Category Archives: Europe

St Fagans National Museum: An Open-Air, Living History Museum of Welsh Life

St Fagans

St. Fagans National Museum of History is a living history and open-air museum located outside the city of Cardiff, Wales. According to TripAdvisor, St. Fagans is one of the top ten free attractions in the entire United Kingdom, and in 2011, Which? Magazine named the museum as Favorite Visitor Attraction in the United Kingdom.  What draws so many peopleSt Fagans to St. Fagans?  In my opinion, there’s no better way to learn about the past than by going to a living history museum, and St Fagans is one of the best one that I’ve been to (and as a history buff and teacher, I’ve visited many!).  At St. Fagans, you interact with historical interpreters, dressed in period costume, in order to experience how the Welsh lived, ate, dressed, worked, behaved, worshiped and played, from Celtic times to the present.

 

The museum is made up of more than 40 buildings, from throughout Wales, that have been moved to the site.  You can definitely spend all day at the museum!  Some of my favorites buildings are:

 

  • St Teilo’s Church may seem plain from the outside, but once you step inside, you’ll be blown away! St Fagans National History Museum  The church was built in the 12th or 13th century and shows off how religious structures were once elaborately decorated with brightly colored wall paintings all over. The church was taken apart, moved, and reconstructed at St. Fagans, piece by piece.

 

  • The Abernodwydd Farmhouse is a timber and thatch St Fagans National History Museumfarmhouse that shows how a relatively well-off Welsh family would have lived in the 17th century.

 

 

  • The 1936 post office is made up of two adorable rooms and was originally run by a father, his daughter and her husband. St Fagans National History MuseumDeliveries were made by bicycle, and the counter also served as a wireless (that’s radio) repair shop. The building was moved to St. Fagans in 1992.

 

  • St Fagans National History MuseumThe row of houses for iron-ore miners allows visitors to marvel over how entire families lived in tiny homes consisting of only three rooms!  Visiting each row house shows how living conditions and styles have changed over time, as the contents of each portray a different period of history: 1805, 1855, 1895, 1925, 1955, and 1985.  These row houses will make you appreciate how lucky we are today to have as many things as we do.

 

 

  • The tailor’s workshop, which was originally built in 1896, is stocked as it would have looked in the early 1950’s.  I got a kick out of seeing the fashions of the time and how they were hand-made.

 

 

 

  • St Fagans National History MuseumThe 1880 general store is divided into three sections over two floors.  The store once served as a bakery, ironmongery (place to buy items made of iron), grocery, gentlemen’s outfitters, chemist, and animal feed retailer.  Today it’s still stocked to the brim!

 

 

 

  • The 1771 toll house represents a time when local landowners built private roads (also called turnpikes) andSt Fagans National History Museum charged tolls for their usage. Sound familiar? Local riots caused the eventual banning of toll houses by Parliament in 1864.

 

 

 

 

  • St Fagans Castle was built in the 16th century and later St Fagans National History Museumremodeled in the Victorian Era, as it became part of the Earls of Plymouth’s estate. Some of the mansion’s rooms contain original 16th century features, while others, such as the marvelous Victorian kitchen, contain furnishings from later time periods. In 1947, the family donated the mansion and its estateSt Fagans National History Museum to the National Museum of Wales, who transformed the grounds into St. Fagans National Museum of History.  Behind the castle are a reflecting pond and beautifully manicured gardens that would be perfect for a picnic.

 

 

Take a trip back in time to see these and over 30 other structures at St Fagans National Museum of History. Before going, check their website for special events and programs that are commonly held at the open air museum.

 

Location of St. Fagans

St. Fagans National Museum of History is located just four miles outside of Cardiff.  For specific driving directions, please click on the map below. For satellite navigation purposes use the postcode CF5 6XB.

When I went to St. Fagans, I took the bus from Cardiff.   You have 3 different bus options:

  • Easyway 32A stops in the museum’s main car park
  • Bus 320 stops in St. Fagans village
  • Bus 321 also stops in St. Fagans village

You can obtain more specific bus information by vising the bus system’s website.

 

While in Cardiff, be sure to check out Cardiff Castle: Explore Ten Centuries of History in One Fascinating Destination.

