Eight days on the Rheinsteig
This June, our managing director, Charlotte Gillan, undertook the latest
in a series of long distance walks to test Classic Canes products and
produce hiking imagery for our marketing use. Her 2015 walk was
125km/78 miles of the Rheinsteig, a rocky trail running parallel to the
Upper Middle Rhine river in Germany, starting at Rüdesheim and
completing at Koblenz eight days later. She used a pair of Classic
Canes folding trekknig poles in red, ref. 4639C. Here is her report:|
Wednesday 10th June 2015: Rüdesheim to Assmannshausen 11.1km/7 miles
flew into Frankfurt on Tuesday 9th June, with Classic Canes folding
trekking poles (ref 4639) folded up in our rucksacks. Folding poles are
the most convenient if you are flying. We then took the train to
Rüdesheim and stayed the night in a hotel on the famous Drosselgasse,
looking up at the start of our walk, high above us.
quite do seven miles today because we took the cable car up from
Rüdesheim to the Niederwald monument with its statue of Germania high
above the pretty town. This probably made it only about five miles
today. The views from the cable car were terrific, looking over the
vineyards and the river with the Donnersberg mountain in the distance.
We saw the Benedictine monastery of St Hildegard, which was supposed to
be our starting point. The monument commemorates the victory of Germany
over the French in the war of 1870-71. It gave a good view of the
confluence of the Rhine and the river Nahe.
We found the first
Rheinsteig sign and followed our path as it descended through oak
forests and then rose again through the Niederwald. The Mäuseturm
(Mouse Tower), a former toll station and famous landmark in the middle
of the Rhine, was covered with scaffolding but we had some good views of
the ruined Ehrenfels Castle above Rüdesheim, which was built in 1210 by
the Archbishop of Mainz to protect the Rheingau; it was later used as a
toll station too. It was largely destroyed in 1689, during the War of
Palantine Succession, but the ruin is one of the iconic sights of the
Upper Middle Rhine.
Lunch was white asparagus with boiled
potatoes and Hollandaise sauce at the Niederwald Schloss restaurant, a
former hunting lodge. It was lovely to sit outside and enjoy the fresh
food in the open air.
We then walked downhill through the woods
to Assmanshausen, while our fellow lunchers took the chairlift down
over our heads. We were pleased to see a red squirrel. We glimpsed a
view of the vineyard we will climb through tomorrow: Assmannshauser
Höllenberg. There is a huge sign on the vineyard terraces, visible for
the cruise ships below.
Thursday 11th June 2015: Asmannshausen to Lorch 14.6km/9 miles
left the comfortable Hotel Lamm at 9am and bought bread rolls at the
bakery behind the hotel. We climbed up out of the village as the clock
tower was showing 9.30am. It was rather like leaving a Cornish village
on the South West Coast Path with a steep climb to start the day. The
Rhine was already busy with barges and cruise ships, whilst very long
trains transported goods both sides of the river. Some trains carry
over two hundred cars.
We joined a track through the vineyards
and gradually switchbacked our way higher and higher. Soon the village
of Assmannshausen was very small below us. We took photographs at the
giant Assmanshausen Höllenberg sign that we saw from the opposite side
of the valley yesterday afternoon. We soon climbed up to the Höllenberg
itself ('hell mountain') and reached a beautiful, copper-roofed gazebo,
a temple to red wine. Here we had a whisky and admired the fabulous
views down the Rhine. Malcolm took a picture of a cheery grasshopper
who was chirruping at us from a nearby leaf.
We walked on through
vineyards, steadily gaining height, passing some vineyard workers in a
green van with a smiling Golden Retriever on their passenger seat. The
path went deep into a stunted oak wood and we needed our Classic Canes
trekking poles to help us through the tricky parts. There were
beautiful foxgloves among other pretty wild flowers. We also saw rock
lizards, very tame mice, jays, kites and a kestrel. There were also
lovely herbs (with information boards) and delicious, tiny, wild
We emerged high above the Rhine and had a second
whisky stop on a bench at the Paul Claus shelter. We watched the mining
at the large quartzite quarry opposite, which cast huge clouds of dust
onto Castle Sooneck beside it. The reverberations at the castle must be
awful. The path then led downhill and inland through ancient woodland.
