My History Blog, Focussing mostly on Roman and Mediaeval Times


26/05/2010
  A Rainy Rhine Cruise

The Rhine between Koblenz (the ancient Confluentes, where the Moselle confluences into the Rhine) and Mainz (where the Main river joins up with his big brother) is considered the most scenic. Because of the mountains, the river could not be straightened like it was done in other places to make naval transport easier; only some of the riffs and sandbanks that made travel on this part of the Rhine dangerous in Roman and Medieaval times have been eliminated, albeit the sandbanks are an ongoing problem that has to be dealt with regularly.

One of the cruise ships

There are a number of cruise ships that travel this part of the Rhine. I picked one from Boppard somewhat upriver of Koblenz to Bingen near Mainz; a trip that took four hours (it's some 25 minutes by train). The fleet is called Köln-Düsseldorfer which is a bit of a joke, because the towns of Köln and Düsseldorf (both further north) are old rivals. There were not many people onboard due to the bad weather.

Leaving Boppard

Boppard is a pretty little town like so many along that part of the river - there's no space to develop into big, ugly cities. Most of them have a long history dating back to Medieaval or Roman times and some, like Boppard, are even older.

There's a bit of sunshine, but you can see the dark clouds ominously gathering over the mountains.

Dark waters and dark sky

It didn't take long for the rain to pour down, and it more or less stalked us - I suppose bad weather uses river valleys as highways. Photographing became a challenge because of the light, or lack thereof, and the rain that made the pics blurry. It can be a veil indeed. The few tourists on the upper deck vanished downstairs, but I ordered a hot tea and held out until St.Goar to take photos. But it was too cold to stay outside the entire 4 hours, so during the later part of the journey I only went up for special sights.

A meandering river

In former times, the Rhine meandered like that from its origins in Switzerland to the North Sea; it's the Rhine the Romans knew. Today it has been straightened where possible, leaving old bends as lakes in some places (the Altrheinarme), while they were filled up in others. Part of the flood problems is caused by those changes.

A cargo vessel

The Rhine is an important shipping route and the transport ships are long, unwieldy things with houses at one end where the shipper and his family live. Complete with curtains and potted plants in the windows, and a car parking on the upper deck.

Amnis viridissime ripas

When the sky lit up a bit one could see how green those mountains are, covered with woods and vineyards. A 'river of the greenest shores' indeed, even though Ausonius said that about the Moselle. I remembered his poem I came to know when I visited Trier at the Moselle back in 2006.

I wonder if any Roman ever waxed poetic about the Rhine. It was mostly a frontier for them, and an unruly one at that.

Shoals and currents

I mentioned that the most dangerous rocks have been blasted and currents diverted, like the (in)famous Binger Loch, but there are still a few left outside the fairway. I would not recommend to cross the Rhine by swimming, and not only because of all the ships. There are whirls that can suck you in and you'll find yourself on the ground, playing with the Daughters of the Rhine to Wagner's music.

A glimpse of sunshine

That's how the tour may look on sunny days. Though there's a flip side to it; I'm sure the ship would have been full of tourists.

The mountains along the Rhine are littered with castles; some genuinely old ones, but most of them have been altered in the 18th and 19th centuries, and a few even built only then. They look more like Victorian (now with Extra! turrets and oriels) versions than Medieaval German castles. But I took a series of photos from the ship, so there will be a castle post.

Lorelei

The bend in the river here was one of the dangerous spots of old. And not only that; there sat a beautiful maid on the top of that mountain, combing her long, blond hair and singing enticing songs, so the sailors would only look up to her and not care about the right course, and they'd end up in the currents and whorls and drown together with their boats. The maid is called Lorelei and can still be spotted sometimes today. Though obviously not during bad weather. There's a song about the legend that was played on the ship as it passed. Safely.

A paddle steamer

Most of the ships of the fleets that offer Rhine cruises are modern, but there are also more nostalgic ones around, like this paddle steamer. Not quite the Mississippi tour, but still nice. Some of the larger ships offer cabins for a longer journey, including a luxury variant with lots of gold, mahoganny, and velvet.

