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5,0 24.01.2018 | Stephen M. Romantic Rhine by Bike + Boat

A Magical Tour

Overall:
A delightful tour through an area with a colourful history, sometimes not the happiest, extending even into recent times. Important towns with significant cultural interest and lovely little villages which could have been taken straight out of Fairyland. All along one of Europe’s most important waterways. Oh, and castles perched on hillsides!

If you’re up for two weeks of cycling, this tour combines well with the Mainz to Basel (Strasbourg, from 2018) tour on the same boat, though you have to choose your weeks carefully, so you don’t repeat the section you’ve just done, albeit in reverse.

Highlights

  • A plethora of castles along the route, especially in the UNESCO World Heritage area of the Rhine Gorge, between Koblenz and Rüdesheim.
  • Similarly, with the little villages.
  • The nightly stopping-off points were all interesting places.

Niggles:

  • The daily briefing in German was at 08:45 with the one in English nominally at 09:00. Because the briefings invariably overran, it meant we didn’t get cycling until quite late — well after 09:30 — which then gave less time for exploring on arrival at the day’s destination.
  • I’m not sure I like ride briefings immediately before setting off. The argument is that this means you won’t have forgotten what you were told by the time you come to do the ride. However, at the briefings we were also issued with town maps, showing the locations of points of interest in the town. Morning briefings means we won’t have had any time to study these before setting off, to decide which, if any, of the attractions to visit and whether they are best visited as part of the day’s ride or in a separate session after the ride. If visiting attractions during the ride, you then need to match up the town map with the cycle route map, which, of course, a good tour guide should do during the briefing. This did happen in the case of Bonn, but I don’t recall any other instance. The consequence of this is that sights which, with a bit of planning, could easily have been viewed during the day, are either missed or become very difficult afterwards.
  • Starting evening meals at 18:30 meant that (in late September), night had fallen by the time we finished. Starting dinner later (19:00 or even 19:30) would have given correspondingly longer beforehand when it was still light.
  • There are kilometre distance markers all the way along the Rhine, increasing from its notional source, providing a ready-made and permanent positioning system. However no use was made of this in briefings or any of the supplied materials.

Regrets:

  • The walking tour of Köln was cancelled. It seems I was the only person on the entire boat who wanted to do the tour. I was surprised the German tour didn’t take place either, but when I spoke to some of the Germans about this, they told me they had been to Köln many times, so did not feel any need to pay for a tour.
  • The official means of seeing the cold water geyser at Andernach is to book tickets at the Tourist Information Centre in Andernach and to do the complete “experience”, which involves a short river boat cruise from the Centre to the nature park where the geyser is located. But, it’s actually close to the cycle route when approaching Andernach, a little way after passing Schloss Namedy, so it should have been possible to take a slightly different route into Andernach to come on to the pathway used by visitors to reach the geyser from the boat. Looking at the map, it seems that, continuing on this path provides a more scenic route into Andernach, with the further advantage that it passes directly by the wine-loading crane.
  • The final approach to Andernach passes under a railway line, emerging very close to the old wine-loading crane, which I could easily have visited, had I realised (or if the route had been slightly different, as mentioned previously).
  • In Sankt Goarshausen, I didn’t have time to climb to the top of Loreley Rock. At dinner, some of the Germans showed me pictures they had taken on their mobile phones, and I was envious. (The late start for the English speakers does not help.)
  • Similarly, at Rüdesheim, I didn’t have time to visit Niederwalddenkmal, the huge monument to German unification in 1871, located on the hillside above the town.
  • I didn’t explore Schloss Biebrich and its park area (on the approach to Mainz).

Date of my Tour: 2017-09-16/23 (7 nights / 8 days)

Options Chosen:

  • Single Cabin, on the Main Deck.
  • Travel documents in English.
  • Bike without a coaster (“back-pedal”) brake.

Materials Supplied
A few weeks prior to the tour, I received documents from Rad & Reisen:

  • Travel Information Booklet.
  • Town Plans of Köln, Mainz and (surprisingly) St Goar.
  • Receipts.

