Days Of Rhine And Whoases

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It’s been a minute since I’ve posted an update, but for good reason: I’ve been busy! Part of what has occupied my attention was a little trip I took to Western Europe thanks to a crazy cheap ticket I found. You can search Insta for #DaysOfRhineAndWhoases to follow those adventures in more detail.

I landed in Charleroi, Belgium, and hopped on a bus to Luxembourg. I’m fascinated by tiny countries, and while Luxembourg isn’t quite a microstate, it’s pretty darn small. The Airbnb where I stayed was a five-minute walk from the French border, and it was an easy afternoon trip by train and bus out to Vianden Castle on the other side of the country, a route that took me within sight of the German border. Here are some photos from Vianden (the castle and the town).

I took a train to Strasbourg, France. I didn’t get much time there, but I was able to leisurely stroll around the beautiful and historic city center, which straddles a tributary of the Rhine called the Ill. It would be quite nice to spend more time here in the future.

The next train took me up the Rhine to Mainz, Germany. My focus here wasn’t Mainz itself, but rather the nearby village of Rudesheim am Rhein. This little town was nestled along the river at the base of a hill covered with vineyards, and near the top of the hill, overlooking the town, was Eibingen Abbey. The abbey’s claim to fame is that it was founded in the twelfth century by composer, scientist, and mystic St. Hildegard of Bingen. It was a bit of a climb to get up there, but I spent most of the day wandering around the property. The view of the Rhine River valley below was wonderful, and the atmosphere felt sacred even with tourists and locals wandering about. It made for a good Sabbath for me.

My train the next day took me along the Rhine for a couple hours, the river my constant companion as we chugged past castle-crested hills and sleepy villages. This was easily the most beautiful train ride on this trip, and it ended in the city of Koblenz. As with Strasbourg, I only had an afternoon to wander around town, but it was a pleasant stroll, one which included a fantastic view of a medieval fortress across the river.

Next came Bonn, which, while lovely, was the least remarkable stop. It was worth the time, however, to this music lover to see the house where Ludwig van Beethoven was born.

I arrived in Cologne (or Koln) just in time for the start of Carnival, a week of partying that leads up to Ash Wednesday and Lent. While my priority there was to get some work done, I got out in the morning for a couple hours to wander the streets packed with drunk, costumed revelers. Once my introverted self had had his fill, I returned to my Airbnb in a quiet neighborhood further upriver.

The next stop was a town called Kerkrade in the Netherlands. It sits right on the border with Germany–and I mean that literally. At one point, the international border actually runs right down the middle of a street, with one lane in Germany and the other in the Netherlands.

After that brief stop, I went on to Baarle-Nassau, a town which is known for another border oddity. Due to some historical land ownership arrangement, parts of this town belong to Belgium–and sometimes sections inside the Belgian parts belong to the Netherlands. It’s like the two countries got splinched together here, or like pixels of two different pictures got mixed up together. As you walk around town, you will find the border marked in the pavement where it crosses streets–or in some cases, splits a house in half. I took a screenshot of my location on my map app at one point where I was standing inside a rare double enclave–a patch of the Netherlands surrounded by a patch of Belgium surrounded by the Netherlands.

So that was the quick version of my little trip that mostly followed the Rhine River. As mentioned, you can find more on Instagram under the silly hashtag #DaysOfRheinAndWhoases.

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