 

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Cardiff Castle: Explore Ten Centuries of History in One Fascinating Destination

Cardiff CastleIf you’re visiting the Welsh capital city of Cardiff, Cardiff Castle should be on your “must-see” list.  The castle is a hit for people of all ages and interests. Children will love exploring the tunnels, the ruined motte and bailey castle, and the wide open spaces. Adults will enjoy touring the magnificent interiors of the Gothic mansion and experiencing what it was like to live in air raid shelters during World War II. The easiest way to visit the castle is to divide it up into three parts, each of which represents a different period of history.

 

The oldest part of the castle is a motte and bailey structure that was originally built by the Norman invaders of England all the way back in the 11th century.  The year is 1066; William the Conqueror wins the Battle of Hastings and establishes himself as king of England. He needs to assert his power over the conquered English and Welsh people, so he Cardiff Castlebuilds a series of castles and fortifications across those lands. In Cardiff, he orders the construction of a wooden motte and bailey castle, which was later converted into a stone structure in the 12th century. The bailey, also called a keep, is located on top of the artificial hill. The lord and his family would live inside, and this keep would serve as a final defensive structure if the bailey was taken by attackers. The bailey is the lower courtyard, surrounded by a wooden palisade (later, a stone wall), where outbuildings, such as stables, kitchens, and storehouses, were located. In Cardiff Castle clock towerthe 1400’s and 1500’s, Cardiff Castle was expanded beyond the motte and bailey to become a full-sized medieval castle with outer curtain walls as a means to prevent Welsh rebellions against the English crown. After the English Civil War, a garrison was established at the castle to protect against an invasion by the Scots. This military presence prevented Cardiff Castle from being destroyed, like many other fortifications, by Parliamentary forces led by Oliver Cromwell.  During the early 19th century, the wealthy Marquesses of Bute inherited the castle, and the aristocratic family spent millions of pounds to remodel it into a Gothic fantasy mansion, to conduct archaeological work, to landscape the grounds, and to restore the motte and bailey castle to its 12th century design, which can still be seen today.   Explore these medieval parts of the castle castle by taking a walk around the battlements and by climbing up into the Norman keep to see the ruined interior of the 12-sided structure and to take in the incredible views of the city.

 

Next up on our visit are the opulent interiors of the Gothic mansion. The third Marquess of Bute hired architect William Cardiff CastleBurges to redesign the castle into a stunning Gothic revival mansion. If you only have enough time to take one tour of the mansion, make it the 50 minute guided tour of the castle apartments, Cardiff Castleincluding the Guest Tower, the Arab Room with its incredible ceiling, the Chaucer Room filled with images from the works of the medieval author, the Nursery, the bedrooms full of religious imagery, the Library with its immense collection of books, and the armor-filled, two-story Banqueting Hall. For me, the highlights of this tour were the elaborately decorated, first on-suite bathroom in Cardiff and the gorgeously-mosaiced roof garden with its quirky fountain. The decoration of the mansion’s rooms is so elaborate that Cardiff Castle has been called a “three dimensional passport to fairy kingdoms and realms of gold” and the “most successful of all the fantasy castles of the nineteenth century.” If you have time, you can also take the 30 minute guided tour of the inside of the 150 foot tall clock tower to see the Marquess’ bachelor suite of rooms (which he used before he married), including a bedroom, servant’s room, and fantastical summer and winter smoking rooms.

 

Cardiff Castle air raid tunnels The final stop is a trip down into the tunnels beneath the battlements. Cardiff CastleDuring the Second World War, the tunnels were used as air raid shelters for an estimated 1,800 citizens of Cardiff.  The self-guided tour allows visitors to see recreated bunks, kitchens, toilets, and first aid posts and to experience, through the use of multimedia, what it was like for people to shelter in these tunnels from German bombs being dropped on the city around and above them.

 

A visit to Cardiff Castle is a trip back in time through Welsh and British history that the entire family will enjoy. For more information about the castle and for opening times and special events, visit their website.

 

Cardiff Castle is located on Castle St. in Cardiff.  For specific driving or walking directions, click on the map below.

While in Cardiff, take an easy and fun day trip to St. Fagans National Museum: A Living History Museum of Welsh Life.