In my cabin on arrival:

  • Route Booklet.
  • Map Booklet.

In the daily briefings, maps of main towns to be visited that day were distributed.

Transfers:
I flew to Frankfurt (M) Airport (code FRA) and took a train from the airport long-distance station (“Frankfurt Flughafen Fernbf”) to Köln Hauptbahnhof. My flight to Frankfurt arrived at Terminal 2, so I used the connecting bus to Terminal 1 and then followed the signs to the station. In Köln, the boat was moored pretty close to the station, so I simply trundled my luggage round to it. I emerged from a station exit opposite Köln Cathedral, although the exit the other side will do equally well, and worked my way down to the riverside, very close to the bridge across which the train had just passed, from where the boat was visible straight away.

At the end of the tour, I was staying on the boat for another week, covering the Mainz to Basel tour (from 2018, it is Mainz to Strasbourg), so I have no travel details from Mainz (although Frankfurt (M) is even closer than from Köln).

Strange things still happening on arrival in Germany
Having received a new passport to replace one stolen in Prague in 2016, I’d found, when entering Berlin in 2017, I was taken to one side at Passport Control and questioned (I had previously entered Berlin in 2016 prior to the passport being stolen). I assumed that would be the end of this, because the German border authority would have updated its records of my passport. However, although Frankfurt’s Passport Control is more up-to-date than Berlin’s, being equipped with biometric scanners, I found that, having passed through one of these, I was immediately called over to a manned booth and questioned about my passport. I had also been through Frankfurt a few months before my passport had been stolen. So, it would seem that Berlin and Frankfurt border operations do not share information. Anyway, it was nothing intense: just a couple of questions and I was on my way.

The moral of the story seems to be, if you’ve ever visited Germany, make sure your passport doesn’t get stolen after that, because every German port of entry you visited beforehand will want to know why you have a different passport from the one you had last time you arrived.

The boat
For the 2017 season, the route was operated by MS Andante (From 2018, a larger boat, MS Lale Andersen has been booked instead.) Originally built in 1959, Andante has been substantially modified for tourism. There are three decks to which passengers have access, with the reception being located on the middle of these, the “Promenade Deck”. The boat is equipped with a lift, so anyone not able to climb the rather steep stairs has access to all three decks. In the reception area, there’s a noticeboard showing maps of the region, weather forecasts for the coming days, and a schedule of events for the day. A display cabinet exhibits items which may be purchased in Reception. From Reception, a door forwards leads to the Salon, used for daily briefings and for serving afternoon drinks and cakes; it is equipped with a bar, and various board games are available for people to use. Leading back from Reception is a corridor off which a number of cabins are located. From this corridor, on the left of the boat, a staircase down leads to the Main Deck cabins underneath these. A separate staircase from Reception leads down to the Main Deck cabins at the front of the boat (underneath the Salon). A third staircase from Reception leads up to the Sun Deck. The dining room is located on the Promenade Deck, at the back of the boat, right at the end of the corridor from Reception and past all the cabins on this deck.

In his welcome briefing the captain described escape routes from each of these areas, making the whimsical remarks that the life jackets have never got wet and that the Rhine is typically 2.5-3.5 metres deep, but the boat 6.5 metres high, so, even if the boat does sink, the Sun Deck will still be above water (not sure about if it capsizes). He also mentioned that the water on board is drinkable because the water is never in the tanks for more than a couple of days.

Cabins are small, as is typical in these boats. On entering mine, a door to one side led to the tiny bathroom and beyond this was a small space to hang a few clothes, then the bed, which took up about a quarter of the floor area. Coming across to the opposite wall were an air-conditioning unit, a safe on the wall and a desk/dressing table with a stool. A hair drier was provided and the room also had a TV, which, after I re-scanned the channels, gave one English-language service, Sky News (a well-regarded, UK-based 24-hour rolling news service, now part of the Disney empire).