We reached a tadpole pond which also contained small, trout-like fish,
which interested Malcolm. We continued onto a bench at Georgs Ruh
('George's rest'), also know at the 'three castles view' as it looks out
over castles Rheinstein (still just visible upriver), Reichenstein and
Sooneck. Reichenstein and Sooneck were robber barons' castles, built in
the 12th century and occupied by bailiffs. In the 19th century,
Sooneck was reconstructed by Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm. We ate our
bread rolls and cheese, with Oreo biscuits, Ritter Sport nut chocolate
and of course, whiskies in silver cups. There were three benches: one
with some jolly German men and one with two women walkers who were not
speaking to one another.
After this we missed our signpost and
accidentally headed downhill to the outer reaches of Lorch, briefly
joining the 'Wein Wanderweg' but ending up on the Binderweg, a long
suburban street. It eventually delivered us past some interesting
houses and many roses to Lorch. Lorch is an important wine town.
Luckily it was now 5pm and we found a weingut open: Weingut J
Gemersheime, up a side street. There were tables on small terraces and a
charming lady to encourage us to try different wines. We had Lorcher
Reisling No 1 (2.20€/glass) and Lorcher Pfaffenweis Riesling Kabinett
(2.50€), followed by Lorcher Rivaner and Lorcher Kapellenberg Blanc de
Noir Kabinett Trocken (3€) plus a big plate of cheese and pretzels.
Friday 12th June 2015: Lorch to Kaub 15.7km/9.7 miles
walked up to the supermarket to buy filled mozzarella and tomato rolls
for lunch, and then had to walk right back into town again to rejoin the
Rheinsteig. It was already very hot. Several times we tried to take
clever short cuts and each time were put back on the right track by
local old men, who probably have to redirect walkers every day.
path was immediately very steep and we climbed up almost vertical rocks
aided by wire ropes and foot treads set into the rock. We emerged just
below the Nollig Tower, a ruin with medieval origins. We climbed
through a game fence (to keep the wild boar away from the vines) and
gained more height through the vineyards. On the other bank we could
see Castles Hohneck and then Fürstenberg (heavily fortified but it
looked as if it had a jolly beer terrace). We had a few whisky stops
(always necessary when walking with a Scotsman) and enjoyed excellent
views of the Rhine in both directions.
We passed the
Clemenskapelle (Church of St Clement), built in 1909 and perched very
high up above the village of Lorchshausen. We saw piles of slate from
the mining days and paused briefly at the Wirberley viewing area. Some
farmers herded their goats further up the path at this point, so we had
to climb up the retaining wall to let them pass. There were also lovely
views of Pfalzgrafenstein Castle in the centre of the Rhine, far ahead
at Kaub. It was a lookout and a customs toll station in times gone by.
followed the path down to the valley of Niederhal, where we found a
hippie running a wine station in the woods. I had a Riesling and
Malcolm had a couple of small biers. We then had a stiff climb uphill
and even when that evened out, a steady onward climb. The total ascent
today was over 700m. The trekking poles are proving their worth! They
save an immense amount of wear and tear on the knee and ankle joints in
particular, and encourage better use of the upper body so that it too
plays its part. We paused for another whisky at the Pfalzgrafenstein
shelter, where we had a dance to the booming music from a passing
discoschiff. At Castle Gutenfels we descended by a steep path into
Kaub. It was now extremely hot: 26C or more, but becoming sultry.
Luckily we found our hotel. Hotel zum Türm, at Zollstrasse 50, quite
easily because a big electrical storm was brewing. By the time we had
checked in and had a shower, the storm was raging with donner and
blitzen right over us.