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Nuremberg: Top Seven Places To Visit in the Old City

Nuremberg is a city filled with top-notch cultural, historic, and culinary sites. There’s so much to do in the city that Germans call “Nurnberg”, you might have a difficult time planning an itinerary. Don’t worry! I’ve done the on-site and online research for you. Here’s my list of the top seven places to visit in Nuremberg.

 

 

Nuremberg7. Craftsmen’s Courtyard (Handwerkerhof)

Although it looks medieval, the Craftsmen’s Courtyard was built in 1971 as a collection of half-timbered structures to house artisan’s shops, local restaurants, and pubs. The setting evokes a feeling of walking around a medieval courtyard, albeit a very touristy one.   All of the artisans are locals, and many demonstrate their crafts for visitors inside their stops.  We really enjoyed the woodworker’s shop and the “arts and craft’s shop,” especially the latter’s Christmas items. The Craftsmen’s Courtyard is located just inside the medieval city walls next to the Frauentor, one of four towers that once served as an entrance to the city. This website has a nice map of the courtyard and a list of the stores.

 

6. St. Lawrence Church (Lorenzkirche)

Nuremberg LorenzkircheLocated on Konigstrasse, the main pedestrian street in the old city, St. Lawrence Church was completed in 1477, and the main attraction here lays inside, suspended above the choir in front of the high altar. The Angelic Salutation is a carved wooden sculpture of the Annunciation of Mary, created by the German artist Veit Stoss inNuremberg Angelic Salutation 1518. When seeing it for the first time, my initial thought was: “Wow! That’s made out of wood?!” The sculpture portrays the angel Gabriel bringing the news to the Virgin Mary that she is bearing the child Jesus. Surrounding the pair smaller angels ringing bells to joyously announce the news and medallions portray scenes from the life of Mary and Jesus. Be sure to walk around to the back to see the cascade of Mary’s hair and depictions of the sun and moon. During the Protestant reformation, many religious works of art were destroyed, but the Angelic Salutation was saved and preserved as it was seen as the private property of the Tucher family who paid for its creation. This amazing piece has remained on display for generations and provided artistic and spiritual inspiration to countless worshipers and visitors.

 

Nuremberg Hauptmarkt5. Hauptmarkt of Nuremberg

The Hauptmarkt is the main market square in the old city in Nuremberg. It’s located on Konigstrasse immediately in front of the Frauenkirche. All year long, the square is alive with vendors selling fresh fruits, beautiful flowers, souvenirs, and tasty treats. During the holiday season, the Hauptmarkt hosts Germany’s largest Christmas market. No matter the season, take a stroll around the square and sample the local produce and delicacies. Then walk across the Hauptmarkt to take a look at the gilded 14th centuary “Beautiful Fountain” (Schoner Brunnen). The fountain is built in the shape of a spire, and each level features significant people in history such as Moses, King Arthur, Julius Caesar, King David, and Charlemagne. You’ll also likely spot people turning two rings mounted to the fountain. Local legends states that spinning either of these brass rings brings the person good luck. Go ahead and give it a whirl. It definitely couldn’t hurt!

4. Tanner’s Lane

Nuremberg Tanner’s LaneFor one of the two best photo opportunities in the city, head over to Tanner’s Lane (Weissgerbergasse). Walk down the street until you reach house #35 and then turn around. In front of you are the best collection of half-timbered houses to survive the bombing of World War II.   If you look carefully, you’ll notice that many houses feature a dark red colors in their beams. It’s oxen blood! Soaking the lumber in the blood of this work animals helps to prevent rot and termite damage. Take a photo and be sure to put that information in the caption to get everyone’s attention!

 

For another fun sight, cross the street and walk through the beer garden (Biergarten Kettensteg) to find the old iron footbridge (dated 1824) in Europe. It’s a chain bridge that allows pedestrians to cross over the river Pegnitz. The bridge has no particular name, so locals simply call it the pedestrian bridge (Steg) with chains (Ketten). Take a walk across just so you can say that you’ve crossed the oldest iron footbridge in Europe!