Life on Board
German speakers made up more than 50% of guests, a substantial portion of these being from Switzerland. The largest contingent of English speakers was from Canada, a single group accounting for 26 people, plus others who had booked independently of these.

On this tour, the daily schedule was pretty much standard from one day to the next, with coffee available for early risers from 06:00; the buffet breakfast from 07:00 to 08:45; the German briefing from 08:45 to “09:00”; the English briefing from “09:00” to “09:15”; afternoon tea and cakes from 16:00 to 17:00 and the evening meal from 18:30. The bar (in the Salon) remained open in the evening until the last guest left. The system for buying drinks is the same as often used on these tour boats: you sign a form for the drink and settle your account (cash only, in euro) on the last morning.

For meals, you are assigned to a particular table (apparently, the group of 26 Canadians didn’t feel bound to this, desiring to move around within their group, which caused a degree of consternation among the staff) and, most mornings at breakfast, there’d be a form on the table enabling menu choices to be made for the evening meal (hence, imperative that you sit at the same table in the evening), giving three options for the salad starter; meat, fish or vegetarian main course and three different desserts. There was also a soup course, but no choice was offered here. On one evening, after a long delay, Katy, the Hotel Manager came round apologising that a “logistical problem” meant there would be no soup that evening, handing each person a voucher for a free drink at the bar by way of compensation. During dinner on most evenings (when they’re not being presented to the passengers), the houskeeping staff visit your cabin to place a small sweet on each pillow. On the final night, there’s also a feedback questionaire and an envelope for the tip (a big matter on these boats).

The system for indicating your whereabouts (are you on or off the boat?) is also a common one: in the Reception area, there’s a board on which you hang your cabin key whenever you leave the boat. On return, the first thing you’re supposed to do is take your key from the board. (I suppose, if one person of a couple goes off the boat, the key should, by rights, be placed on the board to indicate not everyone’s on board, but this probably only matters late at night to alert the night watchman someone might suddenly appear at the door, or if the boat is to make an imminent departure.) The crew use this system to determine whether everyone’s on board, so if you don’t want the boat to depart without you, adhere to it!

This system raises the question of security. Essentially, it means it’s very weak, because anyone could take your key while you’re off the boat, with only a small risk of being seen (Reception is not always manned), and an even smaller risk of being questioned why they’ve taken that key. But the fact is, your fellow-passengers are not the kind of people who are after the few trinkets they would find (in my cabin, anyway). Most people religiously locked their cabins (when on board they would retain the key anyway), but I didn’t bother locking my cabin at all, except when we were alongside other boats, requiring their passengers to come across our boat to reach theirs, because, as well as legitimate passengers (from any of the boats), this also allows anyone to come aboard and I didn’t want to fall victim to an opportunist ducking down a corridor when no one was looking, trying his luck on the doors.

Bike
My booking had included an option for a standard bicycle without a coaster brake (“back-pedal” brake) and this was honoured; the two hand-operated brakes worked effectively.

Gearing was provided by a Shimano Nexus 7-speed internal gear hub (in other words, high quality and very reliable) with a twist-grip shifter, which, typically for this type of gear, operated motor-bike style (rotating forwards goes down the gears, rotating backwards goes up). Unlike a derailleur gear system, hub gears can be changed even when the bike is stationary, so it doesn’s matter if you come to a halt in a high gear, you don’t have to struggle to get started again, just shift down to a low gear and start off easily. The range of gears available was quite sufficient for this route.

Unusually, for German bikes, it was not fitted with dynamo lighting (battery-operated lights, were fitted, however; I never used them). A cage for a water bottle was not present, nor were bosses to attach one, so the bottle cage I had brought with me stayed in my cabin and the bottle went in the rear pannier bag. (For next season, I will bring a cage with a seat-tube clamp.) Everyone was supplied wih a handlebar bag and pannier bag (both good quality, completely waterproof). The handlebar bracket was the Klickfix type, to which handlebar bags from numerous manufacturers will fit (if you insist on using your own); crucially for me, I could clip an extension bar to it to carry my GPS.