Saturday 13th June 2015: Kaub to Sankt Goar 20.2km/12.5 miles
left the Hotel Türm and its marvellous restaurant at 9.30am in spitting
rain. We took a right in the Marktplatz through the vineyards and up
onto the Rhine plateau, climbing up past the Leiterburger Tower. It
started raining hard as we climbed the 80 steps up to the Rheinsteig. I
put on my waterproof but Malcolm did not, so eventually we sheltered in
a vineyard bus stop until the rain eased off. I then had my photograph
taken next to a vineyard wanderer sculpture.
We climbed up
past an information board telling us the names of some of the wild
flowers, including the Rapunzelglöckenblumen (Rapunzel bell flower - a
very pretty, delicate campanula). We continued along the path with
views of Schönberg Castle, with its distinctive red tower, on the
opposite bank. From the village of Dörscheid we saw lots of other
walkers on the skyline who had probably set off from Dörscheid forty
minutes ahead of us. Dörscheid was very pretty and we enjoyed seeing
two heavy horses with long flaxen manes in their field on the edge of
We had a whisky stop in a gazebo overlooking the
village of Oberwesel which has an historic fortified wall set with watch
towers, and passed the Liebfrauenkirche (Church of our Lady). We
walked through open meadowland to the path below, passing a bronze
statue of St Christopher, patron saint of travellers. We needed him
looking over us as the path was steep and rocky with wire rope handrails
in places. We quickly lost lots of height, and then there was a big
uphill stretch followed by another down and so on. A special highlight
was a light wooded area where we saw some black woodpeckers at a range
of about twenty yards. They were hopping about on the ground and
flitting between the trees with much squawking; we think they were
probably juveniles. There were many viewpoints where Germans on their
Saturday walks were having lunch, but we continued on to the Loreley
visitor centre, on top of the famous rock of the Rhine.
lunch on the touristy Panoramaterrace: steak and chips and a few biers.
I saw an eagle circling very high above us. The downs and ups
continued after lunch, past the gates to Castle Katz, which is closed to
the public as it is owned by a Japanese businessman. The castle was
commenced in 1360 by the counts of Katzenelnbogen, who named the castle
after themselves. It was destroyed in 1806 on the order of Napoleon
before being reconstructed in the 19th century. We continued down
through the woods, seeing another black woodpecker in flight, before
arriving through the old streets in St Goarshausen. We took the ferry
to St Goar on the opposite bank, bought stocknageln in a lovely shop
that gave us each a drink of peach schnapps, before hiking up through
the vineyards to our hotel, Berg Rheinfels.
The hotel seems quite
charming, but the receptionist took one look at us in our hiking
clothes and booked us into the Rheinterrace restaurant for dinner rather
than the smart one. Somehow we agreed to this (we were hot and tired)
and so ended up on the terrace for a poor meal, a horrible waitress and a
wine list with only two options. We should have walked out, but at
least the view of the Rhine was spectacular. For everything else we
will have to seek our revenge on Trip Advisor.
Sunday 14th June 2015 Sankt Goar to Kestert 12.3km/7.6 miles
an excellent breakfast of lovely omelettes for me cooked in the
restaurant by the omelette chef and smoked salmon for Malcolm, we left
the Berg at about 10am and walked into St Goar to buy food supplies. We
boarded the ferry to St Goarshausen at about 10.30am. It was hot but
we felt fit and ready for a good walk. It is very clever how the
ferryman swings the ferryboat around in the tide of the Rhine. We had
excellent views of Berg Rheinfels where we stayed, including the terrace
of the grumpy waitress. In the distance, on the right hand side of the
Rhine, we could also see the beautiful Maus Castle, built by the
Archbishop of Trier in 1356-1388 to compete with the Katz and Rheinfels
castles. Originally called Deuernberg Castle, it was nicknamed Maus
Castle by the counts of Katzenelnbogen as it is significantly smaller
than Katz Castle. Now it is a private aviary for raptors, some of which
(eagles) we saw high overhead.