 

 

3. The Best Photo Opportunity in Nuremberg

NurembergFor the best photo opportunity in Nuremberg, go across the Nurembergchain bridges (as described above) and cross the island of Kettensteg. After you’ve crossed two bridges, take a left to walk up Pegnitzstufer which runs alongsidethe river. You’ll catch glimpses (and some nice photos) of the river and small waterfalls.   You’ll be dumped onto a wider street called Untere Kreuzgasse. Take a right and walk up to the next major street, where you’ll take a left onto a bridge called Maxbrucke. Stop in the middle of the bridge and look down the river to see what is, in my opinion, the best view in town. What could be more picturesque than a medieval water tower, a covered bridge, the largest half-timber buildings in the city (a former hospital and wine cellar) and weeping willow trees, all in one photo!

 

 

2. The Imperial Castle (Kaiserburg) of Nuremberg

Nuremberg Imperial Castle From 800 to 1806, Germany was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperors. Germany did not exist as a country but was rather divided into kingdom, duchies, principalities, counties, free imperial cities, and other domains, each of which having their own rulers. The Holy Roman Emperor, unlike other monarchs, was elected by the highest ranking nobles, called prince-electors, of the land. The emperor also has no capital city, but instead, travelled throughout the empire to hold court and dispense justice, staying at various castles in larger cities. Being a free imperial city and an economic powerhouse, the Imperial Castle at Nuremberg was one of those castles at which the Holy Roman Emperors spent time. A visit to the castle is a fascinating look back in time to understand how the Holy Roman Empire worked and how the emperors lived. A self guided tour will take you into recreated chambers used by the royal court where you’ll encounter both traditional displays and state of the art interactive multimedia terminals that allow you to explore topics to whatever depth of information you prefer. My fiancée, who isn’t nearly as interested in history as am, spent a great deal of time using the terminals and commented on how engaging they were. After your tour inside the castle, take a walk around the castle grounds for some great photos and be sure to check out the incredible city view from the front ramparts. When purchasing admission, I wouldn’t waste my money buying tickets to see the Deep Well. It’s not worth your money or time.

 

1. Eat at Bratwursthausle

You’re probably wondering why I choose a restaurant at my number one choice of what to do in Nuremberg. A visit here Nurembergwill explain exactly why. Bratwursthausle is a wonderful restaurant to enjoy the local Germany cuisne during all seasons of the year. If you’re visiting during warmer weather, be sure to sit outside on the lovely, street-side patio. If it’s too cold to site outside, enjoy the cozy interior that makes you feel like you’re eating in a big, old farmhouse. Whatever the case, you must order the local sausage, the tiny Nurnberger Bratwurst. Little Nurnbergers are my fiancée and mine favorite German sausage.   At Bratwursthausle, they’re made in house by the restaurant’s butchers and are cooked over an open, beechwood fire. You can order them in groups of 6, 8, 10, or 12, and with traditional Germany side dishes such as sauerkraut, potato salad, pretzels and more.   The restaurant has other items on the menu, but you absolutely must order Nurnbergers! Ever since eating them for the first time at Bratwursthausle, we continue to eat them at our local German sausage shop in Massachusetts. They’re absolutely delicious and are my favorite memory of Nuremberg!

Want dessert? Head over to Gelateria 4D on Konigstrasse. You’ll recognize it by the long lines of patrons and long counter of countless flavors.

 

Locations

Click on the map below to open up a Google My Maps with all of the locations above marked.

The Craftsmen’s Courtyard (Handwerkerhof) is the located Am Königstor.

St. Lawrence Church (Lorenzkirche) is located at Lorenzer Platz 1.

Hauptmarkt is located at Neumarkt.

Tanner’s Lane is located at Weissgerbergasse.

Maxbrucke is located at Maxbrucke.

The Imperial Castle is located at Burg 13.

Bratwursthausle is located at Rathausplatz 1.

 

 

 

 

 

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St. Goar: Explore Ruined Rheinfels Castle and Go Cuckoo Over Clocks and Steins

St. Goar, or Sankt Goar, is a small tourist town dominated by a huge, ruined castle, located on the west bank of the Rhine River in an area known as the Romantic Rhine Valley. The town is named after a monk who converted local people to Christianity and constructed a hospice and chapel, making the town a pilgrimage site. Today, tourists, rather than pilgrims, trek to St. Goar to partake in the great local shopping, pass the time in sidewalk cafes, and explore the ruined castle.

