When Crystal Bach embarks on her maiden voyage next summer, she’ll sail into a veritable fantasy land along the romantic Rhine. Stretching from its glacier Alpine source and emptying into the North Sea, this great river winds through the heart of Europe, revealing a string of legendary medieval castles and ruins seemingly suspended in time and capping off steep hills dotting the vine-covered miles. In fact, along the narrow gorge of the Middle Rhine Valley, where the UNESCO World Heritage Site extends 35 miles between Rüdesheim and Koblenz, more castles exist than in any other river valley in the world.
Nonetheless, the banks of the Rhine yield much more than remarkable castles and ruins. One of the greatest parts of a Rhine river cruise with Crystal: you’ll be able to admire much of these treasures before even stepping away from the luxurious decks of your Crystal river yacht, with fairytale villages of white-washed half-timbered structures, bright flowered window boxes, and the towering spires of cathedrals all visible from the Rhine.
See vineyards clinging to the steeply inclined hillsides, telling their story of the seasons from bud break to post-harvest hues. Watch for local fishermen, the occasional lone rower silently skimming along, plenty of ducks and swans circling around river-going barges, and black church spires punctuating the sky.
Some of the dazzling scenery and castle-studded landscapes that await you on your Crystal Bach sailing include:
- One of Germany’s oldest and loveliest towns is Koblenz, located at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel rivers. A narrow slice of land is known as Deutsches Eck (German Corner), where a monument dedicated to Kaiser Wilhelm I is a national heirloom.
- Three hundred feet above the picturesque storybook town of Cochem on the Mosel, Reichsburg Castle is topped by a tower adorned by a watchful gargoyle. Views looking up at the castle are rivaled by views looking down the river valley from Witches Tower.
- Topped with a tower and flanked by cannons, Marksburg Castle is an imposing 12th century structure in Braubach. Best preserved among all castles on the river, it rises fully intact atop a rock, the single Rhine castle to have never suffered an attack.
- The lovely Lorelei was a fabled siren living on an outcrop that bears her name, rising more than 400 feet above the Rhine. According to legend, the long-haired beauty lured fishermen with her enchanted singing voice, causing shipwrecks along the jagged shores. A 14-foot bronze statue of the nymph is poised above the river’s edge at St. Goarshausen.
- St. Goar was founded by a 6th century monk to give sailors respite to thank their lucky stars for navigating the treacherous bend at Lorelei Rock. The hollowed out shell of Rheinfels Castle, once the Rhine Valley’s mightiest fortress of all, was completely destroyed in battles with the French, and is now an imposing ruin.
- Perhaps feudal lords had a sense of humor? Katz Castle (Cats Castle) dating from 1371 stands on a ledge facing downstream to nearby Maus Castle (Mouse Castle) constructed a couple of decades earlier and is home to an aviary for falcons, owls and eagles.
Your first encounter with Pfalzgrafenstein Castle may catch you by surprise, which was central to its raison d’être. Curiously situated mid-river, it was built in the 14th century on a tiny island near Kaub, with the sole purpose of collecting tolls from passing boats. *See featured image.
Rüdesheim and the village of Assmannshausen, just around a bend in the river, are known for Rheingauer Riesling white wine. The local Assmannshäuser Spätburgunder, a Burgundy-type Pinot Noir, is the only red wine produced along the banks of the Rhine. Castles and ruins? Rüdesheim has a few: You’ll spot Brömserburg Boosenburg, Vorderburg, and the ruins of Ehrenfels Castle.
- Glide by lovely Bacharach village where vineyards cling to the steep hillsides. Here’s an opportunity to capture the towers of Stahleck Castle, the ruins of Saint Werner’s Chapel, and the spire of Peters Church in one photo.
- Near Trechtingshausen, the stunning Rheinstein Castle is perched above the Rhine in a once-strategic position. Celebrating its 700th birthday, its classical medieval design features a working drawbridge and defensive portcullis.
Cruise upstream or down aboard Crystal Bach when our newest river yacht embarks on “Jewels of the Rhine” voyages beginning June of 2017.