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  • HI, I'M RICK STEVES, EXPLORING MORE OF THE BEST OF EUROPE.

  • THIS TIME, WE'RE GOING MEDIEVAL,

  • CRUISING RIVER GORGES STEEPED IN LEGEND

  • AND CLIMBING CASTLES

  • IN THE MOST ROMANTIC CORNERS OF GERMANY.

  • THIS TIME WE'RE ENJOYING THE CHARMS

  • OF GERMANY'S VILLAGES AND EVOCATIVE RUINS.

  • WHILE MOST OF THIS COUNTRY IS AN URBAN AND INDUSTRIAL POWERHOUSE,

  • THIS EPISODE IS ALL ABOUT STORYBOOK GERMANY.

  • AFTER CRUISING THROUGH A FAIRY-TALE WORLD

  • OF RHINE LEGENDS,

  • WE'LL CLIMB THROUGH MY FAVORITE CASTLE IN ALL OF EUROPE,

  • AND CHECK OUT A SLEEPY AND LAID-BACK ALTERNATIVE

  • TO THE RHINE.

  • WE SAMPLE FINE RHINE WINE,

  • LEARN THE HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS,

  • AND EXPLORE THE BEST-PRESERVED MEDIEVAL TOWN IN GERMANY,

  • WITH SOME HELP FROM THE NIGHT WATCHMAN.

  • GERMANY, ABOUT THE SIZE OF MONTANA,

  • WITH OVER TWICE THE POPULATION OF CALIFORNIA,

  • IS THE HEART OF EUROPE.

  • THIS TIME WE FOCUS ON GERMANY'S ROMANTIC RHINE REGION.

  • WE'LL CRUISE THE MOST CASTLE-STUDDED

  • STRETCH OF THE RHINE,

  • VISITING ST. GORE, BACHARACH, AND KOBLENZ

  • BEFORE EXPLORING THE MOSEL RIVER AND THE ELTZ CASTLE.

  • THEN WE VENTURE EAST TO ROTHENBURG.

  • WHILE THE RHINE IS OVER 800 MILES LONG,

  • THE 36-MILE STRETCH FROM MAINZ TO KOBLENZ

  • IS BY FAR THE MOST INTERESTING, AND THAT'S WHAT WE'RE EXPLORING.

  • IT'S NO COINCIDENCE

  • THAT THE GREAT MEDIEVAL SIGHTS OF EUROPE

  • LIE ALONG THE IMPORTANT TRADING ROUTES LIKE THE RHINE.

  • IT TOOK BIG MONEY TO BUILD THE STRUCTURES

  • THAT WE TRAVELERS WOULD MARVEL AT CENTURIES LATER.

  • SINCE ANCIENT TIMES,

  • THE RHINE HAS BEEN ONE OF THE WORLD'S BUSIEST RIVERS

  • AND THIS REGION'S MAJOR TRADING ROUTE.

  • TODAY THERE'S A STEADY FLOW OF BARGES WITH THOUSAND-TON LOADS,

  • WHILE BUSY TRAIN TRACKS AND HIGHWAYS LINE BOTH BANKS,

  • ALL UNDER THE WATCHFUL EYE OF ONCE-MIGHTY CASTLES.

  • MANY OF THE CASTLES WERE ROBBER BARON CASTLES,

  • EXTORTION STOPS, BUILT BY PETTY PRINCES AND TWO-BIT RULERS

  • BACK WHEN THERE WERE 350 INDEPENDENT LITTLE STATES

  • IN WHAT IS TODAY GERMANY.

  • THE SHIPSHAPE PFALZ CASTLE, ACTUALLY BUILT MID-STREAM,

  • EFFECTIVELY TAXED RIVER TRAFFIC.

  • ITS TOWN GREW RICH AS THE CASTLE

  • RAISED ITS HEAVY CHAINS ACROSS THE RIVER

  • WHEN BOATS CAME

  • AND LOWERED THEM

  • ONLY WHEN THE MERCHANTS HAD PAID THEIR DUTY.

