FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Rails along the Rhein

Posted in Germany, Oberwesel, Stolzenfels by folkestonejack on May 28, 2014

A side benefit of a trip to the Rhein valley is the presence of railway lines along the left and right banks of the river. I thought this might provide the occasional opportunity for some rail photography amongst the sightseeing, but hadn’t bargained for quite how busy the lines turned out to be. At times it seemed like there was a freight train running down the right bank every few minutes.

111 115 hauls a regional express through Oberwesel

111 115 hauls a regional express through Oberwesel

The rail geek in me was also delighted by the incredible variety of locomotives on offer. In just a day or two of sightseeing here we saw freight and passenger services hauled by classes 101, 103, 111, 120, 140, 143, 151, 152, 155, 185 and 218. It felt like anything could turn up, at any time – not a feeling that you would ever experience in the UK today.

Try as I might, I couldn’t photograph everything (the 218 hauling freight down the right bank was one that eluded me) but I made sure to do my homework for the class 103 hauled services. Our evening trip down the left bank was carefully timed to ensure that we would be in the right place, at the right time and ready to get a good shot.

103 113-7 passes through Oberwesel whilst en route to Münster (Westfalen)

103 113-7 passes through Oberwesel whilst en route to Münster (Westfalen)

The class 103 electric locomotive was the rather glamourous flagship of the Deutsche Bundesbahn fleet when I was growing up and held a particular fascination for me. The last remaining locomotives in the class were retired from active service in 2003 but a few members of the class made a surprise return in 2013.

On our trip we saw 103 113-7 running through Oberwesel one evening whilst en route from Stuttgart Hbf to Münster (Westfalen) Hbf and passing Schloss Stolzenfels on the way back the next morning. It was marvellous to see once again and I am sure my younger self would have given a vote of approval.

Class 103 traction on the morning express to Stuttgart

Class 103 traction on the morning express to Stuttgart

It was always our intention to return to the Rhein in the future to visit the castles and towns that we missed this time round, but I think I may have to sneak in a bit more rail photography too! I wonder how much I can get away with…

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Fortified Rhein

Posted in Braubach, Germany, Kaub, Oberwesel by folkestonejack on May 27, 2014

Our second day of sightseeing in Rheinland-Pfalz took us down the right bank of the Rhein for an itinerary that would take in two of the most distinctive castles on the river. First up was Burg Pfalzgrafenstein, which is pretty hard to ignore in its prime position midway across the Rhein.

Pfalzgrafenstein and Falkenau island

Pfalzgrafenstein and Falkenau island

The castle’s origins can be traced back to 1327 when King Ludwig IV ordered the construction of the first tower on Falkenau Island. The castle was expanded over the centuries with the last alterations of significance completed in the mid-eighteenth century. It’s not hard to see why it is commonly known as ‘the stone ship’.

The primary function of the castle was as a toll station but it also had its moment in history. It was here, in 1814, that Field Marshall Blucher’s forces crossed the Rhein in pursuit of Napoleon. Fifty thousand Russian and Prussian troops and 15,000 horses crossed to the left bank by means of a pontoon bridge constructed across the river via the castle.

Ferry to the castle

Ferry to the castle

Today you can reach the castle from Kaub by means of a ferry that takes all of a minute or two. Once you are on the island you can take a self-guided tour of the castle using a rather neat orientation map. It’s a real pleasure to wander round at your own pace and savour a pretty remarkable castle.

After returning to the right bank we moved on to Braubach, tackling the climb up from the town to the Marksburg. The Marksburg is a true medieval survivor, tracing its origins back to the twelfth century. The castle makes a formidable sight above the town and has never been subjected to serious attack during its lifetime. Nevertheless, the castle has a varied history which we discovered on a guided tour (we opted for a tour in German and rented an english translation). In its time the castle has been a fortress, garrison, care home and prison!

The Marksburg

The Marksburg

Although the interiors were fascinating, sometimes it is the simplest things that make you feel the connection with history. I was particularly struck by the stairs we used to enter the castle, which were thought to have been carved into the rock by Prussian soldiers during their occupation in the mid-nineteenth century. It seemed astonishing to be treading in the same footsteps as those men of history.

In the evening we took a whistle-stop tour of the left bank, stopping off at Oberwesel to take a wander around the fortified walls of the town and taking a pleasant wander along the riverside at Bingen am Rhein to view the Mouse Tower (currently shrouded in scaffolding). The reward for our day’s sightseeing was a rather splendid schnitzel at Zollamt with a cognac and peppercorn sauce that will linger long in the memory!

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