Navigating the Daily Routes
EuroVelo cycle route 15 (EV15), known in Germany as route D8 (“Rheinradweg”) follows the course of the Rhine, thereby giving four different aids for navigation:

  • The Route Book.
  • The Map booklet.
  • The EV15 / D8 and other cycle path signs.
  • Town maps, distributed in the daily briefing.

Additionally, I had my own GPS (which I used only to record my track, not for navigation).

Cycle Clothing
Experience of cycling in Austria in late September meant that I knew the weather could be quite cool first thing in the morning, but could warm up nicely from around 11:00, getting quite hot in the afternoon sunshine. I found a short-sleeved baselayer, a short-sleeved cycle jersey plus armwarmers and a wind/water-proof jacket for first thing was ideal. If you have room to pack both shorts and tights, then you can prepare to strip-off a layer in the warm afternoons. (I took plenty of tights of varying thicknesses, but somehow contrived to leave all but one pair of shorts at home...)

The Tour Guide: Gerrit Deventer
I found Gerrit to be likable enough, but not particularly clued-up as a guide, failing to give practical information which would have been useful. Sometimes his explanations were confusing rather than helpful. On one occasion, I wanted to ask him a question at the end of the briefing, but he was out of the room, along the corridor and halfway down the staircase before I caught him, despite calling after him.

Day 1 (Saturday): Köln
I arrived at the boat in the early afternoon and was allowed to leave my luggage on board until checking-in commenced. This gave a few hours in which to explore Köln, the cathedral being only a short distance away. I couldn’t help noticing the number of police and police vehicles in the vicinity and was told they were there because a demonstration was being held in support of Burma’s Rohingya Muslims. I had been told the boat was being moved to a different mooring place, some distance downstream (the pre-departure information had indicated it would be upstream, close to the Chocolate Museum), about half-an-hour after check-in opened, so I made sure I was back on board beforehand to avoid having to find it again.

Day 2 (Sunday): Köln to “Bonn”
In the briefing, we were informed of a change of mooring, resulting in the day’s destination being around 7 km beyond Bonn, at Bad Godesberg, making today’s ride longer than expected and tomorrow’s correspondingly shorter. The main attraction of the day was Bonn itself, “A Small Town in Germany”, according to the title of John le Carré’s novel. Unfortunately, on reaching Bonn, the weather turned miserable, so after a brief look round Munsterplatz (there were bustling market stalls, and a bandstand at one end with a brass group playing — rather good, as was only fitting with the statue of Beethoven just opposite), I found a café, immediately causing the weather to brighten-up. Afterwards, I explored a little further afield and, just off Munsterplatz, found a rally of about 20 people in support of the EU, from which I concluded that, even in Germany, advocates of the EU are not confident the general public is so convinced, and that the population is not sufficiently exercised by this matter to come out in droves. More interestingly, I made my way to the main market square and found Beethoven’s birthplace house nearby; then, returning by a different route to collect my bike, cycled a couple of blocks away to the former Palatinate building.

During dinner, the hills opposite were beautifully lit by the setting sun (I wished I’d had my camera to hand) and I kept hearing the word “Petersberg” being mentioned by the German speakers. I thought someone was talking about St Petersberg, in Russia, but, eventually someone explained to me the building on the crest of the hill opposite was “Petersberg”, which, in the time when Bonn was the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany, was used by West Germany to accommodate visiting heads of state. After dinner, by which time it was dark, I took a walk to Bad Godesberg (about 1 km to the centre); the houses I passed on the way made a deeper impression on me than the town itself, which seemed quite ordinary (it seems I should have gone on further for the altstadt).

Day 3 (Monday): “Bonn” to Andernach
In the morning, I set off in the opposite direction from everyone else, to spend a little time exploring those imposing residences along the roads to Bad Godesberg. On my return to the river, the boat had departed. I made slow progress, on account of frequent stops for photographs of the Seven Hills (“Siebengebirge”) on the opposite bank and at one point was engaged in a long conversation by a jogger, who turned out to be a professional photographer facing a personal crisis about the value of her work.

