We have entered another world. One populated with improbable precariously perched fairytale castles. Where the line between past and present, real and fantasy is blurred. The stretch of the Rhine between Koblenz and Mainz is a Unesco world heritage listed area. At Loreley Rock the river narrows.
Legend has it that Loreley was angry with the guy who dumped her, so she threw herself off the rock and now her spirit is said to lure boats in to her rock and then destroy them. She swore death upon all sailors. Sounds like the Siren of Messina who according to Greek legend also sang sailors to their doom.
Further along the Rhine near Spay, two castles are separated by a wall; Sterrenberg and Leibenstien. It’s the old story of brothers in love with their cousin and she spurned them. One brother went off to the Crusades and married a Cretian princess and brought her back to Germany. She promptly made off with a passing Prince, apparently because it was too cold here in Germany. The other brother pined in isolation for an unrequited love. The brothers embittered with each other built a wall to separate themselves.
If you’re a prince looking for a princess this is the place to be. The whole environment looks and feels like a movie set. It’s real enough though. We stop riding and walk the narrow streets of the small village towns along paths still walked by pilgrims. We have met a few walkers on their way to Rome or the Camino in Spain.
We stopped in Rhesner and filled our water bottles from a naturally carbonated spring dating back to the 13th century that is made available for free to passer by’s. Here we chatted with a devout Dutch pilgrim walking from Amsterdam to Rome.
On the steep escarpments above the river, well tended grape vines, vegetable and fruit crops flourish in a mosaic of colour. We meet dozens of other touring cyclists: Sven, a native of Germany, freshly back from a cycle tour of Patagonia in Chile and Craig and Sue an American / Canadian couple cycling the Rhine from the opposite direction to us from Basel to Rotterdam. We exchange tips and information on the path ahead. It’s useful to check out other tourers rigs and how they are set up.
It’s summer here and heating up. Fresh fruit and vegetables are in abundance. The cycling’s wonderful, as we ride effortlessly through some of the most picturesque country I have ever seen.