Another transport barge

I didn't catch the entire barge, there are some metres missing at the bow. Except for the cabin part, they are very low profile though sometimes the cargo is higher than the railing, with the covers remaining open.

Another cruise ship

Another of the cruise ships going downstream. In the background is one of the many castles along the Rhine, Ehrenfels, framed by vineyards. There's even a bit of blue sky. In a way, it's the archetypical Rhine picture.
 
Comments:
It looks wonderfully green and romantic, and the dark ominous clouds just add to the drama. Great photos.

Maybe some Romans were attracted to the landscape because it was a dangerous frontier and because it was 'other' and inhabited by strange and alien peoples. A little like the British and French writers who romanticised the desert, maybe?
 
Well, Ausonius certainly liked the green, something that is probably more rare in most of Italy in summer, but he wrote at a time when nearby Trier had become a provincial capital and pretty Roman.

It could be that some soldiers got used to living in an 'alien' country; a good number of veterans would take land in the agri decumantes near the Rhine, for one because they got more land for their retirement money than they'd have been able to purchase in Italy. But I think they also had created a life for themselves, had children with local women, friends, got used to the weather and the local food and all that, esp. if they had been stationed at the Rhine for a longer time. It was pretty much the same along the Hadrian's Wall.
 
Hmmmm. Italian Food or German sausages.

WHAT a choice!!!!
 
Beautiful pictures! I like the pretty towns, too. <3
 
Stag, you can find both here easily. :)

Thank you, Louis.
 
More fabulous photos!

Less romantic than Ausonius, but on the recurring theme of blood and water is this quote from Sextus Propertius

--barbarus aut Suevo perfusus sanguine Rhenus
Saucia maerenti corpora vectet aqua.

-- the wild Rhine, drenched with Suevian
blood, carries mangled bodies on its sorrowing waves.
 
There's unfortunately some truth to it.
 
I'm doing some catch up here, but the post and the photos bring back my old memories of taking a tour down the Rhine. The boats are more modern than the ones I saw in 1970. However, the buildings and scenery have remained basically the same. wonderful.
 
Yeah, I can imagine they got a new fleet of cruise ships since 1970. ;)
 
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The Lost Fort is a history blog based on my journeys in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and other places. It includes essays on Roman and Mediaeval history and architecture, as well as some geology, illustrated with my own photos of old castles and churches, Roman remains, pretty towns and beautiful landscapes.

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I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who still hasn't got an Instagram account.
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Staffa
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Shores of History - The Baltic Sea

Baltic Sea Cruise

Lithuania

Nida and the Curonian Spit
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- Roman History
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Roman History

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The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
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The Battle at the Harzhorn
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Villa Rustica Wachenheim

Miscellaneous
Legend of Alaric's Burial


Mediaeval History

Feudalism
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Feudalism, 10th Century
The Privilege of the deditio
A Note on handgenginn maðr

The Hanseatic League
Introduction and Beginnings
Stockfish Trade


Germany

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List of Mediaeval German Emperors

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Heinrich the Lion's Ancestors

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King Heinrich IV
Emperor Otto IV, Introduction

Princes
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The Dukes of Braunschweig-Grubenhagen
Otto of Northeim
The Ludowing Landgraves of Thuringia
Albrecht II and Friedrich I of Thuringia

Counts and Local Lords
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The Counts of Everstein
The Counts of Hohnstein
The Lords of Plesse
The Counts of Reichenbach
The Counts of Winzenburg

Famous Feuds

Local Feuds
The Lüneburg Succession War
The Thuringian Succession War - Introduction
The Star Wars

Royal Troubles
Otto IV and Bishop Adalbert II of Magdeburg


England and Normandy

From the Conquest to King John

Normans, Britons, and Angevins
The Dukes of Brittany and the Honour of Richmond

From Henry III to the War of the Roses

Great Fiefs
The Earldom of Richmond and the Duchy of Brittany


Scotland

Kings of Scots

House Dunkeld
Malcolm III and Northumbria
Struggle for the Throne: Malcolm III to David I
King David and the Civil War (1)
King David and the Civil War (2)

Houses Bruce and Stewart
Robert the Bruce and Stirling Castle
The Early Stewart Kings