Presently, I reached the remains of the Ludendorff Bridge (the “Bridge at Remagen”, which, towards the end of WW2, was unexpectedly captured, still standing across the Rhine, enabling US forces to establish themselves on the eastern bank before it collapsed a few days later). The bridge was not re-built after the war and the pillars on the Remagen side (on which we approached) now house a museum, dedicated to peace, covering those events.

A little later, I arrived opposite the village of Linz (Linz am Rhein), which we had been advised to visit, leaving our bikes locked on the west bank and taking to the car ferry (return — “hin und zuruck” — tickets are slightly cheaper than two singles). It was definitely worth the detour, even with a couple of short showers to put the dampers on things. I was amused to see a street named “Auf der Donau”, perhaps in tribute to the much larger Linz on the other river...

Returning to the west bank, the route passed through the lively riverside town of Bad Breisig (too many pedestrians to be able to cycle) before passing by Schloss Namedy (not open to the public) on the outskirts of Andernach. The final stretch into Andernach is less pleasant riding, along an elevated section of road, from which you can see some of the sights, before turning off and passing through a railway subway to come down to lower level. My instinct here was to turn right, to continue in the same direction I had been cycling, but the correct path is to go left (very close to the old wine-loading crane), and then swing round to the right. The boat was moored some distance along in the vicinity of what I discovered later to be part of the town’s old fortifications. A mobile home park is adjacent to the mooring place.

In the evening, I took a walk round the town. I was most taken by the museum and the remains of the city’s wall and fortifications, substantial parts of which seemed to be intact.

Day 4 (Tuesday): Andernach to Koblenz
As was becoming my habit, I headed off in the opposite direction from everyone else, to capitalise on my findings of the previous evening. I passed by the Tourist Information building, from where bookings can be made for the boat trips to the cold water geyser, supposedly one of Andernach’s main attractions. The day’s ride was quite short, so I reached Koblenz at around lunch time, with no evidence of the boat, so sat on some benches at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers, opposite both Ehrenbreitstein and Deutsches Eck to eat my sandwich, take in the view and enjoy the warm sunshine.

Continuing the final stretch of the route, I was on the bridge across the Mosel taking photographs when the boat arrived, giving me plenty of time to continue while it moored. (I try never to arrive at the day’s destination before the boat, because then I can see where it’s moored, rather than having to guess where it’s going to go.) I continued past the boat to Deutsches Eck for some photos there, sheltering inside the monument during a brief shower, and then went to the boat to prepare for the afternoon’s sight-seeing on foot.

Koblenz had plenty of attractions within easy walking distance. I had been asked to say “Hello” to the city by someone who came from nearby and I quickly saw it was somewhere I was going to be reluctant to say “Goodbye” to, although at least one young inhabitant I encountered — “Schängelbrunnen” — does have an unconventional greeting for unsuspecting tourists. While drifting along the streets, I noticed a busker had set up at a cross roads. She sang in English and, wherever I went, her voice floated along the streets, becoming the vocal backdrop to my explorations. Her words began to sound as if they were addressed to me personally: “Standing at the edge of your world” ... “Wondering where you’ve been” ... “Wherever you go, please take me with you” ... “We’ll go and wander around town all day”. I must be going soft in the head, for the next time I passed by, I made a donation to this busker, “Folk Vagabond”. I don’t normally have much time for street musicians, so I was surprised at this turn of events. There you are — that’s the magic of Koblenz! (After the tour, I found “Folk Vagabond’s” songs are available for download for just a few euro. Not generally my kind of music, but I like them.)

In the evening, I made another visit into the old town, to see it under darkness. However, I discovered a new square, that I hadn’t seen in the afternoon, so I made a mental note of its location with the intention of returning the following morning.

