Yes, I’ve been on my travels again through the western Germany countryside, haven’t I?
And finding a certain bridge (or, rather, what remains of a certain bridge) is not easy when you don’t use your head.
But first, let’s return to the Hotel From Hell. Because it really was a bad night and I regret every moment that I spent there.
Yes, I’ve bombed spectacularly with this place.
Never mind checking the area to see about railway lines – this is the old station building that’s been converted into a guest house. So it’s right by a busy main-line railway.
And the shunting in the yard starts up at 04:00 in the morning, along with the accompanying warning sirens. If you’re a light sleeper like me, you can forget any notion whatever of having a decent sleep.
Closing the window didn’t help matters either because 5 minutes later the room was like an oven. And that was a shame because the room itself wasn’t too bad as budget rooms go.
But I did manage to go off on a few travels regardless.
We started off back at the taxi place where I have the Cortina LND9P. It was Sunday evening and I was awaiting the arrival of the radio operator – none other than our old friend TOTGA. And looking through the books I could see that we hadn’t turned a wheel since the previous Sunday when she was here. So I hoped that things would be better and pick up, or else I may as well close down.
Later, I was off to Stoke on Trent on a Saturday afternoon, with the plan being to visit a scrapyard. Saturday afternoons, as everyone knows, are really busy in scrapyards but this one was empty, no-one was about and all of the cars were overgrown with weeds. Of course, fewer and fewer people repair their own cars these days, and tighter pollution controls means that cars head off to the scrapyards themselves long before they are in need of any major repair.
Later still, we were on a big double-decker coach coming out of a French port, and up a steep hill on a gravel road. Our route took us up past a big camp site and then we disappeared into the rolling hills. At a certain moment we all alighted and the driver disappeared off with the bus. That gave us an opportunity to explore the area on foot. A crowd of us went through into some cave-type of places that were old lime-kilns and were stuffed with old French cars lying around abandoned and derelict. After we’d been talking for a while I drew the attention of someone in our party, a car enthusiast, to one kiln where there was a pale green Peugeot 403. He was so keen that I decided not to disappoint him by telling him of the even better ones he had missed. Two of us ended up walking in the hills and this was tiring me out. But the bus driver came to fetch me as he was having an argument in a garage and the proprietor didn’t understand him. He told me that the proprietor wanted to charge him for a whole ruck of repairs on the steering, but the driver had said that he had greased and oiled it himself and it was only minor adjustments that the garage had done. The proprietor said that the bill related to earlier work, and that rang a bell with me as I remembered the bus having to be suspended-towed in to the garage some time previously. And while we were discussing things, I went out for some fresh air and a walk, and there was another bus and an accident-damaged small lorry being towed into the garage.
Once the alarms went off I had a shower and settled down to write up last night’s note, but for one reason or another the hotel’s internet system wouldn’t accept the *.ftp procedures to upload the photos.
and my heart wasn’t much in it either after the bad night. 10:00 was checking-out time and the cleaner was knocking on the door to “encourage” me to leave.
Outside, not only was Caliburn still there but no-one had stolen his wheels. That’s one thing to be thankful for, I suppose. I was rather worried about that.
First stop was the river to see what was going on, driving past a B&B Hotel not 500 yards from where I stayed.
And you’ve no idea just how difficult it was to find my way down here too. There were roadworks everywhere and I couldn’t get to where I needed to be.
In the end I had to improvise something, and I ended up eventually on the industrial estate.
Here, I was treated to a nautical danse macabre by several barges.
You’ve no idea just how busy the Rhine is, and the amount of commercial traffic that’s flowing up and down it.
The UK’s only navigable commercial inland waterway, the Manchester Ship Canal, was closed down and a Shopping Centre built on Pomona Docks, but here in Germany, water transport plays a vital role in the economy.
The assemblies of delegates of the Holy Roman Empire were called “Diets” and several of those took place in the town of Worms which is just up the road from here.
The most famous Diet of Worms took place in 1521, when Martin Luther was summoned before the Assembly to defend several of his works that Pope Leo X
The Assembly ended with him being denounced as a dangerous heretic, but his demeanour at the Diet won him some very influential friends.
This gorgeous stone building here in the background is actually a gatehouse for the bridge that crosses the Rhine here.
Its style and immense size gives you some idea of the wealth and importance of the city in Medieval times.
