We were on our way to the German Christmas markets in Aachen, Koblenz and Rudesheim, and as usual I had a list of other things I wanted to do. It was rainy all weekend, with an exceptionally torrential downpour in Aachen, but even this could not dampen our appreciation of this beautiful German town. We just missed the Cathedral unfortunately (I wanted Martin to see it); the determined men on the door were barring sightseers because there was a service due. We bought some Printen from a bakery and had a peek inside the Rathaus. We ate some wonderful cooked fish from one of the market stalls. I hope to return some time with more than an hour or two to spare, visit the Couven Museum there, and take the Rathaus tour and see the Kaisersaal with its epic 19th century frescoes and statues of fifty German rulers.
So, on to Koblenz! Having researched thoroughly, I knew there was a cable car, so we made a beeline for it on Saturday morning. First though we checked out the Deutsches Eck, where the Rhine joins the Moselle, and the stonking great Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial, then we took the Seilbahn up to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress. It was amazing looking down over the mighty Rhine and I’m pleased to say I felt safe in the hands of German technology! The Fortress itself (we got a combined ticket for cable car and fortress) houses an excellent archeological and Landesmuseum, so we passed a contented hour or so wandering round. The highpoints for me included a footprint captured in clay of a Roman soldier in hob-nailed sandals, a piece of Neanderthal skull, a stone fragment etched with a frieze of stylised women dancing in a circle, and an original Roman piling from the bridge at Confluentia (original name for the settlement). We were quite awestruck by the multiple arches built into the fortress walls, which must have made them phenomenally strong. There’s a youth hostel in the fortress, one of over 500 in Germany - one of my dearly-held wishes (okay, somewhat over-ambitious, probably!) is to backpack round Germany and stay in every one of them!
On these fleeting visits, there is always more to see than time allows. I’d like to return one day to see the Church of St Florin, and the Ludwig Museum, housed in what remains of the former headquarters of the Teutonic Knights.
We did an afternoon excursion on our coach to Rudesheim. The last time I was there was in my late teens, when I was an over-enthusiastic partaker at a German wine tasting evening. I faintly recall learning about Spatlese wines, and having to be helped out to the car after drinking all of six glasses of what seemed like a light, fruity, harmless beverage! We took our second cable-car ride here, up over the Christmas stalls and the vineyards on the hills above to the Niederwald Monument high over the Rhine, erected to commemorate Germany’s victory in the Franco-Prussian war, and another example of massive 19th century German architecture. I heard once of a man whose mission it was to visit every Starbucks wherever he travelled - for me that would be cable-cars, as you might guess from the look of pure happiness on my face!
This trip was enhanced by having recently read Simon Winder’s book Germania and listening to Neil McGregor’s fantastic BBC Radio 4 series Germany: Memories of a Nation - both musts for Germanophiles like myself.