We then climbed sharply out of St
Goarshausen via the graveyard: an ascent of 150m over 500m! Once on
the Rheinplateau, we had beautiful views stretching back to the Lorely
centre and its biergarden. We saw greater spotted woodpeckers and the
first sign to Burg Maus across barley fields. We saw lovely cattle and
their tiny calves in an alpine meadow area. We then began our descent
to Burg Maus, the switchbacks providing us with fine views from many
levels. We heard young black woodpeckers but had no definitive
sightings. The steep path led us down into the village of Wellmich
where we found the Gasthof Germania, a family run place where we had a
table in the shade between two buildings. We had lovely schnitzels with
paprika chips and steins of bier served by the couple and their young
son, who took and brought the drinks orders. On the salads were little
mice carved out of radishes, to honour Burg Maus high above us. It was
all most enjoyable and authentic.
We then climbed back up steeply
to the plateau through pretty forests and again had beautiful views of
the Maus Castle (my favourite castle so far). Signs told us there were
snakes in the forest! We walked across farmland and continued along
easy tracks, seeing lovely wildflowers including the
Rapunzelglockenblumen, scabious and yarrow. We continued through a
forest with old mine workings (quartzite and silver) before finding a
bench with a wonderful view over the Rhine for a whisky stop.
continued through very rocky paths in light woodland and were excited to
see a fantastic insect-green lizard of approximately ten inches long
including his tail. We showed its picture to the landlady of a
wandernplatz in the little village of Oberkestert, who said it was very
rare in the area and identified it as a Smaragdeidechse, or a Western
Green Lizard (lacerta bilineata).
We passed more golden cattle
including a huge but luckily quiet and friendly bull, and walked on
through open farmland. We descended steeply into Kestert and walked
along Kirchstrasse to find Hotel Schaadt.
Monday 15th June 2015: Kestert to Filsen 14.7km/9 miles
left our Wanderhotel after an ok breakfast, and departed the village by
heading uphill along the road. We joined a wooded track up to the
plateau, where we saw a magnificent stand of foxgloves. We were soon
forty minutes into the walk and very high up thanks to the steep climb.
We had magnificent views to Bad Solzeid with the Castles of the Hostile
Brothers (Feinliche Brüder) nearby. Supposedly two brothers occupied
the castle and fought between themselves. Castle Sterrenberg dates from
the 11th century and Castle Leibenstein from the 12th century. We took
pictures of interesting little birds and followed the path through the
village of Lykershausen, where there were punnets of cherries and jars
of honey for sale. We disregarded these as we were looking forward to
lunch at one of the Feinliche Brüder castles.
11am, we reached the high point on the Rheinsteig (365m), so we stopped
for a whisky. We continued down through the woods towards the castles,
entering an animal enclosure where there were supposed to be Exmoor
ponies and goats, but we didn't see any. At ten to one we arrived at
Leibenstein Castle, only to find that it was closed on Mondays, as we
were informed by two smug ladies who had brought their own sandwiches to
eat in the outdoor terrace. Never mind, we headed off to the second
castle. Sterrenburg, which should have been open on a Monday but this
time was not, which was disappointing as we were quite hungry. We
turned a corner and found our French friends happily eating sandwiches
whilst sat on a big rock, presumably having had better advice from their
hotel than we did from ours. Thirty minutes later we had a picnic of
Snickers, 'Pick Up' choco-biscuits and whisky, high above the castle.