 

St. GoarMy favorite cuckoo clock shop and stein shop in all of Germany are both located on the main pedestrian street in St. Goar. The Montag family runs both stores, and you definitely can’t miss them. Look for the tourists taking pictures under the largest free-hanging cuckoo clock in the world. That’s the cuckoo clock store, and immediately across the street, you’ll spot the large beer stein sign of the other shop. Even if you’re not a fan St. Goarof cuckoo clocks or steins, stop into both for an impressive introduction to two authentically German traditions. The staff are incredibly friendly and helpful and delight in telling you all about their wares. In the stein shop, you’ll be amazed by the variety of German beer mugs. We were warmly greeted by one of the Montag brothers who taught us how to recognize quality Germany steins over foreign-made cheap alternatives and informed us about the decoration of the different types of beer mugs. You’ll see steins depicting various cities, countries, hobbies, professions, holidays, and more. We left with a Christmas present for my fiancée’s father.  Across the street, one of the Montag sisters told us about the history behind the cuckoo clocks, which are made in the Black Forest. We couldn’t help but bring home a cuckoo clock for ourselves! The Montag family securely packs both clock and steins and ships them overseas to any country.  We received ours less than two weeks after our trip.

 

After a bit of shopping, you’ll need a treat to re-energize. Stop into Café St. Goar for a huge slice of the most delicious St. Goarstrudel that we had in all of Germany. I scarfed down the mixed berry, and my fiancée devoured the rhubarb. The café also features many other types of desserts as well as pretzels and light lunches. Across the street, they have a lovely sidewalk seating area with table service. Don’t visit St. Goar without stopping here for strudel!

 

Kids and adults alike will love exploring the ruins of Rheinfels Castle, which towers over St. Goar. To get up to the castle, you can hike about 15 minutes, board a small “tourist train” (that usually waits for customers near the Catholic Church), or take a short taxi ride. If you’re hiking, walk up the main pedestrian street, and just after the tourist information center, turn onto a street named Scholossberg, and then take a right onto another street named Bismackweg. At the fork in Bismarkckweg, stay left, and at the end, you’ll find the steps leading up to the short hike to the castle.

 

St. GoarBuilt in 1245, Rheinfels Castle (Burg Rheinfels) was designed to protect the St. Goar tax collectors.   After the construction of another castle immediately across the river, the local rulers were able to block the river valley and levy a tax on all traders passing through.   That’s why all of the Rhine castles were built . . . money, money, money!  When the castle passed into the hands of the House of Hesse, Burg Rheinfels was heavily developed and impressive fortifications were added, making it one of the largest and strongest fortresses in Germany.   In 1796, armies of the French Revolutionary government captured and blew up parts of the castle, which is why it remains in ruins today.   Evens in ruins, the Burg Rheinfels is quite impressive and fun to explore. Be advised that, starting in 2017, parts of the castle are undergoing renovations, so the outer fortifications can only be explored via guided tour, which is included in the price of admission.   However, Rheinfels Castleyou can explore the inner parts of the castle on your own. Start in the museum that has exhibits (with English descriptions) on the castle and local history and has models of the castle, to give you a sense of what it was once like. Then explore the remainder of the ruins. Don’t Rheinfels Castlemiss the incredible view of the Rhine from the highest tower. While you’re up there, take a look around you and remember that the castle was once five times as large as it is now. It’s a reminder of the tremendous importance that Burg Rheinfels played in shaping local history and in making the town of St. Goar the lovely tourist stop that it is today.

 

Locations

St. Goar is located along the stretch of the river known as the Romantic Rhine, approximately  minutes south of Koblenz or 80 minutes west of Frankfurt.  It makes an easy day trip from either of those cities, especially if you’re flying in or out of Frankfurt Airport. Click on the map below for driving directions.

