Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Rudesheim and the Rhine Gorge

Rudesheim is apparently one of the most visited towns in Germany. It is tiny so I am not sure why, except perhaps that it is in the middle of vineyards and has numerous bars and restaurants and would make a nice place to visit on a summer day.

I think we stopped there to position ourselves for an afternoon cruising the Rhine Gorge with its spectacular castles and walls set in spectacular scenery, often with vineyards running vertically down to the water or more rarely, along painstakingly walled terraces.

The town itself is only a few blocks deep and comprises lots of picturesque half timbered houses, lots of hotels and lots of tiny, charming bars and restaurants. It is famed for its coffee in which brandy is set alight on sugar cubes, then drowned in coffee and topped with whipped cream and chocolate. You sure don’t feel the cold after that.

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Street of restaurants
The famous Asbach coffee
We chose to visit Siegfried’s Mechanical Cabinet housed in a gloriously old, topsy turvy house. Here is a true labour of love; mechanical instruments from all over the world restored to play again. Everything from a hurdy gurdy to a Steinway Grand player piano which reproduced the playing of the individual artist exactly. Plus instruments that sounded like complete orchestras and the oompah of fairground merry-go-round music. Most were controlled by perforated paper or cardboard or metal discs with pins. Our guide was a charming French woman wearing period dress and hat, plus gloves so she didn’t damage  the machines, who herself looked like she could have been a restored mechanical woman. Unexpectedly wonderful!

Siegfried’s mechanical Cabinet
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The player Steinway
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This played by mechanical disk
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A full orchestra
They are real violins played by the circular bows
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A fellow traveller tries a hurdy gurdy

Then the gorge. I will not try to remember which castle was which, let alone the times they were built or destroyed. But it was all like floating through a fairytale scene. Some examples.

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Gorgeous castle
Walls and towers
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Ship shaped fortress in the river
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Goethe, the oldest boat on the river, a paddle steamer

That evening we were invited to Schloss Namedy  to dine at the home of Princess Heide von Hohenzollern. They were a branch of the same family as the Kings of Prussia. The Princess has a castle to keep running and in the best tradition of the bossy lady of Country House Rescue, she has discovered that using the castle for weddings, meetings, musical soirees and APT cruise dinners is a way to get much needed funds. So that is what she does. Apparently she has contracted for 80+ of these dinners for APT this year, poor lady. However, she very graciously greeted us, allowed us to roam around some of her home and fed us dinner in the hall of mirrors, along with some very good piano interludes from what she terms “the upcoming young masters”, pianists of outstanding talent who are rising in their field. Nick and I led the procession into dinner (mainly because we happened to be closest to the door) but it did allow us to choose the best table.

Courtyard of the schloss
The welcome: one should always have someone to greet one with champagne on arrival
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The red room
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Dinner with the princess
Our master pianist
Food was medium to good, surrounds were lovely, service far too slow so we all wanted to go home to the ship by the end. But still, a lovely evening.
Next: Cologne

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