Scottish Nobles and their Quarrels

Clan Feuds
MacLeans and MacDonalds
A Scottish Wedding


Wales

Princes and Rebels

The Princes of Gwynedd
The Rise of House Aberffraw

The Rebellions
From Llywellyn ap Gruffudd to Owain Glyn Dŵr


Scandinavia

Kings and Vikings

Kings of Norway
King Eirik's Scottish Marriages

Famous Nobles and their Feuds
Alv Erlingsson of Tønsberg


Other Times and Miscellanea

Post-Mediaeval History

Discoveries
Otto von Guericke and the Magdeburg Hemispheres
Raising a Wreck, Now and Then (Vasa Museum in Stockholm)

Explorers
Fram Expedition to the North Pole
Fram Expedition to the South Pole

History in Opera and Literature

Opera

Belcanto and Historicism
Maria Padilla - Mistress Royal
The Siege of Calais in Donizetti's Opera

Historical Ballads

Ballads by Th. Fontane, translated by me
About Theodor Fontane
Archibald Douglas
Gorm Grymme
Sir Walter Scott in Abbotsford
The Tragedy of Afghanistan


Geological Landscapes

The Baltic Sea
Geology of the Curonian Spit

The Harz
Karst Landscape
Karst - Lonau Falls
Karst - Rhume Springs

Meissner / Kaufunger Wald
Blue Dome near Eschwege
Diabase and Basalt Formations
Karst Formations

Solling-Vogler
Raised Bogs
The Hannover Cliffs

The Shores of Scotland
Staffa

Paleontology

Fossils
Ammonites


Fun Stuff

Not So Serious Romans
Aelius Rufus Visits the Future Series
Building Hadrian's Wall
Playmobil Romans

Royal (Hi)Stories
Kings Having a Bad Hair Day
The Case of the Vanished Wine Cask

Historical Memes
Charlemagne meme
Historical Christmas Wishes
New Year Resolutions
Aelius Rufus does a Meme
Rules for Writing Scottish Romances

Funny Sights
Tourist Kitsch in St.Petersburg

My Novels in Progress / Planning

I'm a bit of a writer, too; here are the novel projects on which I'm currently working

Roman Novels (Historical Fiction)
The Saga of House Sichelstein (Historical Fiction)
Kings and Rebels (Fantasy)


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Teilzeitreisender
Travelita
Unterwegs und Daheim

Highland Mountains
The Hazel Tree (Jo Woolf)
Helen in Wales
Mountains and Sea Scotland

The Colours of the World
Shutterbugs


Research

Archaeology
Past Horizons
Archaeology in Europe
Orkneyar

Roman History
Deutsche Limeskommission
Internet Ancient Sourcebook
Livius.org
Roman Army
Roman Britain
The Romans in Britain
Vindolanda Tablets

Not so Dark Ages
Burgundians in the Mist
Viking Society for Northern Research

Mediaeval History
De Re Militari
Internet Mediaeval Sourcebook
Kulturzeit
The Labyrinth
Mediaeval Crusades
Medievalists.Net

Castles
Burgenarchiv
Burgerbe
Burgenwelt
Exploring Castles
The World of Castles

Miscellaneous History
Heritage Daily
The History Files

Mythology
Ancient History
Encyclopedia Mythica

Online Journals
Ancient Warfare
The Heroic Age
The History Files

Travel and Guide Sites

Germany - History
Antike Stätten in Deutschland
Burgenarchiv
Strasse der Romanik

Germany - Nature
HarzLife
Naturpark Meissner
Naturpark Solling-Vogler

England
English Heritage
Visit Northumberland

Scotland
The Chain Mail (Scottish History)
Historic Scotland
National Trust Scotland

Books and Writing

Interesting Author Websites
Bernard Cornwell
Dorothy Dunnett
Steven Erikson
Diana Gabaldon
Guy Gavriel Kay
George R.R. Martin
Sharon Kay Penman
Brandon Sanderson
J.R.R. Tolkien
Tad Williams

Historical Fiction
Historical Novel Society
Historia Magazine

Writing Sites
Absolute Write
TheLitForum.com
National Novel Writing Month


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