The Road Ahead : February March 2014
ROADAHEAD.COM.AU 34 IMAGES: NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE, BURG NAMEDY CASTLE (INSET). TRAVEL | DEPARTURE INTERNATIONAL THE ROAD AHEAD FEB/MAR 2014 POETS, PAINTERS AND composers have been captivated and inspired by it for centuries and now cruise passengers are falling under its spell in increasing numbers. This is the Rhine River, which flows for 1233km from the Swiss Alps to the North Sea, and is one of the longest and most important rivers in Europe. It is the Middle Rhine or Romantic Rhine Valley, named because of its postcard scenery of villages, terraced vineyards and hilltop castles between Mainz and Koblenz that now draws river travellers. More than 40,000 Australians opt for river cruises each year to fully experience the Rhine and its castles, the ruins of more than 40 of which stretch along the Romantic Rhine Valley. Built over a period of more than 1000 years on cliffs above the cities and towns by emperors, kings, princes, bishops and robber barons, the castles gave the occupants command of the river. As well as protecting the surrounding countryside, they were also tollhouses, charging shipping for the right to pass unmolested downstream. The castles were usually surrounded by vineyards and it is these scenic terraces which now produce some of the best wines in the region. Many were abandoned or damaged during the wars of the 17th century, but their dramatic hilltop locations overlooking the river led to the restoration that took place in the 19th century. The Burg Namedy castle is on one of the most picturesque stretches of the Rhine, with a history that stretches back to the end of the 14th century. It was originally a moated castle and, in 1908, Prince Carl-Anton von Hohenzollern and his wife Princess Joséphine of Belgium, bought Namedy as a residence. In 1988, Prince Godehard took over the estate and, with his wife Princess Heide, established a project to make Burg Namedy the centre of cultural activity it has become. romancing the rhine HISTORIC CASTLES IN POSTCARD SETTINGS DON'T COME ANY FINER. STORY MIKE O'CONNOR If you're heading overseas, remember to take out travel insurance. RACQ members who purchase travel insurance online save 20 percent. Conditions apply. For more information, visit racq.com/travel or contact RACQ's travel team on 1300 188 713. OFFER RACQ TRAVEL MEMBER OFFER Open to tourists, it is one the most visited attractions along the Romantic Rhine Valley, with cruise passengers able to enjoy a champagne reception in the Knights Hall and dinner in the Hall of Mirrors. Other outstanding examples are the Marksburg, the only undamaged hilltop castle in the Middle Rhine Valley, and the Burg Pfalzgrafenstein, which stands on a rocky island in the middle of the Rhine. There are also the Burg Rheinfels and the Stolzenfels castles, the latter being destroyed by the French in 1689. It was completely rebuilt by Prince Frederick William, of Prussia, and became his summer residence, a move that encouraged the restoration and the building of even more castles.