  • ALONG THIS STRETCH, THERE WERE CUSTOM STOPS LIKE THIS

  • ABOUT EVERY SIX MILES.

  • NO WONDER MERCHANTS WERE EARLY SUPPORTERS

  • OF THE CREATION OF LARGER NATION STATES.

  • IN THE MIDDLE AGES, EMPERORS, POPES, AND THESE LITTLE PRINCES

  • WERE JOCKEYING FOR POWER AROUND EUROPE.

  • IN GERMANY, THE EMPERORS CONTROLLED THE PRINCES.

  • BUT IN THE 11th CENTURY,

  • THE POPE ESTABLISHED HIS POWER OVER THE EMPEROR.

  • THIS ALLOWED THE LITTLE GERMAN PRINCES TO GO WILD

  • AND BUILD ALL THESE CASTLES.

  • THAT'S WHY MOST OF THE CASTLES ALONG THE RHINE

  • DATE FROM THIS ERA.

  • A COUPLE HUNDRED YEARS LATER,

  • AS THE EMPEROR BEGAN REASSERTING HIS CONTROL

  • OVER THE PRINCES, THESE CASTLES SAW ACTION.

  • WHILE THE CASTLES SURVIVED THESE BATTLES,

  • MOST WERE DESTROYED LATER BY THE FRENCH

  • BECAUSE THEY FEARED A STRONG GERMANY,

  • AND THEY FELT THE RHINE WAS THE LOGICAL BORDER

  • BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES.

  • IN THE ROMANTIC AGE, THE LATE 1800s,

  • MEDIEVAL THINGS WERE IN VOGUE

  • AND MANY OF THE RUINS WERE REBUILT.

  • TODAY THE RHINE CASTLES ARE ENJOYED AS RESTAURANTS,

  • HOTELS,

  • HOSTELS,

  • AND MUSEUMS.

  • AND TRAVELERS CRUISE THE RIVER JUST TO CASTLE-WATCH.

  • TOUR BOATS COME AND GO ABOUT HOURLY.

  • VARIOUS LINES EACH HAVE THEIR OWN DOCKS

  • AND ADVERTISE THEIR OWN SCHEDULES.

  • BUYING TICKETS FROM A KIOSK BEFORE BOARDING,

  • TOURISTS CAN PUT TOGETHER THEIR OWN HOP-ON AND HOP-OFF TOURS

  • OF THIS MOST ROMANTIC STRETCH OF THE RHINE.

  • ALONG WITH TRANSPORTING CAMERA-TOTING TOURISTS,

  • THE RHINE MOVES A STEADY FLOW OF CARGO

  • TO THE WORLD'S BIGGEST PORT, ROTTERDAM,

  • WHICH WAITS AT THE MOUTH OF THE RIVER.

  • BARGE WORKERS ARE ALMOST A SUBCULTURE.

  • MANY OWN THEIR OWN SHIPS.

  • THE CAPTAIN AND HIS FAMILY LIVE IN THE STERN,

  • CAR PARKED ON THE ROOFTOP.

  • THE CREW LIVES IN THE BOW.

  • LOGICALLY, IMPORTS LIKE OIL GO UPSTREAM,

  • AND EXPORTS LIKE GERMAN MANUFACTURED GOODS

  • GO DOWNSTREAM.

  • THE POWERFUL RHINE HAS LONG BEEN TREACHEROUS TO NAVIGATE.

  • BOATS GENERALLY PASS ON THE RIGHT.

  • SINCE DOWNSTREAM SHIPS CAN'T STOP OR MANEUVER AS FREELY,

  • UPSTREAM BOATS ARE EXPECTED TO DO THE TRICKY DO-SI-DO WORK.

