Grace docked in Boppard, Germany, this morning for a short visit before we sail down the Rhine to Rüdesheim.
ms Grace docked in Boppard, Germany
Rickee and I decided to 'divide and conquer' today. While she went into town with a group led by Kati for a brief walking tour, I decided to go with Michael's group and do the chair lift to the top of the nearby mountain. Originally billed as a "gondola" ride to the top, in actuality, it was an open-air chair lift, like the ones used at ski resorts. There were 58 of us who decided to give this a try.
Chair lift in Boppard
The ride to the top of the mountain and back down again took about 20 minutes in each direction. The chairs never stop moving, so when the chair comes up behind your legs, you sort of just sit down. An attendant latches a safety bar in front of you and off you go!
Attendants secure you in the chair as it is moving
The chair lift rises to just above 3,000 feet to the top of the mountain. Getting off the chair is not difficult. Attendants are there to "catch" you and un-latch the safetey bar. You basically just step out and walk away. The chair is moving pretty slow, so it is not hard to get out of the way. There are many hiking and biking trails at the top. They even have a special lift for bicycles.
Bicycles being transferred to the top
I would suspect there are trails that would allow a cyclist to ride all the way back down the mountain which, given the time, would be pretty fun to do. I have been looking for a way to break another rib and that would be as good as any! There is one short walking path that leads to a restaurant with a terrace overlooking the large bend in the Rhine River below. From here, you can see the entire town of Boppard and watch the long river boats struggle to make the sharp turn against the current.
The ride down was just as nice as the ride up. The weather was very cooperative today, not too windy, and with enough sun to warm the air to 65 degrees. It was a fun and unexpected little extra excursion option that Tauck provided.
The walking tour group, led by Kati, donned our Vox audio units and headed down the Rhine promenade. It was early on a Saturday morning but the town was already starting to get crowded. Lots of people were out walking their dogs or enjoying a coffee at a riverfront sidewalk cafe. According to Kati, Boppard is a spa town where people come because of the good clean air. The town's population is about 17,000, but this number increases significantly when the tourists arrive. On the opposite side of the street there are houses, one of which dates back to the 1700s. Planters filled with colorful flowers adorn the promenade.
House from the 1700s
We crossed to the other side and headed up a street that leads into the Market Square. When we came to a small statue of a lady holding a basket and a little kid with an outstretched hand, Kati told us the story behind this statue. The lady was a shopkeeper who had owned the store on that corner. Apparently, children came into her shop for the free candy she always seemed to have on hand. Since the statue's shopkeeper and child had empty hands, Kati remedied this by placing some of the delicious candy from ms Grace's Reception Desk into both of their hands!
Schnuggel Elsje statue (Google it!)
We continued our walk to the main square which had a large church on one side, the Tourism Office, some restaurants and shops. Colorful umbrellas had been set up over tables for outdoor dining. The main shopping street was just off the square and it was not difficult to find souvenirs. After makiing my magnet and postcard purchase, I continued up the street until I found some remnants of the old city walls and the ruins of what had once been ancient Roman baths.
Old city walls of Boppard
ms Grace departed from Boppard in the early afternoon and began sailing south, toward Rüdesheim. The afternoon was spent enjoying the amazing scenery along the Rhine. We passed lots of quaint German villages, many with impressive church steeples. And, of course, there were castles! Iris was providing commentary from the Sun Deck, which also could be heard over the stateroom info channel and in the Panorama Lounge, pointing out the various castles along the Rhine.
Castles along the Rhine are impressive
We were on the port side of the vessel, so we could enjoy watching the castles on our side pass by us right from our loft cabin (Cat 3). We raised the window for an unobstructed view. We had been provided with a map showing the name and locations of the castles we would pass, so we knew exactly when we should have our cameras ready.
German towns along the Rhine
One of the most important landmarks on the Rhine is the Lorelei, a steep 433-foot-high slate rock on the right bank of the river. The passage around the Lorelei is very narrow and there are strong currents, making navigation a challenge.
The Lorelei (on left)
The Captain successfully navigated us past the Lorelei and on to Rüdesheim. We docked at around 6:00pm and we could see upon arrival that many other riverboats were already docked here. That's not unusual for Rüdesheim as it is one of the most visited cities on the Rhine. Tonight, all of the guests disembark at 6:30 and board the motorcoaches for a short drive to a very special "sparkling" dinner held at Relais & Chateaux Hotel Burg Schwarzenstein. The hotel/restaurant is located on a hill overlooking the Rhine valley and sits atop working vineyards.
The view from Burg Schwarzenstein
To say that the venue for this special dinner was magical would be a gross understatement. Tauck has a knack for finding the most interesting and elegant locations for special events, and this one was no exception. We were greeted with glasses of champagne, which we enjoyed on the patio of the restaurant while taking in the sunset on the valley below. The tables inside the restaurant were elegantly set for a multi-course dinner.
Table set for dinner
Soon, we were all seated and dinner began. We had pre-selected our main course a few days earlier from a choice of beef, fish or pasta. I chose the truffle-crusted filet and Rickee chose the perch. The meal started with some delicious appetizers which were already on the table when we sat down. A shrimp in sweet chilli sauce was our favorite. A basket of amazing, crusty bread was also a hit. A salad consisting of toasted goat cheese rounds with honey (I think) and a combination of arugula and rocket greens was expertly dressed in a not-too-sweet dressing. My truffle-crusted filet was perfectly cooked to medium rare and Rickee said her fish was also expertly prepared and seasoned. There were no salt or pepper shakers on the tables and none were needed. We learned that our meal was prepared by the restaurant's 1-Michelin star chef, and it was apparent.
Everybody had a great time and it was another perfectly executed special event by Tauck.