Day 3: Rüdesheim, Germany
It was so longest stay so far during the river cruise from Basel to Amsterdam and for my taste, it could have been even longer. We had left Gambsheim around six o´clock in the evening before and passed the last lock on this journey during dinner time. While not being aware of it at all (despite the many locks we left behind), the Excellence Princess had mastered over 55 meters difference in elevation during the last two days. That is over half the height of the Statue of Liberty!
At 4am in the morning, we arrived in the German city of Mannheim, where the ship rested until about 8:30am. I was deeply asleep and was woken up by the morning announcement of cruise director Josef, who called all passengers for the excursion to Heidelberg to make their way to the buses.
Even though I could have joined the tour at no extra cost (and I am sure Heidelberg would have been more than worth it), I had decided to remain onboard. I took a rather quick breakfast down in the restaurant and spent quite some time up on the sun deck while the ship continued its way to Mainz, where the day-tripper were expected to re-board the ship at around noon. The journey from Mannheim to Mainz finally was just the way I expected river cruising to be. Slow, homely and without any rush.
Just lying in the deck chair and watching the scenery as well as the landscape pass by. This is how the breakfast coffee tasted the best! This was also the beginning of the Rhein River, that finally became romantic and more interesting to observe in terms of architecture and landscape. No more power plants and industrial zones, now it was time for castles, sleepy little villages and lots and lots of vineyards around.
I took another walk around the ship as there still had been spots that I had not seen yet. You would think that this might happen only on real big resort ships, but to be honest, no, when you start to relax, this could actually happen inside your own car.
Excellence Princess is equipped with a speciality restaurant which is a Steak House. It lies at the stern of the upper cabin deck, just below the sun deck, and is both accessible through a stairwell from outside as well as through the cabin corridor. As only dinner is served here (cover charge is a decent 15 € per person), the space serves as a daytime lounge. Not many passengers seemed to know this (neither did I until this very moment). It is a quiet and panoramic place to enjoy vistas over the wash while coffee and different kinds of teas are available at self-service along with cookies, fresh fruits and a few books and games that can be borrowed.
I spent quite a while there and began to compile the first parts of this blog over a few cups of coffee.
Then, around noon, the ship made a short halt in Mainz to recollect the returnees and lunch was served. It was also the right time to catch up with home and exchange the news.
Then, at 3:00pm, we finally reached Rüdesheim. The town is a well-known tourist attraction in the Rhein-Main area, a wine capital and belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List. The Rheingau produces some of the world´s most prestigious and highly awarded Rieslings in the world and there are over 40 well-preserved ruins of historic castles in-between Rüdesheim and Koblenz.
I got off the ship as soon as the gangway was cleared. Being German but living in the South, I do not get to see places like this very often. So I wanted to soak up as much as I could while at the same time increasing my activity level that had been close to zero so far (except the excursion yesterday).
First, I strolled through the cosy downtown area with Drosselgasse being probably the most popular sight. The alley hosts many beer and wine bars and is with over 3 million visitors annually Rüdesheim´s hotspot.
As it was already to late to take the ferry and visit Burg Rheinstein a little further up the river, I decided for a hike up the vineyards to the famous Burg Ehrenfels ruin. The castle had been built around 1220 and was functioning as a customs office back then. Even though the ruins cannot be visited, it is a nice way up with gorgeous views over the surrounding area. You can even enjoy a panoramic view onto the famous “Mäuseturm” on a little island right in the river which dates back to the 1350´s. The tower was at that time a watchtower for the Ehrenfels castle, its nickname comes from an urban legend.
From here, I continued uphill towards the Niederwalddenkmal and the adjacent temple, which forms a memorial for the victory of Germany over France in 1870 and the implementation of the historic German Reich (not to be mistaken with Hitler´s Third Reich).
The construction is quite impressive, but the views are even more. There is a small kiosk just on top of the little temple, from which ancient celebrities such as Brentano, Beethoven or Goethe have already enjoyed the romance of this place over a hundred years ago. I got myself a glass of local Riesling and just copied. And when the sun stood low on the horizon, it was time to head back down into town and further on towards the ship, because it almost was dinner time.
Photo Gallery Rüdesheim
And to conclude this wonderful day, I watched the sun setting behind the river bend from the comfort and the warmth of the onboard whirlpool. Of course, with a glass of red wine. Perfection! I was ready for the next day.