  • LARGE TRIANGULAR SIGNALS

  • POSTED BEFORE TROUBLESOME BLIND BENDS IN THE RIVER

  • WARN OF ONCOMING SHIPS.

  • EACH TRIANGLE COVERS A SEGMENT OF THE BEND,

  • THE LOWEST TRIANGLE BEING THE NEAREST.

  • THEY WARN OF APPROACHING SHIPS.

  • IF THE BOTTOM SIDE OF A TRIANGLE IS LIT,

  • THAT SECTOR IS EMPTY.

  • BUT IF THE LEFT SIDE IS LIT,

  • THERE'S AN ONCOMING SHIP IN THAT SECTOR.

  • THE MOST DANGEROUS BEND IN THE RIVER

  • SWINGS AROUND A ROCKY BLUFF CALLED THE LORELEI.

  • BECAUSE OF REEFS JUST UPSTREAM,

  • MANY SHIPS NEVER MADE IT SAFELY PAST THE LORELEI

  • AND THE ROCKY CLIFF REMAINS STEEPED IN MYTH.

  • SAILORS BLAMED THEIR MISFORTUNE ON A Fräulein -- SO wunderbar --

  • HER LONG, BLONDE HAIR ALMOST COVERED HER BODY.

  • THIS LEGENDARY SIREN FLIRTED

  • AND SANG HER DISTRACTING SONGS FROM THIS ROCK.

  • JUST DOWN RIVER FROM THE LORELEI

  • IS THE PLEASANT TOWN OF ST. GOAR,

  • FOUNDED IN THE 6th CENTURY BY A MONK

  • FAMOUS FOR HIS HOSPITALITY.

  • ACCORDING TO LEGEND, EARLY SAILORS WOULD STOP HERE

  • FOR A REST AND A PRAYER OF THANKS

  • AFTER SURVIVING THE SEDUCTIVE AND TREACHEROUS LORELEI.

  • TODAY ST. GOAR IS A TOURIST TOWN.

  • ITS ONLY HAZARD, STREETS OF SHOPPING OPPORTUNITIES.

  • THIS SHOP BRAGS

  • IT HAS THE WORLD'S LARGEST FREE-HANGING CUCKOO CLOCK.

  • THIS ONE SPECIALIZES IN STEINS.

  • RHEINFELS CASTLE SITS LIKE A DEAD PIT BULL ABOVE ST. GORE.

  • ONCE THE BIGGEST AND MIGHTIEST CASTLE ON THE RHINE,

  • RHEINFELS RUMBLES WITH GHOSTS FROM ITS HARD-FOUGHT PAST.

  • WHILE IT WITHSTOOD A SIEGE OF 28,000 FRENCH TROOPS IN 1692,

  • THE FRENCH FINALLY DESTROYED IT A CENTURY LATER.

  • TODAY THIS HOLLOW, BUT FASCINATING, SHELL

  • OFFERS YOUR BEST HANDS-ON, RUINED-CASTLE EXPERIENCE

  • ON THE RIVER.

  • DURING THE PRE-GUNPOWDER GLORY DAYS OF CASTLES,

  • DEFENSES WERE BETTER THAN OFFENSES.

  • THE BEST WAY TO BEAT A CASTLE LIKE THIS

  • WAS A LONG, BORING, STARVE-'EM-OUT SIEGE.

  • THEREFORE, A CASTLE NEEDED TO BE WELL-STOCKED

  • AND SELF-SUFFICIENT.

  • IMAGINE THIS COURTYARD 500 YEARS AGO.

  • IT HAD A BAKERY, PHARMACY, HERB GARDEN, LIVESTOCK, A WELL,

  • EVEN A BREWERY.

  • DURING TIMES OF PEACE, A COUPLE HUNDRED PEOPLE LIVED HERE.

  • BUT DURING A SIEGE, AS MANY AS 4,000 PEOPLE

  • WOULD PACK WITHIN THESE WALLS,

  • HOPING TO HAVE ENOUGH PROVISIONS TO OUTWAIT THEIR ATTACKERS.