Day 5 (Wednesday): Koblenz to St Goar/St Goarshausen
The day’s ride, together with tomorrow’s on to Rüdesheim, is along the Rhine Gorge, which is UNESCO-listed. In 2016, on the Patria Neckar and Rhine bike and boat tour, I had cycled, in the opposite direction, the stretch from Rüdesheim to Boppard in under a day’s cycling because of a deadline to meet the boat at Boppard for a final afternoon’s cruise to Koblenz. I had found this too rushed to explore anywhere satisfactorily, leaving me with the opinion that the entire region was overrated. On this tour, the same stretch was covered in two full cycling days, and the extra time to visit places along the way enabled them to be appreciated, overturning my impression from 2016.

After visiting the square in Koblenz I’d discovered the previous evening, I returned to the Mosel river and cycled along to Deutsches Eck and onto the Rhine cycle path. We had been advised to visit Schloss Stolzenfels, on the same bank of the river as we were cycling, and to use the roadway up to it, rather than the footpath, but there was no information about how to recognise the point at which to turn off the cycle path to reach it. I saw the castle from the distance, but as you get closer, it’s hidden from view and I went storming past, not thinking of it again until several kilometres later, when, with a shock, I realised I’d gone much too far. I turned back, having to re-cycle over some cobblestone sections, and reached a junction to a road parallel to the cycle path, which I assumed would take me along to the castle’s approach road. It did, but when I got there, I discovered there’s a little “tunnel” under the wall directly from the cycle path to this point, so there was no need to use the road at all. And, because of the distance markings along the Rhine, it’s easy to know you’re approaching the turn-off (it’s just beyond the 585 km marker as you come down the river — ie between 585 and 586), and, therefore, to be looking-out for the signpost to Stolzenfels, directing you through the “tunnel”. Simple, surely, but, apparently, beyond the ability of a tour guide to explain!

There’s an admission fee for the castle, which includes a guided tour. Having bought your ticket, you’re kept waiting in the castle courtyard for the next tour to start; great views over the valley, but a bit of a nuisance. However, seeing the castle is worth the wait.

On reaching Sankt Goar, it’s necessary to take the car ferry across the river to the village of Sankt Goarshausen on the other side. The instruction booklet spoke of reaching the Rhein Hotel in Sankt Goar, but the ramp for the ferry is a little further on (it’s right at the 556 km marker). On the Sankt Goarshausen side, there are two castles, the so-called Burg Katz and Burg Maus, as well as the Loreley Rock. Some of the Germans showed me pictures they had taken at the top of the rock, but I arrived in Sankt Goarshausen with just enough time to prepare for “abendessen”.

In the evening, I went for a walk in Sankt Goarshausen, half hoping to find a path leading to the top of Loreley Rock. I didn’t, but I did find a pretty little side street which I instantly decided to return to in daylight.

Day 6 (Thursday): St Goar to Rüdesheim
The Loreley Rock is only a few minutes cycling from Sankt Goar. While I was there, I saw Andante approaching and stayed to take a photograph (shorter focal-length lens needed). Soon afterwards, I was outside the village of Oberwesel, recalling the park by the river where I’d stopped for lunch the previous year. This time, I turned into the village and spent some time there, including taking a walk along the old wall fortifications and up into a tower.

Soon after Oberwesel, you come opposite Kaub, with Burg Gutenfels on the hillside above it and Burg Pfalzgrafenstein on an island in the river. Burg Pfalzgrafenstein is now a museum, and I could see many people on its island, but it wasn’t at all obvious to me how they got there (Google maps shows it’s from Kaub). A little further along, there’s a ramp for the ferry across to Kaub and, as I was there, I was surprised to see a group of people leading some fine horses down the ramp to take the ferry. It looked like they were on a horseback tour of the area. (I think I’ll stick to a metal steed.) A bit further along again, there’s a monument to a crossing of the Rhine made here by Blucher during the Napoleonic wars.

The next place of interest is the village of Bacharach. From outside its walls, it doesn’t look much (although you can get a more promising view from a park between the village and river). Enter through one of the gates in the wall, however, and you are greeted by half-timbered buildings making an attractive sight.

