Last Sunday James and I visited St. Goar (“Sankt Gwar”) and Bacharach, two small Rhein-side towns not far from the Marksburg castle we had visited the weekend before. We had originally planned to tour the ruins of Burg Rheinfels, a once-huge medieval castle and fortress that looms over tiny St. Goar. Unfortunately this winter the castle is closed for repairs so we couldn’t walk through it, but we were able to see the impressive remains of the outer walls and some beautiful views of the Rhein and the castles on the opposite bank.
From here we trekked like billy goats down a steep hill on a long winding dirt path to the town of St. Goar. As this seems to be a town that thrives on tourism, almost every store had a sign saying it was closed for the winter season. The only exceptions were a couple of souvenir shops with a mix of pricey intricate wood and metal works and cheesy German gifts. And, of course, a few hotel restaurants. We stopped into one these, the Hotel zum Goldenen Löwen (the Golden Lion Hotel). In true German fashion, we had tea and a slice of creamy cheesecake (almost a whipped cream filling) around 3:30. As we left, the last light before the sun began to set cast a golden film on the hills and cliffs across the river.
From here we took the more direct but much steeper main road back to the car at Rheinfels, caught our breath, and set off for a short drive along the Rhein to the somewhat larger town of Bacharach.
Again, most of the town was closed for the non-tourist winter season but we enjoyed walking through it and seeing its unique sights. The main attractions could be seen by hiking up another steep hill, this time alternating between worn stone steps, uneven stretches of slate rock, newer wooden steps, and patches of mud. We first passed the Wernerkapelle, the intricate remains of an old chapel standing out against the pink sky at dusk. Next we came to Burg Stahleck, a medieval castle-turned-modern-hostel. From the top of the hill we could see more great views of the Rhein and the town below, now turned dark. For dinner we took a tip from the Rick Steve’s guidebook and went to Gasthaus Jägerstube, a quaint but cozy restaurant with a small crowd of locals and tasty German food.