It was our revenge to look down on it. We felt most superior having
climbed 80 wooden steps to reach our vantage point. I sunbathed on a
big white reclining bench and Malcolm watched for green woodpeckers.
started again and soon had our first view of the famous town of Boppard
on the other bank of the Rhine, where the river makes its great
horseshoe curve, known as the 'Rhein loop'. We continued past special
'trees of the Year', where a different species has been planted each
year, and through a butterfly habitat area. We reached a viewpoint
where we could see the Rhine on both sides of the horseshoe. We could
see the Boppard ferry below on its journey towards Filsen. We descended
down the steep path the Filsen, thankful that we weren't the red-faced
walkers climbing up it. We walked back along the pavement beside the
Rhine for a kilometre, noticing a flight of cormorants perched in a dead
tree, and joined the ferry to Boppard. We had a couple of celebratory
biers in a riverside Chinese restaurant before walking into the old town
to find the Hotel Ohm Patt, where the proprietor was John, who told us
he originally came from Canterbury. We had a bier outside his hotel and
then a good supper of very filling venison with spätzle in a nearby
restaurant he recommended.
Tuesday 16th June 2015: Filsen to Braubach 15km/9 miles
an excellent breakfast at the Hotel Ohm Patt, we bought cheese rolls in
the Marktplatz for our lunch. We took the ferry back to Filsen and
were walking beside the Rhine again by 10.30am. We saw the Goethe
paddle steamer pass by and heard her sound her ghostly horn as she
called at Boppard on her daily journey north.
We started up the
Rheinsteig, which proved a gentle climb through deciduous forests and we
soon saw a green woodpecker. We had a Pick-Up biscuit at the
Heiligenhausen shrine, having just had our first sighting of the
Marksburg castle ahead as we passed the Hexenknöpfel (witch's head)
lookout. The Marksburg is 12th century and the best preserved castle on
the Rhine as it has never been destroyed. It looked magnificent in the
distance. We were concerned that our path did not seem to be gaining
much height ("We'll pay for this later" said Malcolm in his best gloomy
Calvinist tones) but we did have occasional very beautiful views of the
We then climbed more steeply through ancient woodland with
views to the Marksburg, which became steadily more fairy-tale-like the
closer we became. Lunch was at the Sauerbrunner spring, which our guide
book promised was beautiful clear mineral water but turned out to be a
nasty, sulphurous spring marked 'kein trinkenwasser'; a bit of a
disappointment, especially as we had all but drained our water bottles
in expectation. The French walkers were already there and we lent them
our insect repellent; there are some insectes terribles in these woods.
They are from Alsace so they speak good German, but I prefer to speak
to them in French for ease of communication. I am not convinced they
realise I am English as they keep replying in German.
lunch, there was another steep climb through the woods, enlivened by
spotting a few giant snails (reminding us of Gerhard the Grosse Snail
and his friends, first seen by us on our walk in Bavaria last year).
How easy the climb seemed; our level of fitness is now very much
improved. Soon we were high on the Rhineplateau again, enjoying views
towards Koblenz and the Marksburg Castle. We could also just see
another castle in the distance; no doubt we will see more of it
tomorrow. We walked down a wooded switchback, then had a steep ascent
up the old road to the castle. There is a conveniently located
biergarten at the top, filled when we arrived with American coach party
tourists. I bought some beautiful Rhineland postcards in the gift shop
and we enjoyed the views.
An easy walk down into Braubach
followed, where we found our very pretty hotel, Hotel Garni Maas,
located above a bakery and café. Supper was at the Goldener Schlussel
(The Golden Key), named after a ship.
Wednesday 17th June 2015: Braubach to Koblenz: 21.6km/13.5 miles
Hotel Garni Maas has been one of the finds of this trip: a lovely room,
places to sit in the pretty garden, a super breakfast in the café and a
very charming landlady who took great care of us and shook our hands on
departure. I photographed her beautiful café and then we strode
purposefully up the street to rejoin the Rheinsteig for our final day of
walking. The initial climb was easy for us; we are very fit now. We
enjoyed our further views of the fairy-tale castle Marksburg and
contemplated the path ahead. Our book said Malcolm would burn 1,965
calories today and I 1,674 because it is the most strenuous day's
walking of the entire Rheinsteig. It was also about 24C so perhaps we
burnt a few more.
