Yesterday Kongo sailed through the Rhine gorge, a section of the Rhine River known as the “Middle Rhine.” This is a spectacular stretch of country filled with castles, charming medieval villages, and perhaps a lurking dragon or two.
This 80-mile section of the Rhine River, from roughly Koblenz to Rüdesheim, is designated a Unesco World Heritage site so there are no bridges or other distractions from the area’s natural beauty and charm.
The emergence of the castles was a result of the fragmentation of the area in the late middle ages. It seemed that nearly every little village needed a castle to protect itself from the other villages and to compete with each other in trade. Since the Rhine was a major transportation artery, many of the towns became quite wealthy by charging taxes on the cargoes going up and down the river.
France and Germany have long fought over this region. Many of the castles were destroyed in the 30-Years War and later Napoleon conquered much of the area then France lost it again after Waterloo. Prussia ruled the region from the early 19th century until the German emperors took over.
The steeps sides of the Rhine Valley are filled with terraced vineyards. Romans introduced wine to the region but it really begin to take off in the Middle Ages and has been going strong ever since. The topography of the steep slopes on either side of the river creates its own micro climate where cold air is drawn out of the valley. The region is particularly well suited for late ripening Riesling grapes and about 70% of the wine produced here is of that variety. Kongo drank a LOT of Riesling wine during his passage through this area!
At the narrowest part of the Rhine Gorge, the imposing rock of Lorelei thrusts itself into the river. Legend has it that sirens used to inhabit the cliff and would sing sweet, irresistible songs to passing mariners, luring them onto the rocks where they would then be sucked into whatever sirens actually do with sailors. Many Lorelei songs and poems tell the melancholy tale. Kongo heard no sirens, but he did listen to the Lorelei song played over and over on the ship’s speaker system, providing at least some insight to what a torturous thing it might be to taken prisoner by sirens!
Travel safe. Have fun. Avoid sirens!