The Rhine from Assmannshausen, near Rudesheim

Rhineland Rambles

20th July 2012

John Carter, long-time presenter of both ITV's Wish You Were Here and the BBC’s Holiday programmes, relives some pleasant experiences in the castles and vineyards of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and recommends Rhineland rambles

For most people, a holiday in the Rhineland Palatinate means a cruise along the magnificent river, whose finest stretch is, arguably, that between Koblenz and Mainz.

That was certainly my first experience – and my second and my third – before I forsook the water and began to explore the countryside on either side of it. Until then, the Rhine dominated my visits, with its Wagnerian legends and lore, and its bankside communities whose only reason for existence, it seemed, was to provide a photo opportunity for visitors.

The little town of Boppard stands out in my recollections, because it was there that we met a ‘Wine Queen’ who came on board our vessel to tell us about the local labels and take us through the ceremonies of a wine-tasting evening. Unfortunately, the British passengers were inclined to drink rather than to taste and, as the evening proceeded, it got somewhat out of hand. The Wine Queen did not seem to mind as her sparkling tiara came adrift, her hair tumbled down and her chums from Boppard joined enthusiastically in the celebrations, turning the affair into a sort of Anglo-German wine supping contest. It certainly broke the ice among the passengers who, until then, had been on their best behaviour.

I hold that up as a warning to be on your guard when the Rhine wine flows. It is, as one of my companions commented, ‘a remarkably easy drink’.

One of the problems with a river cruise – with any holiday on the move, for that matter – is that you never have time to explore thoroughly the places through which you pass. Just as you are deciding that you could cheerfully spend a few days in some port of call or other, you have to get aboard and get moving.

Boppard is a perfect example of this. It took me about five or six years to get back there on a holiday which gave me time enough to appreciate the place. The same goes for Rudesheim, a pretty town with masses of geraniums in hanging baskets and more roses on display than is good for a place of its size.

Each was, originally, a brief port of call. Each has, subsequently, become a base for exploring a beautiful region of Germany – so interesting both historically as well as scenically, in fact, that it has UNESCO World Heritage status. The terrain is what enthusiastic walkers describe as ‘between moderate and energetic’; as my ability is declining with the passing years, I tend to the moderate end of that scale, but derive great pleasure nonetheless – especially from a dedicated walking holiday, such as the Rhine Castles and Vineyards offering from RWH: four nights in Boppard and three in Rudesheim. You walk on both banks of the mighty river, using part of the Rhine Castles Way and – from the Rudesheim base – through the vineyards for which the region is famous. The extra energetic (not me, now) will enjoy the most recent variant, a walking and cycling combination to the same magnificent region.

The week-long deal, including flights between London and Frankfurt, train and boat travel in Germany, and half-board in three-star hotels, costs from £699 walking only, or from £769 with cycle hire included for three days.

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