A visit to St. Goar can also be combined with excursions to:

 

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Oberwesel: A Medieval Walk on the Walled and Wined Side

OberweselWalking through the walls and into the market square of Oberwesel, it’s clear why visitors are drawn to this quaint town. Locals take great pride in preserving the precious medieval architecture, for which their town is famous, and in keeping up their long-standing traditions. For example, if you’re visiting during the spring or summer, you can’t help but notice theOberwesel giant wine chalice in market square. The chalice represents the importance of Riesling wine to the region’s economy and culture. Each year, the community elects a “wine witch” who emerges from the chalice as that year’s ambassador for the area’s vintners. The tradition of the “wine witch” dates back to much earlier days when “witches’ fires” were lit in the spring on the banks of the river and in the mountains to scare away the winter demons and, supposedly, improve the quality of the local wines. Each year in Oberwesel, the tradition continues with the election of a new “wine witch” and a community-wide festival. Even if you’re not visiting during the festivities, Oberwesel’s market square features many tourist-friendly cafes and wine bars where you can enjoy the bountiful fruits of the region, including its famous Riesling wine.

 

OberweselThe other reason that visitors come to Oberwesel is to see the best-preserved medieval town walls and towers in the Rhine Valley. However, don’t just take my word for it. An expert in medieval fortifications stated: “Of all the Middle Rhine town fortifications, those in Oberwesel are the most extensive, the proudest and the best preserved”, and a government agency in charge of historical Oberweselpreservation stated that Oberwesel’s walls and towers “number amongst the most significant and best preserved medieval fortifications in the entire Federal Republic of Germany. “ In other words, if you’re in the Rhine River Valley, you absolutely must go to Oberwesel to see its walls and towers. As a historian, I’ve seen many walled cities and towns, but I was truly impressed and enamored by those in Obserwesel. Walking along the town walls on the riverside is simply enchanting. One of my most vivid memories of Germany is looking across a sea of lavender to see the eight-sided Oschenturm (Ox) Tower towering above a ballet-like bend in the boat-filled Rhine River. While exploring the cobbled streets and circling the medieval walls, you’ll experience many similar moments of serenity and awe.

 

OberweselAfter a break at a café or wine bar in the market square, it’s time for a stroll along the oldest stretch of walls and towers in the rear of town. Even if you think you’re “all walled out”, it’s not to be missed! To reach this area, pick up a map at the tourist information office in market square or take a picture of any map publicly posted around town. Exploring the rear walls and towers is like a peaceful walk through the countryside. You may even Oberweselcome across some friendly local horses, like we did.  If you don’t have an equine encounter, you’ll still get to see several of the town’s 16 amazing, original medieval towers that have survived to the present. Can you find the one with the drawbridge? It’s now a private residence! If you’ve been dreaming of living in a medieval castle, I’ve got a deal for you. The town council will rent you a tower for Oberwesel100 years for only one Euro! What’s the catch, you ask? You just have to fund the tower’s renovation. If you decide to take up residence in an Oberwesel tower, be sure to send me an invite! I make a mean schnitzel. Continuing along the rear wall walk, you’ll catch views of the former moat and of historic Schonburg Castle, which now houses a restaurant, hostel, and small museum.   Finish up your walk with a visit to the lovely Town Wall Gardens, a gift from a local who used his wealth to start a foundation to beautify his town for generations. Like his gift to the residents of Oberwesel, a visit here will you provide you with vivid memories of medieval German splendor for years to come.

 

Location

Oberwesel is located in an area known as the “Romantic Rhine”.  It’s an hour and a half drive from Frankfurt, and therefore, makes for an easy day trip if you’re flying in or out of that airport.  Click on the map for specific driving directions to Oberwesel.  A visit to Oberwesel can also be combined with excursions to:

 

 

 

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Bacharach: The Most Romantic Town on the Rhine River

BacharachBacharach is, in my opinion, the most romantic town in the Rhine River Valley, and for that reason, I chose to propose to my fiancée there. Surrounded by medieval town walls and towers, hillside vineyards, and sweeping river views and dominated by a hilltop castle, Bacharach oozes sleepy, old world charm.