It was a Free City of the Holy Roman Empire, its ruling Council being directly subordinate to the Emperor himself.
And river traffic is quite intense here too, with an endless stream of barges passing up and down the river.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a Ship Of The Day of course, but this would qualify as a Barge of the Day in anyone’s reckoning.
It’s loaded up with scrap and is pushing a lighter down in front of it which is likewise loaded. There can’t be much less than 1,000 tonnes on there – the equivalent of 30-odd lorries.
Regular readers of this rubbish in one of its previous incarnations will recall that we once went for a train ride up through the Ruhr, and noticed how all of the land at the side of the railway was still flattened and overgrown following the devastation of the allied bombing during World War II
Worms was a fortified stronghold of the German Army and as well as suffering from Harris’s indiscriminate bombing, was attacked twice in early 1945 by massive fleets of bombers in an attempt to force out the defenders.
In one attack, on 21st February, 334 bombers dropped an estimated 1100 tonnes of bombs on the city in just a couple of minutes.
It didn’t work, and the city didn’t fall until it was outflanked after the Crossing of the Rhine.
And just as in the Ruhr, I bet that this area around the cathedral looked totally different prior to the bombing.
The post-war Strategic Bombing Survey suggested that almost 40% of the city had been destroyed in the air attacks of 1945. Nearly 6500 buildings had been damaged or totally destroyed and several hundred civilians killed.
I stopped at the kaufland supermarket on the edge of Oppenheim to do some shopping, and back on the road I was held up at a level crossing.
It’s not easy photographing a moving target with the little Nikon as the lapse time is longer than i ought to be, but I managed to photograph some of an electric multiple unit on its way to Mainz.
And when I’m reunited with my Jane’s Train Recognition Guide I can tell you all about it
Now, have you any idea just how difficult it is to drive around Mainz?
Mainz is like three cities merged into one and if you forget in which order they are, you can drive aroundfor ever in an eternal loop.
What doesn’t help of course is The Lady Who Lives In The SatNav who has difficulty in understanding grade-separated junctions, and a new fault that she seems to have developed in that she doesn’t know her Cardinal Points.
Here I was with the river on my right-hand side and the sun behind me, so clearly heading north-ish, and she telling me that I’m going south-west.
After a while, I gave up and finding a little quiet corner down by the river, stopped for lunch.
Back on the road, after she had tried to send me down a public footpath and then three times round the same corner of the city while I tried to work my own way round a grade-separated junction, I did what I should have done first rather than last.
I picked up a road sign for Koblenz, which is on the river north of Mainz, and drove 10 miles down the motorway, making sure that the distance to Koblenz was decreasing, and then pulled off the motorway to find the river.
And the interchange was exciting too.
Remember me talking the other day about castle ruins in the middle of Germany? Here’s another not-quite-a-ruin just at the side of the motorway exit.
We’re now in the Rhine valley – the Gateway to Central Europe – and this area was fought over almost as much as Flanders and North-East France
Having rejoined the Rhine at Bingen am Rhein, we end up in the quaintly-named town of Bacharach.
We’ve seen all of the vines and grapes growing in the Rhine Valley, and just as in France, there are plenty of Chateaux here and there, just as in Bacharach, which are presumably the domains of the owners;
But I’m not keen on the colours of the parasols, I’ll tell you that.
It’s round about Bacharach that we start to meet the typical Rhine scenery too as the river begins to cut its course through the mountains.
This is the kind of view that you’ll see on any picture postcard of the Rhine, despite the fact that probably only 100 kms of its route passes through this sort of terrain.
You won’t ever see a picture postcard view of the docks at Ludwigshafen, that’s for sure.
We mentioned fortifications just now, and also the fact that the Rhine is the gateway to Central Europe.
It was consequently heavily-defended during the Middle Ages and castles and the like were erected at every conceivable strategic location to control the passage up the river.
One of the best has to be the castle that was built here on this island in the middle of the river near St Goar. No commercial traffic could pass up here without being within primitive cannon-range of the castle.
And that’s not the only castle here too.
There’s a fortified castle at the same location but in the hills on the western side of the river overlooking one of the meanders.
From this kind of viewpoint you can see for miles any traffic coming up and down the river and have your rowing boat ready to nip out and collect the tolls.
Being a landowner with a castle on the banks of the Rhine was a very profitable occupation, although it did usually attract the ire of the inhabitants of the towns situated up- and down-stream, often with exciting results.