I had reached another castle, Burg Reichenstein, at 15:25, a signpost nearby showing 7 km to Rüdesheim. “I expect to be in good time for tea and cake on the boat,” (at 16:00) I told one of the other cyclists. However, with numerous stops for photographs of more castles ... Burg Ehrenfels, the Mauseturm, Niederwalddenkmal and the Abbey of Hildegaard of Bingen across the river, I eventually arrived at the boat at 16:50, so it took getting on for 90 minutes to cycle the last 7 km...

Rüdesheim is the Rhine’s Cruise Ship Central; despite its small size, there are more cruise ships berthed here than anywhere else we visited, all disgorging their passengers into the village. It means Rüdesheim can be a busy place and the popular streets — Drosselgasse and Oberstrasse — especially so!

Day 7 (Friday): Rüdesheim to Mainz
True to my form on this tour, I spent the first hour or so going round Rüdesheim, seeing in daylight the places I had visited after dinner the previous night; the main streets were already quite busy.

Passing by the boat, I was soon at the Hindenburg Bridge, demolished towards the end of WW2 and never reconstructed. I hadn’t registered any of this when coming the opposite way in 2016, possibly because I passed under the archway and kept going straight on, not turning alongside to see it was a bridge in ruins.

At Oestrich-Winkel there’s another of those wine-loading cranes; in 2016, reaching here (from Mainz) marked the point at which it stopped raining, turning into a sunny afternoon in Rüdesheim. This time, I took the little tunnel nearby to pass under the main road and enter the village. It is worth giving it some time.

On reaching Eltville, we had been advised not to follow the cycle signs into town, but to continue along the riverside. Sound advice!

It’s unfortunate that Schloss Biebrich in Wiesbaden is reached along a main road, for it gives a wrong impression: the estate runs back some distance from this road, so there’s more to be seen than meets the eye from the riverside, and it’s possible to get better viewpoints on an imposing building. Another Regret for the list!

The ride is relatively short, so several hours are available for exploring Mainz, which has plenty to offer. I found a convenient route into the city was to walk along the riverside until reaching Rheingoldhalle and then taking the steps up above the main road and coming out at the cathedral. You pass by the Tourist Information Centre (and the electronics goods outlet, Saturn — useful, if, like me, you need to buy an extra SD card for your camera!).

Day 8 (Saturday): Mainz
This was the final day of the tour, so most people were leaving the boat in the morning. Three of us, a Canadian couple and myself, were staying for a second week, continuing to Basel — in Switzerland, but right on borders with both Germany and France.

I made myself scarce while the boat was being prepared for the new intake of passengers by visiting the city. On passing the Rheingoldhalle, which I’d taken to be a concert hall, I decided to take a look inside, to see what was being performed, but was rather taken aback, as soon as I entered the door, to be challenged to show my pass. I concluded it was not, after all, a public space for the arts and made a hasty exit; later, I saw it’s a conference centre, which is something of a relief, for it presents a very uninspiring façade as a venue for performing arts.

In the cathedral square a busy Saturday market was underway. I looked around for a bit, went inside the cathedral and made my way to St Stephan’s Church, known for its Marc Chagall windows. Returning to the centre, I found a cafe and spent most of the afternoon at the Gutenberg Museum, where, even by following all the audio tours, you will still not have seen everything on display. By the time I emerged, the market outside the cathedral was all but finished and it was time to return to the boat. Week 2 begins: Mainz to Basel (Strasbourg, from 2018). A new intake of passengers! Who will they be?

Photographs
Inevitably, I’ve found it very difficult to select just two photographs to illustrate this tour; Rad & Reisen make this review lark a tough business!

I’ve chosen one from Koblenz, taken on Day 4 in the old town where two pedestrianised streets cross. You might be able to make out my Street Singer standing at the corner.

My second photograph is of Bacharach taken from the park outside, between the river and the town.

  • Booking handling 6
    Travel documents 5
    Information at the beginning of the tour 5
    Accomodation 5
    Board 5
    Route description 4
    On-site assistance 4
    Route-character 5
    Bicycle + equipment 6
    Price-performance ratio 5
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