 

Bacharach

Altes Haus

In the Middle Ages, Bacharach was a strategically important and wealthy town due to its location and function as a transfer station for the wine and timber trade. However, in the 1700’s, when the harbor silted up, much of the trade moved elsewhere, and the town became a backwater, gradually falling into disrepair. In the 19th century, Bacharach was saved by the re-discovery of the Rhine River Valley by artists and writers who began to extol the romantic virtues of the local river towns in their works. Perhaps the most famous Romantic Era writer to visit Bacharach was Victor Hugo, the French author and poet. In his book, Rhine Travels, Hugo called Bacharach a “fairytale town, swarming with stories and legends”. The works of Romantic authors, writers, and artists, like Hugo, glorified the past and nature, especially anything from the medieval age. As Romanticism swept through Europe, visitors, eager to experience for themselves the aesthetics of riverside German towns trapped in time, added the Rhine River Valley to their grand tours of the continent. As a result, local organizations began to restore and preserve historically important sites such as Bacharach’s town walls, towers, and castle. Today, due to their efforts, we can still explore and marvel at these treasures.

 

Bacharach

Posthof

The best introduction to Bacharach is a walk along its restored, 14th century medieval town walls.  You’ll pass by and through several of the towns original gatehouses, including the famous Market Tower, named after the square below that once bustled with the town’s local market. Other towers along the walk once featured cranes, which moved wine barrels from smaller ships, which were necessary to navigate the precious cargo through dangerous parts of the river, to larger ships to continue their voyage up the Rhine. Towers like these are a reminder that at one time, the harbor allowed vessels to moor alognside the town walls. Continuing along you’ll pass by many hotels and B&Bs that are located in the former homes of Bacharach’s wealthy merchant class. You’ll also enjoy sweeping views of the Rhine River and the boat traffic along its curvy path. Consider taking a short cruise along the river to enjoy the scenery of riverside towns, hillside vineyards, and medieval castles. Cruise ships dock right in Bacharach, and travelers can use them to explore towns both north and south along the Rhine.

 

Bacharach

view from the tower

 

But first, descend down into the town’s center to take in the medieval views. Timber-framed buildings dominate the Bacharachsquare. One is if the Posthof, which you can easily spot by looking for its golden postal horn sign. In days gone by, the postman would blow such a horn as a warning to townspeople to move aside as the mail sped through on horseback and, later, by stagecoach. Today, the Posthof is restaurant and café with lovely courtyard. On the other side of the square, is the oldest structure in town: Altes House (1368) with its stone first floor and upper timber stories, featuring small, circular, restored molten lead windows. Today, Altes House is a charming restaurant with a medieval interior, delicious German fare, and reasonable prices. We enjoyed a wonderful meal here on the evening of our engagement.

 

Bacharach

Tall Tower and surrounding vineyards

The most romantic view of town is from a medieval tower located in the hillside vineyards. To get there, follow Rosenstrasse to a tiny, stepped lane behind a well. Follow the lane into the vineyard and up to a stucco and timber tower called, simply, the Tall Tower. Climb up three flights to see the incredible view. From the tower, you can look out onto the entire town. Perched high atop the hill is Stahlech Castle, which was once a home to the Electors of the Palatinate and, later, the famous Wittelsbach family, but now houses hostel travelers. Below it lays the remains of the Wernerkapelle, an unfinished Gothic chapel which fell victim to falling rocks when besieging French forces blew up the castle during the Thirty Years War. The romantic ruins of the Wernerkapelle drew artists, authors, and poets to the region and put Bacharach back on the tourist trail in the 1800’s. Like the artists and poets that came before you, take some time to savor the extraordinary landscape. After reading about and seeing photographs of the view from the tower, I chose to propose to my, now, fiancée on the third floor. We had the place completely to ourselves. After taking in the view and breathing deeply to calm my nerves, I dropped to one knee, held out a watch that I had secretly stashed away in my backpack all day, and asked him to marry me. He said yes, and with tears streaming down our cheeks, we basked in the moment and in the romantic views before us.  Bacharach will forever hold a special place in our hearts, and a visit will to this fairy tale town will most certainly win you over too.

 

Location

Bacharach is located along the stretch of the river known as the Romantic Rhine, approximately 30 minutes south of Koblenz or one hour west of Frankfurt.  It makes an easy day trip from either of those cities, especially if you’re flying in or out of Frankfurt Airport.  A visit to Bacharach is easily combined with excursions to any of the following:

 

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Neuschwanstein: How and When to Go to Beat the Crowds

Neuschwanstein Castle is mobbed by tourists, especially during the summer months. Follow my suggestions about how and when to go to make your visit stress free.