And talking of excitement, we had some excitement in St Goar. A bunch of grockles decided that they would amble across the road at their own pace right in front of Caliburn, doubtless too busy listening for the Loreley than to pay attention tp oncoming traffic, and were most upset when I gave them “Hail Columbia” on Caliburn’s horn.
And during the resultant discussion, I never realised just how good my German actually was. It’s a long time since I’ve had to remind people just who lost the war and they should get out of the way of the victors.
Not that it’s the kind of thing that I usually do, but it’s much more pointed than telling them to **** off.
I blinked and missed Boppard – a horrible nasty place full of even more grockles, and continued northwards.
My journey brought me to the town of Rhens, of which the chief claim to fame is that it’s twinned with Barnsley in Yorkshire, for which I apologise.
It was also a fortified city in the Middle Ages and despite the warfare that has ravaged the area over the centuries, not the least of which was in March 1945, there are still some vestiges remaining.
There was also an old GPO red telephone box here too. everyone wants them except the Brits, it seems.
Koblenz received the same treatment as Boppard, mainly for the same reason but also due to the fact that it was now rush-hour.
Instead, I headed straight for my next destination, Remagen and the remains of its famous bridge.
For some reason, the bridge was quite difficult to find – as if a street called something like the “allee den Alten Rheinbruck” wouldn’t give me a clue.
In the end, I had to park up on the outskirts of the town and do some research.
But eventually I tracked down what remains of the bridge.
In World War II all of the bridges over the Rhine were packed with dynamite to demolish them should the need arise.
But following the premature explosion of another bridge when it was hit by a bomb and the subsequent court-martial of the officers commanding, the dynamite was removed, to be replaced when any enemy advance threatened the bridge.
By the time the Americans threatened the bridge, the only dynamite available was very substandard and not powerful enough to demolish the bridge. And in any case; some of the charges failed to explode.
And so it was still standing when the Americans arrived.
It didn’t fall until many days later, and then only due to the fanatical attacks by Luftwaffe bombing attacks and rocket barrages. But by then a pontoon bridge had been erected across the river.
Until the 1950s the pillars were still standing in the middle of the river but they were hazardous to shipping and were removed.
Its building had been proposed as part of the Schlieffen Plan for a rapid attack on France.
Linking the railways on the eastern bank of the Rhine with those on the western bank could speed up the deployment of troops and supplies.
And if you look very carefully, you can see the tunnel in the rock into which the railway disappeared.
Building took place between 1916 and 1919, too late to be of any real use in World War I
Bonn seemed to be the obvious choice for a place to stay, but I was wary after the budget hotel that I had had in Ludwigshafen.
So looking further afield I found much to my surprise that a hotel that I had seen earlier in Kripp, about 5 miles south of here and right on the banks of the Rhine, had a room with breakfast at just €53:00.
I’d been impressed by the look of that place, and so I reserved a room
On my way down back south we noticed another “Barge of the Day”
We’ve seen some impressively big container ships in our time, and although you won’t ever get them up the Rhine, this barge is impressive enough and shows you another example of the kind of freight that sails … “diesels” – ed … up here.
Having seen what I have seen of Germany’s economy and industry along the Rhine, long before we get to the Ruhr of course, it really is unstoppable and people living in the UK, where factories are being demolished and replaced by supermarkets selling imported goods, who think that they can compete with this are really totally out of their minds.
So now I’m esconsed in my little room. Small, and probably more at home in the 1970s (but then again, so am I) but there’s everything that I need just here and I even have a side-on view of the Rhine.
What more can any man desire – apart from Kate Bush and Jenny Agutter of course?
It was such a nice evening that I went for a walk outside later on.
Across the Rhine just here is the town of Linz and if you had been here in late March 1945 you would have had a completely different view than today.
Never mind the bomb and artillery damage – when the US engineers inspected the Ludendorf Bridge and declared it potentially unsafe, they constructed a pontoon bridge across the river at this point.
What we have today though is a car ferry, and that’s always going to be exciting news.
However, it’s not usually good news for Caliburn, Strawberry Moose and Yours Truly to see a car ferry, though.
We usually all end up in a bad mood, because a car ferry is that kind of thing that always makes us cross.
But we can see about that tomorrow. It’s bed-time right now.