, consider that for many centuries this once busy high traffic river was a very important maritime trade route between European Kingdoms. This was a lucrative river for the Kingdoms because each castle had a toll booth to collect taxes from traffic passing through the territory.
The tour guide warned us that the Rhine River can be an absolute stunning view yet, also depending upon the precarious Mother Nature weather, the river can also be very dangerous. One river bank folklore is about the siren Lorelei.
According to local legend, Lorelei, was an 1800 ballad based on stories told from generations of family sailors. Centuries ago, while the Rhine River was a major maritime trade route, there was a repeated story of an enchanting mermaid’s whispers singing a seductive tune to lure in sailors’ boats into the dangerous cliffs on the Rhine River.
One particular small section of the long River is the deepest and narrowest point and has an extremely curvy river bend located between river towns St. Goar and St. Goarshausen. According to science, this natural phenomenon happens when the conjunction of rapid fluxations in elements of river streams, change in winds, cloud formations, temperatures, etc. come into zinc play and it forms this siren. Over the centuries many boats have crashed and remain at the bottom of the Rhine River bed. They blame Lorelei, the rock formation. Now near the cliff a modern artist sculpted a 16 ft. mermaid bronze stature titled ‘Lorelei’.
Today tourists embark on a Rhine River cruise, yet, back in the 13th c. castles’ fortresses were military structures that once served as toll booths. According to academic scholars, “seventy-nine locations along the Rhine River were the major commercial thoroughfare in Europe. Castles sold and charged the commercial vessels tolls documented as the ‘Rights of Passage’”.
Along the river towns are family run souvenir shops who proudly welcome tourists and sell custom handcrafted local goodies such as Lorelei chachkies. I wish I could have taken home Riesling single grape vine cuts for sale, yet I did enjoy the free German wine & schnapps tastings. I now reminisce about the intriguing artistic details in the cuckoo clocks’ aminations and their skillfully talented clock making and wood carving vignette scene demonstrations.
The quaint river town of Rudesheim am Rhein was a nice time to hop off the boat for a bit and walk around to enjoy a river town’s wine festival. If time permits, pop into the medieval torture museum; obviously the Geneva Convention does not come into play. During the warmer seasons there is a cable car to the top of hill for the bird’s eye panoramic views of river, vineyards, and towns. The top of hill in cable car was definitely worth the time to take in some refreshments, admire the views, and commemorate the story, culture and statue of the German General, Niederwaldenkmal, who unified Germany from Prussia.
For me, experiencing the same Rhine River cruise scenic route twice; once during the lush green Summer months and again during the vividly colored foliage Autumn to juxtapose the same scenery during two different seasons gave me an unique perspective on Rhine River Riesling wines.
The Delong 100 Grape Varietal Challenge encourages all wine enjoyers to expand their wine drinking horizon by seeking out unusual grape varieties. These past few years, I have tasted over 180 grape varieties. After all, there are over thousands of grape varieties world wide. With so many wine grapes, styles of wine, and wineries to explore, wine is an educational adventure. So grab your virtual passport and come along with me on a Grape EdVenture™ around the world.