We waved goodbye to our French friends, who
were at the same hotel, and completed the first climb to the Kerketser
plateau with lovely views back to the Marksburg. The path turned north
through stunted oak woods where Malcolm saw another red squirrel. We
carried on through woodland, sometimes under very dense cover: very
Brothers Grimm. We can see how the Germans have such a rich heritage of
creepy fairy stories.
We resisted a bier at the lock keepers'
restaurant at the crossing of the River Lahn. Thank goodness as the
path indeed become its most strenuous all week for the next hour or so.
We saw exhausted walkers beside the path who looked as if it was their
first day walking and their rucksacks were bothering them. However, we
are very fit so we powered on, and on and on: for the first time on the
Rheinsteig there were no benches with views on which to eat our lunch.
We walked through lovely woods, including a long, hard climb on a forest
track up through the Aspich Klamm, and we saw another red squirrel, but
still nowhere to stop. Finally we found a picnicplatz with childrens'
swings near Pfaffendorf at about 2.30pm. We ate our cheese rolls from
Café Maas and had an Asbach brandy from Rüdesheim (the whisky has run
out). Finally we stomped into Pffandorf and turned right along the side
of the Rhine to Ehrenbreitstein, narrowly avoiding the embarrassment of
walking along the spit instead of the shoreline. We were soon
ensconced in the lovely Hotel Dielh's, which has very comfortable rooms
and is right on the Rheinsteig, with a great view of Koblenz across the
We took the passenger ferry to Koblenz (a three minute
ride) and enjoyed walking along the riverside to the Deutsche Ecke
(German Corner) where the Rhine and the Mosel converge: the culmination
of our walk. We bought commemorative stocknageln (stick badges) along
the way and took lots of photographs at the huge equestrian statue of
Wilhelm I at the Ecke. The statue is actually a replacement for one the
Allies destroyed at the end of WW2. The views are superb. We noticed
how the Rhine is a different colour to the Mosel because it contains
more snow melt. We also saw some very large fish in the Mosel. We
observed the river cruise boats up close and thought the passengers
looked rather bored; no one was clinking glasses on the deck the way
they do in the advertisements. We celebrated the end of the walk with
biers in a riverside café that had a charming waitress and then walked
round by the bridge to return to the hotel for supper on the terrace.
Another asparagus themed meal ensued, plus super puddings: mine was ice
cream with red cherries. We saw the Goethe arrive to take up her
overnight berth here. We will sleep well tonight, but we have to be
back on the other bank tomorrow morning for her departure at 9am.
Thursday 18th June 2015: Koblenz to Rudesheim on the Goethe
had a light breakfast in our excellent hotel, as the rain poured down
outside, and then donned our waterproofs to walk round to the Goethe.
We enjoyed the great hoot she made as we set off, having heard it at
intervals all week. It was very pleasant to sit in the covered viewing
area and watch the rain lashing down outside. How much better to be on a
boat than walking in the rain on a day like this!
It was very
interesting to relive our walk in reverse, looking at the towns we had
walked through and stayed in, and remembering the routes we had taken
through the vineyards, farms and woodlands as well as the castles we saw
along the way. I photographed many of them from a different
perspective from the Goethe, and enjoyed seeing the Loreley rock, which
we couldn't appreciate from the walk as we were standing on top of it!
the boat's restaurant we had a bottle of sparkling Fürst von Metternick
to celebrate the completion of our walk. The six hour trip flew by and
soon we were disembarking at Rüdesheim and walking back to our friend,
the hotel Ruedesheimer Schloss.
For our last evening in Germany,
we had a couple of biers in the town and then returned to the restaurant
of the Ruedesheimer Schloss to eat at the same table we had eight days
ago. I had white asparagus with boiled potatoes and Hollandaise sauce
with a final schnitzel and Malcolm had lamb with asparagus and parmesan.
We had a lovely bottle of Spätburgunder from Assmannshausen and
toasted a wonderful trip. A 'stein' is a steep, rocky path in German,
and the Rheinstein certainly deserves its name. The trekking poles were
an immense help and I really would not want to do it without them.