  • IN ITS HEYDAY, THESE WALLS,

  • WHITEWASHED AND GLEAMING IN THE SUN, FLAGS FLYING HIGH,

  • MUST HAVE EXASPERATED ATTACKERS CAMPED OUTSIDE FOR SO LONG.

  • IF YOU MISS YOUR BOAT,

  • HOURLY TRAINS CONNECT RIVERSIDE TOWNS QUICKLY AND CHEAPLY.

  • THE HISTORIC TOWN OF BACHARACH MAKES A FINE HOME BASE

  • FOR EXPLORING THIS REGION.

  • HERR JUNG, BACHARACH'S RETIRED SCHOOLMASTER,

  • IS A GOOD FRIEND OF MINE.

  • OVER THE YEARS,

  • HE'S ENJOYED SHOWING MY TOUR GROUPS AROUND TOWN.

  • NOT MANY PEOPLE IN THIS TOWN.

  • NO, WE ARE A SMALL TOWN,

  • BUT IN MEDIEVAL TIMES WE ARE A BIG TOWN.

  • WE HAVE 3,000 INHABITANTS.

  • IT WAS A BIG TOWN AND A FAMOUS TOWN.

  • THIS WAS THE CAPITAL ONCE OF GERMANY.

  • AND FOR TWO YEARS THIS WAS THE RESIDENCE

  • OF THE HOLY ROMAN EMPERORS.

  • Rick: ACTUALLY, THE HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR

  • RULED FROM HERE?

  • Herr Jung: YA.

  • IN ITS HEYDAY, BACHARACH WAS FORTIFIED BY A GREAT WALL,

  • WHICH YOU CAN STILL HIKE ON ABOVE THE TOWN TODAY.

  • AT ONE TIME THERE WERE 16 TOWERS ALONG THE WALL.

  • SIX OF THEM SURVIVE.

  • THE WALL EXTENDED ALL THE WAY TO THE CASTLE.

  • Rick: SO THIS WAS A VERY IMPORTANT CITY?

  • Herr Jung: BUT WE HAD BIG PROBLEMS BACK THEN

  • BECAUSE WE HAD 15 FIRES AND THE PLAGUE --

  • HALF OF THE POPULATION DIED AWAY BY THE PLAGUE --

  • AND WE HAD THE THIRTY YEARS WAR,

  • AND BACHARACH WAS OCCUPIED EIGHT TIMES:

  • BY THE SWEDISH, BY THE SPANISH,

  • BY THE FRENCH, EIGHT TIMES.

  • AND THEN WE BECAME A SLEEPING BEAUTY,

  • FROM 1650 TO 1850, FOR 200 YEARS.

  • Rick: 200 YEARS, NOTHING...

  • Jung: NOTHING CHANGED.

  • THEN IN THE MID-19th CENTURY, THINGS CHANGED.

  • ROMANTIC ARTISTS AND WRITERS

  • WERE CHARMED BY THE RHINELAND'S MIX

  • OF PAST GLORY, RUSTIC POVERTY, AND RICH LEGEND.

  • THEY DISCOVERED THIS AREA,

  • PUTTING IT ON THE GRAND TOUR MAP AS THE ROMANTIC RHINE.

  • VICTOR HUGO STOOD HERE

  • AND WROTE OF BACHARACH'S IVY-COVERED, RUINED CHAPEL,

  • "A MAGNIFICENT SKELETON PUTS ITS SILHOUETTE

  • AGAINST THE SKY."

  • AND THE ROMANTICS REPORTED ON THE REGION'S WONDERFUL WINE,

  • WHICH HAD BEEN POPULAR SINCE ANCIENT ROMAN TIMES.

  • LIKE OTHER TOWNS ALONG THE RIVER,

  • BACHARACH HAS A LONG TRADITION OF VINTNERS MAKING WINE,

  • AND OFFERING THEIR LABEL TO THE THIRSTY PUBLIC.