 

Neuschwanstein: How and When to Go: Most Important Things to Know

 

  1. The most important thing to know about how and when to visit Neuschwanstein is to arrive when the site opens at 8:00AM (summer) or 9:00AM (winter). By 10:00, hordes of tourists and dozens of tour buses begin to Neuschwansteinarrive on site. You do not want to be there then.  It’s work getting out of bed early, trust me!

 

  1. The second most important thing to know about how and when to visit Neuschwanstein is to reserve your tickets online at least a month or two (preferably earlier) in advance.   The reservation process asks you which date and time that you’d like to visit, but that date and time may not be the one that you actually receive. So the earlier you reserve, the more likely you’ll get the date and time you want.  You must reserve tickets at least 2 days ahead of time online, but if you wait that long, tickets may not be available, especially during the summer.  So book as far in advance as possible! To make reservations, visit the reservations page by clicking here.

 

Neuschwanstein: How and When to Go: Picking Up Your Tickets

Neuschwanstein

 

  1. You must pick up your tickets at the Ticket Center on the day of your tour no later than one hour before the entry time that you have reserved. If you don’t pick-up the tickets on time, you’ve given up your reserved time. In that case, they might give you a later entrance time, if there is one available.

 

  1. In the ticket center, go to the line for reserved tickets.

 

 

Neuschwanstein: How and When to Go: Going Up to the Castles

 

  1. From the Ticket Center, Hohenschwangau is an easy 10 minute walk.

 

  1. To get to Neuschwanstein, you have several options:
  • Hike 30 minutes
  • Take the shuttle bus, which departs every few minutes from the shuttle bus stop, located near the Ticket NeuschwansteinCenter. The shuttle bus will drop you off at Mary’s Bridge. From there, it’s a 10 minute walk downhill to the castle.
  • Take a much slower horse-drawn carriage ride up to the castle
  • Be aware that if you arrive at 10:00AM or later, the shuttle bus and carriages rides may have long lines. If there’s a long line and it’s less than one hour until your entry time, you should probably do the 30 minute hike.

 

  1. Once you’re at Neuschwanstein, go into the courtyard. When your entrance time comes up on the board, push (nicely) through the crowd and go to the turnstile.

 

 

Neuschwanstein: How and When to Go: What to See

 

  1. If you want to take pictures of Neuschwanstein, the best view is from Mary’s Bridge.

 

  1. The tour of Neuschwanstein is approximately 30 minutes, and the tour group is made up of approximately 60 people. If you’re only going to tour one castle, this is the most memorable choice.

 

  1. The tour of Hohenschwangau is also 30 minutes, but the group is made up of approximately 40 people.

 

  1. If you want to tour both castles, you should do Hohenschwangau first, as it gives you a better overview of King Ludwig II’s life and his family background. You’ll be given an entry time for Hohenschwangau, and then, two hours later, another entry time for Neuschwanstein. Reserve (online) the earliest tour of the day.
Hohenschwangau

Hohenschwangau Castle

  1. If you only want to tour Neuschwanstein, reserve (online) the first tour of the day, so you can be in and out of the site before the hordes of tourists arrive.

 

  1. Alternatively, visit Neuschwanstein and/or Hohenschwangau to take pictures only. Arrive at 8:00AM (summer), when the site opens, take the shuttle bus to Mary’s Bridge, and take your photos. When I was there at 8:00AM, we were one of the first few people on Mary’s Bridge.  If you don’t have tickets, don’t bother walk up into the castle courtyard, as there’s little there to photograph.

 

 

Neuschwanstein: How and When to Go: Parking and Getting There

Neuschwanstein

  1. Be aware that signs along the local roads refer to the castle as Konigsschlosser, not Neuschwanstein.

 

  1. Consider staying overnight in the nearby town of Fussen so that you can arrive at the castles early. Fussen is located only 10-15 minutes from the castles. See my guide “Fussen: A Guide to Your Home Base for Exploring Southern Bavaria” for more information.

 

  1. For detailed driving directions, click on the map below.

Neuschwanstein

  1. The most convenient parking lot is located past the Ticket Center on your right.

 

  1. After parking, go to the Ticket Center immediately to pick up your tickets. See the section above.

 

Nearby Attractions

Here are my guides to attractions that you can add to your itinerary in southern Bavaria:

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