On a foggy, sleety day, AmaWaterways Amacello winds through the Rhine Gorge where medieval castles and vineyards compete for attention above scenic river banks. Alan heads outside to take photos but returns quickly, unable to shield his lens from pelting sleet.
Most Rhine River cruisers hope to view the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in beautiful weather, especially for the outstanding photo opportunities. But that was not to be on our Rhine River Christmas Markets cruise. Instead we press our noses and cameras against the glass of the Main Lounge and enjoy the moodiness of a wintry day while history parades before our eyes.
But we’re not looking on blindly. Cruise Manager, Nick Hartog, lectures on the area’s historical significance and points out important landmarks as Amacello continues on her wintry journey from Koblenz to Rüdesheim. The castles that we pass were once used as toll collection stations providing income to nobles and archbishops. They suffered through waves of devastation beginning with Rudolf of Hapsburg in the 13th century, followed by the 30 years war of 1618-1648, once again by Louis XIV’s troops in 1689 and later by Napoleon’s troops in the 1790’s.
At Oberwesel, Church Liebfrauenkirche sits close to the Rhine River’s banks. The town traces its roots to Celtic times and is known for Reisling wine production.
Rheinstein Castle, constructed in 1316/1317 seems to spring from its rocky outcropping, a strategic spot in the Rhine Gorge. By 1344, the building was already in decline. Later Prince Frederick of Prussia (1794-1863) rebuilt the castle. It’s possible to tour the medieval structure where you’ll see a drawbridge, the Knight’s Hall and 500-year-old burgundy grape vines in Burgunder Garden.
When Amacellos cruises by Stolzenfels Castle we can almost touch the fairytale-looking building. Stolzenfels sits on an island and is open to the public where armory and weaponry make an impressive display.
We sip Rudesheim coffee (Asbach brandy, cofee and whipped cream with chocolate flakes) as 60 small towns and 40 hilltop castles and fortresses slowly reveal themselves bringing names on the map to life. Amacello docks at Rüdesheim giving us ample time to explore the charming hillside village decked out with all things Christmas, and a crowd to match.
Is a Rhine River Christmas markets cruise on your bucket list? Know what to expect by reading the articles from our Rhine River Cruise
Next time, and yes there will be a next time, we’re thinking a cruise through the Rhine Gorge to see the fall colors would be nice. And, hopefully, we’ll have better weather for photography.