  • THE HEINRICH FAMILY HAS MADE WINE HERE FOR GENERATIONS.

  • MARKUS AND SUZANNE SHARE THE FRUITS OF THEIR LABOR

  • IN THE FAMILY CELLAR.

  • Rick: TELL ME ABOUT THE GRAPE.

  • WHAT IS THE GRAPE THAT WORKS THE BEST?

  • OKAY, RIESLING IS THE BEST WHITE WINE GRAPE.

  • IT'S THE QUEEN OF THE WHITE WINE GRAPES.

  • SO, WHAT IS TYPICAL FOR THIS WINE?

  • ITS SMELLS VERY GOOD.

  • YOU CAN TASTE THE EARTH IN IT, THE SUN.

  • IT'S SOMETHING SPECIAL.

  • YEAH.

  • YOU LIKE IT?

  • I LIKE IT. I DO.

  • SURE?

  • WELL, LET ME TRY ANOTHER, A LITTLE MORE.

  • [ laughter ]

  • TODAY, THE RHINE'S CASTLES EARN THEIR KEEP,

  • NOT BY LOCKING PEOPLE OUT, BUT BY WELCOMING THEM IN.

  • BACHARACH'S CASTLE HAS BECOME ONE OF GERMANY'S TOP HOSTELS,

  • WITH PLENTY OF BEDS AND A WARM WELCOME.

  • THE SIMPLE DORM ROOMS, WHETHER FOR INDIVIDUALS OR FAMILIES,

  • ARE A GODSEND FOR BUDGET TRAVEL.

  • MANY COME WITH THE ORIGINAL MEDIEVAL VIEW.

  • AND HERE, THE KIDS TAKE THE CASTLE AMBIENCE TO HEART.

  • HOSTELERS CAP THEIR SIGHTSEEING DAY HERE ON THE TERRACE,

  • WATCHING OVER RIVER TRAFFIC

  • WITH NEW FRIENDS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

  • WHILE ENJOYING THE CHEAPEST ACCOMMODATIONS ON THE RHINE.

  • THAT'S GOOD TRAVEL.

  • THE MIGHTY RHINE IS JOINED BY THE MOSEL RIVER AT KOBLENZ.

  • THE CITY'S NAME COMES FROM THE LATIN WORD FOR CONFLUENCE,

  • A REMINDER OF THE REGION'S ROMAN PAST.

  • THIS POINT, WHERE THE TWO RIVERS MEET,

  • THE DEUTSCHES ECK OR GERMAN CORNER,

  • THE TOURISTS' JUMPING-OFF POINT FOR EXPLORING THE DREAMY MOSEL

  • BUT FOR GERMANS, IT HAS A SPECIAL SIGNIFICANCE.

  • Rick: EVERY TIME I COME HERE TO THE DEUTSCHES ECK,

  • I FEEL IT'S VERY CLOSE TO THE HEART

  • OF GERMAN PEOPLE, OR SOMETHING.

  • YOU SHOULD.

  • WHY IS THAT?

  • WHAT IS THE DEAL?

  • DEUTSCH ECK TO A GERMAN IS A FEELING OF BELONGING,

  • OF UNITY, OF BEING GERMAN.

  • NOT BEING BETTER THAN THE REST OF US,

  • BUT HAVING A SENSE OF HISTORY, WHERE WE CAME FROM, WHO WE ARE.

  • THIS SPOT HERE, THIS CORNER, THIS MONUMENT,

  • THE MOSEL, THE RHINE RIVER,

  • IT IS REALLY THE HEART AND SOUL OF GERMANY,

  • OF BEING A GERMAN.

  • Rick: SO THIS IS REALLY LIKE, LIKE WHAT WOULD IT BE IN AMERICA?

  • SORT OF A RALLYING CRY?

  • THE ALAMO?