The Rhine Valley

After another relatively short three hour journey we arrived at our campsite in the Rhine Valley in the blazing sunshine. I’d booked the campsite in advance and had requested a shady pitch, but when we arrived the campsite was full and the only pitch had no shade, and was right by the riverside – perfect for a toddler! It was only when everyone packed up to leave the next day that we realised we’d checked in on a Saturday so all the weekend campers had bagged the best spots (making a reservation request doesn’t seem to count for much). Annoyingly a) we’d got the awning all set up so couldn’t be bothered with the hassle to move to a better pitch the next day and b) we’re doing week long stays at the next few places so think we’re going to encounter this again.

The campsite was a long thin wedge of land in between the train track and the Lahn river, with a busy road on the other side of the river. Not exactly peaceful but picturesque at least. But it did have a playground and a huge trampoline so Evelyn was happy.

This was the first time we’d experience German customer service (although it later transpired the owner was Dutch). I think a lot of it came down to the language barrier, and admittedly we speak no German, but the owner did seem a blunt and fastidious chap.

Examples:

Simon went to collect the bread we had ordered one morning. He walked into the closed restaurant and asked someone “Where do I collect the bread?”. “From the kiosk on the terrace” was the reply. The terrace was the other side of the restaurant so he walked around the block to the terrace and approached the kiosk, only to be met by the same guy. “Yes?” he bluntly asked. “Uh, I’m here to collect some bread.”.

I went to ask about laundry. The owner told me it was 3e, but not where the machine actually was. When I’d then extracted the location from him, he went back to his computer. Luckily I then thought to ask if it needed tokens as it turns out it did and had one shoved across the counter at me. Getting blood out of a stone is a phrase designed for this man.

Annoyingly he also added 4e a night to the fixed price with our camping card for Evelyn. Most campsites don’t charge for kids til four or five, and he’d made no mention of the additional charge either when we booked or when I checked in.

Anyway, on to the trip. Our sights for the week were a series of towns along the Rhine river. On Sunday we chose Boppard to explore, but failed to account for the fact that Germany closes down on a Sunday (outside of the cities at least). While it made it easy to park, we were limited with what to do. It also highlighted another issue with a Saturday moving day, that we would either need to stock up with groceries on the Friday and hope they survive the long trip in a fridge only running on the car connection, or rush to find a shop on the Saturday once we’ve set up when everyone is hot, sweaty and frazzled. Bad planning.

We mooched around the very quiet town checking out the traditional architecture in what was our first experience of Germany. We ended up at a playground which kept Evelyn happy, and then walked along the riverfront promenade until we found signs of life at some riverfront restaurants. Given we had no food in, we stopped for what will be the first of many schnitzels and some lovely local Reisling, watching the river cruise boats pootle down the river. We’d never considered river cruising before, but the idea of stopping off at beautiful villages to explore castles and drink local wine seemed a very charming existence. Another one to add to the list for when the kids are grown up (it’s already quite a long list!).

We also spotted what we thought was a cable car, which, despite Laura being afraid of heights, we’re big fans of, but further research showed it to be a ski lift. Absolutely no chance I’m getting on one of those, and certainly not with two tinies!

Monday was HOT! The crazy heatwave was ramping up and the forecast was 37 degrees. We went off to find groceries and ice cream and then spent the rest of the day hiding in the shade of the awning with the kids in a makeshift babybath paddling pool to keep them cool.

With no signs of the heatwave abating, we headed to Koblenz the next day armed with factor 50 and plenty of water. Luckily Stanley has started tolerating the buggy a bit more so he could chill out under the sunshade rather than needing to be sweatily strapped on to someone.

Koblenz is at the top of the Rhine valley, at the confluence with the Moselle. We got the bus so Simon could have a few drinks, but as usual we ended up far too busy exploring to stop and drink. We did attempt to stop at one wine cellar, only to find it closed after slogging across town for it. With no idea where we were going we jumped off at the bus terminus, only to find this was a mile outside of the centre, just what you need in the mega heat! After walking in to town we headed straight up to Festung Ehrenbreitstein, a large castle overlooking the rivers. Although a bit dubious at first, Evelyn was very excited to be “flying” up to the castle in a cable car.

We tend to not bother going in to places like museums as Evelyn doesn’t have the attention span, but the entrance to the castle and some museums housed in it were included in the cable car price, plus we were seduced by the leaflet’s promise of free wine tasting in the “Musuem of Indulgence”.

Unfotunately the map of the castle we were given was useless and we wandered aimlessly through scorching courtyards and got lost in the labyrinthine bowels of the castle. When we eventually found the wine tasting part, it was only open on Saturdays. Damn, no mention of that on the leaflet.

We did however eventually stumble on the courtyard that overlooked the river and the whole of Koblenz, and that did have a bar. So we sat in the shade having a well earned Reisling / beer while Evelyn made a complete mess of eating a Calipo.

We headed back down the cable car and wandered out to Deutches Eck, the headland that juts out at the joining of the two rivers, dominated by a huge statue of William I. Despite only being in the sun another 1/2hr we were struggling again so sought shade in the gardens behind the statue, only to find on moving again we’d completely missed an awesome free splash park that Evelyn would have loved. Damn.

After that we went on a bit of a wild goose chase trying to find sights that were either closed or well hidden. We eventually found the supposedly infamous spitting boy statue, but were underwhelmed from the heat and the traipsing we’d had to do to find him. So we went and played in some fountains until it was time for our bus home.

The week just kept getting hotter and we desperately needed shade and to cool down. Apparently the town had a municipal pool on the hillside, and what a pool! More of an aqua park, it had a shaded toddler splash zone, junior pool, and a 50m pool complete with high dive boards and a water slide. And plenty of shady trees, all for 4.50e each, result! We happily spent the afternoon there, as did it transpired the rest of Koblenz. The pool was down a narrow lane and cars had been abandoned all over. There was only space for one car to pass at a time, but it turned out there was also a caravan site just beyond the pool. Some poor souls (having already negotiated the steep switch back road up) were trying to get to it at the pool’s “rush hour” and caused chaos. We unfortunately got caught up in the jam with two screaming kids in a car that had sat in the sun all afternoon. Not a fun 1/2hr.

The next day we went off exploring more of the villages dotting the banks of the Rhine. St Goar and St Goarhausen sat on opposite banks, and Evelyn enjoyed the novelty of the ferry between the two. Despite another scorching day, we slogged up the hill to Katz castle to be rewarded with excellent ruins to explore, and fantastic views along the Rhine.

From there we headed on to Loreley, a town perched high up on the hillside with more amazing views down the Rhine.

Our final day in the Rhine valley was spent back at the pool, before the horribly sweaty job of packing up the awning ready for our next journey. Onwards, to the Romantic Road…

Where we stayed

Camping Wolfsmuhle

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