16.10.2008 - 20.10.2008
After a hurried breakfast, we get back on the train to Berlin Hauptbanhof, where we will (we think) head to Bacharach, a small town on the Rhine River, via Frankfurt. We were suggested this HI hostel, a renovated castle, that is supposed to be pretty amazing, but they don't take online reservations, so before leaving the main station to Frankfurt I give them a call. The woman tells me they are booked until Sunday- what?! Now I start to panic. I try to contact a few other places in the area, and don't succeed before we get on the train. I'm not very happy. We get to Frankfurt after a few hours, and one of the places, an HI Hostel in Koblenz, tells me they have room. I finally stop freaking out, and Ruaridh is grateful no one perished. We get on the next train to Koblenz, and it is already dark out. We figure this place is a good second- it''s a 13th century fortress overlooking the Rhine, once the largest in the world (I didn't think this through.) So we take the instructed bus once we get off at Koblenz Hbf- I didn't realize this was going to be an actual city, but it's quite large. Anways, we cross the Rhine and get to the stop we were instructed to take, and the fortress looms above us, lit up, rival to Edinburgh castle. A man on the bus starts talking to me in German. I catch Jugenherberge- youth hostel. I say yes! Youth hostel! And he nods, bla bla bla, and tells us not to get off at the bottom, wait 2 stops. So we do, and we are dropped off in a dark suburban area, thinking ok, look for the massive glowy thing. We reach, after much strenuous climbing, a 3-way dead end- meaning it might as well be a dead end, because there's no way I am walking down a pitch black street in god-knows-where, Germany. We decide to stop a station wagon coming down from one of the roads and ask where the hostel is- its a mother and teenage daughter, and they offer to give us a ride. Turns out, it was very far, and she drove through an unlit construction site to get us there (can you say Hell No) we go through the many archways of the castle and the fortress, when she drives up to a toll-booth looking thing, and says something in German to the worker. He lets down the stoppers and she drives us right up to the hostel entrance, telling us they don't normally let people drive through but she told him that she had two lost Americans with her, haha. We check in, and our stay at Koblenz ends up being pretty unremarkable, and we realize why HI Hostels should be avoided if at all possible. We've stayed at one HI hostel before, in Oban, Scotland, and it was lovely- this is the type that backpackers warn you about. Huge, no character, useless staff, and full of screaming little kids and their parents. On check-in, the girl tells me that the room I'm staying in has no key. I ask her if there are lockers, and she says she doesn't know. So me and Ruaridh pick up our sheets and move to our respective single-gendered rooms. I'm walking and walking through multitudes of vast, white hallways and huge wooden doors before I get to my room at the end of the hall. The woman in it has a chair against the door, apologizes because she thought she was alone in the room. I don't blame her. I try to quell my overactive imagination and eventually fall asleep.
It's Friday morning, and if this place has one thing, it's pretty amazing views. One thing I didn't to expect looming in the distance, a nuclear power plant. But it certainly made the panorama more interesting. After breakfast, we decide to make the proper descent out of the fortress and go down into Koblenz. There's not much, so we walk back into the city center, and get lunch at a really great turkish place. We take the bus back, and find the entrance for the chair lift up. Ruaridh doesn't look happy about it, but we go anyway- beats the walk up! Tonight we plan our next stop- we decide to book a day in Bacharach, and from there go to Interlaken. I'm alone in my big scary fortress-y room but sleep fine anyways.
The next day, our last full day in Koblenz, we wake up facing white-washed windows and not much else. We are completely enveloped in a thick fog, so I catch up on my blog! Originally we were going to take a Rhine boat trip from the Deutches Eck, but there is no point if we can't see anything, so we both agree that it's no big deal if we don't go out-and-about today. The fog burns off mid-afternoon- right before we die of boredom- so we walk around the fortress grounds a bit. A very uneventful day ahead, tomorrow is Bacharach.
Bacharach is what you picture when you imagine a beautiful little town on the Rhine. I'm so happy we spent the day there, and definitely wished we had more time. We take the morning train from Koblenz to Bacharach, a really scenic route along the Rhine River. We see all the castles dotting the hilltops, and even see Loreley rock, the most visited attraction I think (I'm glad we didn't go out of our way for it though) we get to Bacharach, and walk through what looks like the only street in the town until we see the steps leading up the the castle, perched on the hillside. The walk up was pretty strenuous with our bags, but well worth the view. After checking in, we sat in the courtyard with some tea (I got black forest cheesecake also) and relaxed, with the Rhine river stretching out on either side below us and golden vineyards rising on the hills to our left. We later made the descent into town, realizing we only had the one day, and decided to try some of the local wine- after walking around, I realize that Bacharach must really be a vineyard town, because the street is dotted with winehouses and wagons pass us carrying loads of grapes. We stop at a place suggested by the woman at reception, and I get the Federweisser- the young wine, or "must," that looks like fizzy pineapple juice because it still has yeast. It is very sweet and very delicious. Ruaridh and I split two other ones, then wander the town some more as the sun starts setting, past the little cobblestone streets and hanging grape vines. In the morning, we leave for Switzerland.