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Home Page > Travelogues > Germany > Hessen > Rüdesheim


State of Hessen

Rüdesheim -- Drop on by the Drosselgasse


State of Hessen

Most of the German part of the Rhein River valley wound among the country's bustling industrial base, including such major cities as Mannheim, Cologne, and Düsseldorf.  But in the province of Rheinland-Pfalz between Mainz and Bonn, the Rhein enjoyed the relative peace, quiet, and beauty of one of Germany's wine regions.  The valley was a very popular destination, with its sprawling vineyards, many huge castles, and charming little towns.  The state of Hessen owns just a small part of riverfront territory, but one of the absolute best was the beautiful little town of Rüdesheim, just a short drive west from Wiesbaden.

Why was Rüdesheim so popular?  Perhaps it is due to its location -- being well within reach of Frankfurt but culturally so far away.  Or, perhaps it was because of its extensive shopping and festivals that ran year-round.  Or, it could be due to the existence of the Seilbahn, that takes thousands of visitors to the top of the ridgeline to get a perfect view of the Rhein from the Niederwald Monument.  Or because of the colorful wine cellars lavishly decorated with flowers.


The riverfront district was always bustling, because it was the first thing visitors saw.  The main road followed the riverbank closely, and the parking lots were at either end of town.  The majority of the big souvenir stands were here, as were the fast-food (German equivalent) stands.

Meanwhile, the real downtown was a block or two inland.  At the east end was a large open market square with the town's main church.  Nearby was the beginning of the main road (Oberstrasse) that parallel the river.  This golden Swiss chalet-type building was one of several terrific outdoor restaurants along the roads.

This was another view of the Oberstrasse in the middle of a very hot day.  The street was lined with cafes and ice cream parlors which were very busy.  In the distance was a yellow tourist train that somehow made its way through the crowd every fifteen minutes.  There are several wine cellars like this one where, for a fee, visitors are free to sample various local wines in a sophisticated environment and talk wine with the experts.  The Zum Felsenkeller was in the middle of the main street, not far from the Seilbahn.
Probably the most talked about spot in Rüdesheim was the Drosselgasse, a narrow cobblestone avenue in the western part of town.  It was the town's cultural heart, loaded with beautifully decorated restaurants, open-air winegardens, and massive souvenir shops.  Live music played all through the summertime, whether it was traditional bands or karaoke.  The tightness of the street never seems to deter -- it was always packed elbow-to-elbow!

One of the most scenic things to do was take the Seilbahn (cable car) to the Niederwald Denkmal.  The fifteen minute open air ride went over the vineyards from only a couple meters above the ground.  One could also take a shallow-grade walk or bike ride through the vineyards up to the Denkmal (or one could drive it as well).  It was relaxing, so long as one was not afraid of heights.

The Denkmal itself was magnificent.  It was so large that it was easily visible from all the way across the Rhein, yet its detailing was so intricate that one had to get up close to appreciate it.  There was more to do on the hill as well, such as an aviary established in the woods behind it.  I had the pleasure of watching a falconer bringing out a large raptor for exercise, letting it soar over the crowd then taking a rest on the railing just long enough for the tourists to take nice up-close photos.  The aviary is open to the public for a small fee.

Rüdesheim has a number of great museums.  The must-see among them is shown above -- the Rheingau Wine Museum located in the Brömser Castle (the square brick tower) at the riverfront at the westernmost point in town.  Containing hundreds of exhibits of original medieval winemaking equipment, the Wine Museum celebrated hundreds of years of the region's major trade.  The view from the top was terrific as well.

The last two pictures cover scenes along the river to the east.  This beautiful castle-like structure was the old customs house, now repainted pink and white and converted to a museum. But further east, the road turned inland toward Wiesbaden and the riverfront became a huge park, including this walking trail and an adjacent marina.  We had a terrific view of another castle across the Rhein and there were hundreds of ducks and geese to feed.

If you have time, you might also consider taking a ferry ride across the Rhein to the town of Bingen.  Bingen was not as touristic, but it had its own castles and wine cellars to boast.  Rüdesheim was a great day trip.  Easy to get to and loads of fun, it was a wonderful place to go if one wanted to see the Rhein River at its best.  However, as it was very popular, I recommend arriving early in the day as the parking lots filled pretty quickly.

Trip taken 3 May 2002 -- Page last updated 26 October 2006 -- (C) 2006 Tom Galvin

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