21 July 2010
We departed mountainous Switzerland and headed for the famous Rhine Valley, the area which was demilitarised by the Treaty of Versailles after the 1st World War because of its recognised importance to Germany; as both a key trading route and likely area to begin a military expansion from.
On the way we stopped for an hour in the old town of Heidelberg famous for a particular brand of ‘kissing’ chocolates. I believe the soppy story went something along the line of a chocolate maker devising a special chocolate for young lovers to give to each other as edible gifts. Those chocolate makers will do anything to make a penny; I’d barely finished my Swiss chocolate however I found room for a taste, pretty good.
Driving along the river Rhine we saw numerous old castles perched on hilltops looking over the river, built in a time long ago when Barons controlled the land and charged taxes to sea merchants looking to trade along the river Rhine. We were told to look out for ‘Lorelei Rock’, a rock many merchants in the difficult currents of the Rhine had run aground on; the story goes that it was not bad seafaring but rather the tempting ghost of a young lady on the rock. Apparently this ghost was traced to be that of a young lady called Lorelei, who committed suicide for reasons to do with love, a broken heart or something. If you are interested in ghost stores you should read my Lincoln Ghost Experience post.
We were staying the night in Koblenz to break up the trip from Switzerland to Amsterdam. Koblenz has a Coo Coo Clock which features as the largest free standing Coo Coo Clock in the Guinness Book of Records. We saw the clock and visited a beer stein shop [Another Contiki stop at a shop]. We had dinner at the bar/restaurant above the beer stein shop before making our way to an optional wine tasting. This part of the Rhine Valley is known for its Riesling wines; we tried 7 different varieties of varying sweetness and were given a brief run down on how they were made. Lastly we were given the option to try a small amount of their Ice Wine, it was explained that ice wine is made by leaving the grape on the vine at the end of the picking season and waiting for a potential frost to freeze the grapes. If a frost does not occur the grapes left on the vines are wasted and no ice wine is made that season. If a frost does occur the frozen grapes are processed into wine, however it takes seven times the number of grapes to make one bottle of Ice Wine compared to normal wine. The wines were reasonably priced at seven Euro for a normal and twenty-eight for a bottle of the Ice Wine. Later that night we slept in a modest hotel about 10 minutes from the central street of Koblenz; the town although nice had a sleepy feel to it so most of the group got an early night in preparation for a final colossal stop in Amsterdam.