Rüdesheim am Rhein has been around since at least 1071 where it was mentioned in ancient texts as a place for winemaking and timber rafting. The Romans were in the area long before that and it was originally settled by ancient Celts. Not much has changed for this village in 400 years. Sure there are electric lights, WiFi, running water, and plenty of tourists but underneath this facade lies the medieval soul of a Rhine River village. The half-timbered house above, built in 1542, is the Brömserhof — the ancestral home of the Brömser family. Johann Brömser was a German knight who fought in the crusades. It contained a private chapel (the painted vaulted ceilings are still intact) and intricate frescoes. Today it houses a mechanical music museum where visitors can see self-playing organs, intricate music boxes that weigh tons, and machines that replicate an entire orchestra, including the strings and woodwinds. Pretty amazing stuff.
Kongo was particularly impressed with one particular instrument that played Wagner melodies by a troop of mechanical monkeys in costume. Even way back then there were talented simians inhabiting this region!
Narrow cobblestone streets, brightly contrasting architecture, and private gardens draping over ancient walls are irresistible to Kongo. Away from the main drag the village is pretty much deserted and tourists rarely stray into the side streets.
Like all very old towns in this part of Europe, there is a hodgepodge of architecture tangled up together in a way that is charming and easy on the eye. The half-timbered buildings consisted of a timber frame that was filled in with wattle and dub, bricks, mud, and then plastered. Using heavy, notched timbers these structures could be constructed to support considerable weight and many of these buildings rose to thee or four stories, even in ancient times.
Everly little village had its church and Rüdensheim was no different. The church was the center of village life and in Germany many changed from catholic to protestant during the reformation. You can tell what denomination a church is by looking at the steeple. In Germany, France, Switzerland, and Holland protestant churches usually had a rooster on top. Catholics had crosses. Now actually this wasn’t a hard and fast rule. Sometimes catholic churches had roosters (particularly in France) and protestant churches were adorned with a cross but in Europe, the practice was generally roosters for protestants and crosses for catholic. Why a rooster? It goes back to the night Jesus was arrested by the Romans and Jesus told Peter, who swore eternal fealty, that in fact he would betray him three times before the cock crowed. The rooster thus became a symbol of man’s failing and the forgiveness of God.
Not much history happened here. It pretty much was always a quiet village focused on commerce from the Rhine River and the good grapes on the hillsides. No great battles were waged here and nobody famous seems to have come from this town. Goethe did stay in the Eagle Castle during trips to Rüdesheim and Johann Brahms reportedly wrote a symphony here. Other than that, life here went on pretty much unchanged for centuries. That’s what makes Rüdesheim such a delightful place to visit.
Travel safe. Have fun!