In this, the third and final segment of our tour along the Romantic Rhine, we travel the river from Boppard to Rüdesheim.
By Jim Johnson
As primary launching pad for tours to the nearby Loreley, St. Goar throbs with tourists. Many of them clog shops lined with cuckoo clocks and Mozartkugel and talk excitedly about the store with the "World's Biggest Beer Stein." Unfortunately, compared with other towns, relatively few buildings of historic interest remain in St. Goar.
Still, the town is a must-see, if only for Burg Rheinfels, perhaps the best castle experience on the Rhine. It is the region's most massive ruin, with nearly 100 rooms, defensive walls, ramparts, drawbridge, moat, parade grounds and tunnels. Ruin is a relative term, since the Rheinfels still presents a full and powerful picture of a medieval Rhine fortress. And, unlike most castles, visitors are allowed to walk freely—after paying about €4 for adults, €2 for children—through almost all of it, including a labyrinth of underground passageways and rows of massive rooms. Since there's little signage, a guided tour (available in English) is a good idea before wandering around. Also recommended is a visit to the castle museum. By learning the history of the fortress, visitors also gain a historical context for other Rhine castles and villages.
During the last two weekends in August, a cast of 60 townspeople and professionals presents the Rheinfels SAGA, a stunning multi-media performance that highlights major events in the 13th-century history of the town and castle. At times, the audience is led by torchlight to various areas of the fortress, the walk being punctuated by convincing explosions and fireworks. Though it's in German, the experience is still worthwhile for those who don't speak the language. It's helpful, however, to take the previously mentioned tour or pick up Burg Rheinfels: A Historical Guide, available at the tourist office.