Boppard and the Middle Rhine Valley

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Dating to the 14th century,
Katz Castle still keeps guard
over the Rhine River Gorge at
St. Goarhausen, close to Boppar. All photos by Jeffrey Orenstein

The 761 mile-long Rhine River has played a huge role in European history as it flows from the Swiss mountains to the North Sea. It is simultaneously a major water and rail corridor, tourist attraction and home to medieval castles, battlefields, vineyards and commerce.

The most charming part of the river, the Middle Rhine gorge between Bingen and Bonn, about 80 river miles, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002 and often referred to as the “Romantic Rhine.” It is a wonderful place for a visit.

The delightful city of Boppard is located in the heart of the region. Situated on a sweeping bend in the river, this charming city of about 15,000 people is filled with picturesque half-timbered buildings, enticing shops, mostly riesling vineyards, taverns, restaurants and hotels.

One of the highlights of our trip was just relaxing on our hotel room’s balcony after a day of shopping and exploring. Our riverfront hotel room proved to be an ideal place to enjoy a nice glass of local wine while watching the steady parade of boats on the Rhine, the local ferry scurrying back and forth while it dodged river traffic and the pedestrians strolling along the river promenade.

This frequent stop for Rhine river cruises is an ideal place to base yourself for exploring the Middle Rhine Valley. Boppard is a good place to stay because of its scenic attractions and surroundings, many good hotels and restaurants, local hospitality and friendly people. Throw in its central location along this scenic stretch of the valley and its excellent transportation connections, and it becomes an ideal place to call home-away-from-home as you explore this endlessly fascinating region.

Rudesheim is another beautiful destination in the Middle Rhine. It is a popular stop for Rhine river cruises.

Among the not-to-be-missed nearby attractions, whether you travel by train, boat or car, are the castles along the river (especially the Katz Castle at nearby St. Goarhausen), the storied Lorelie Rocks, great wine taverns and vineyards and excellent eating and shopping in nearby towns and cities.

Before You Go, Check Out:

boppard-tourismus.de/ 1-1-Home.html

youtube.com/watch? v=NNjl2I3uvLI

youtube.com/watch? v=p1KJWbBlBrc

medium.com/ @germanyinuk/middle- rhine-one-of-the-most- visited-tourist-destinations- in-germany-88fe211ceae3

Getting There and Getting Around:

Boppard and the Rhine Valley can be reached by highway, air or train.

Boppard has a busy main railway station, as well as five nearby stops. Railroad lines run on both sides of the river. There is intercity service to Frankfurt and very frequent DB Regio and other local service on the Koblenz-Bingen-Mainz-Frankfurt route. We used our Eurail pass for day trips up and down the valley and enjoyed the convenience and exquisite scenery along the way.

By car, Boppard is on the Bundesstraße (federal highway) 9 which follows the left side of the Rhine. To the west is an interchange with Autobahn A61, and to the east is one with the A3.

The nearest major airport is Frankfurt-Hahn Airport (HHN) in Kirchberg, Germany served by mostly budget airlines. It is about 25 miles from Boppard. International flights are found at Frankfurt Airport (FRA) about 45 miles away and Cologne Bonn Airport (CGN) is about 49 miles away.

The Rhine is a major river cruise artery. In Boppard, ships dock on the river bank next to the old town within walking distance to hotels. KD Day Cruises between Rudesheim and Boppard and return are recommended for those who want a short but scenic all day river cruise experience.

Must-Sees for a Short Trip:

St. Severus Church (the white building) anchors the attractive market square in Boppard.

Among attractions that you should take in are:

The Boppard Center and Market Square

The Rhine Allee riverfront promenade

The Electoral Castle

The Boppard Museum

The Roman Fort

Sipping a glass of the local wine

Dinner at the Römerburg Weinhaus and Restaurant and/or at a riverfront restaurant like Le Chopin im Bellevue Rheinhotel

If You Have Several Days:

A visit to St. Goar and its across-the-river neighbor St. Goarhausen, 10 miles by car, train or boat. Check out Katz Castle and enjoy the river traffic from an outdoor waterfront café.

Visiting the pretty and historic city of Rudesheim am Rhein car or train) 30 miles away by train. Explore the impressive old town. Plan on a full day there.

Taking a day trip to Koblenz, 14 miles away.

Enjoying a day cruise along the river in either direction. Be sure to note the castles and at a boulder-strewn bend in the river — “The Lorelei” — where legend has it that a nymph with an alluring voice lured boatmen to their doom.

Ginny O’s Tips for Dressing the Simply Smart Travel Way for the Rhine Valley:

There are a lot of steps into buildings and hills along the Rhine Valley. Comfortable shoes and clothes are a must. Neat casual will work well.

This Destination at a Glance:

Over 50 Advantage: Great, unhurried shopping, gorgeous scenery and excellent hospitality

Mobility Level: Moderate. Some hills and cobblestones streets will be encountered.

When to Go: By the end of September, many inns and restaurants already start closing for the winter. The best time to go to Boppard from April through September. The temperatures are pleasant, and there is not much rain.

Winters are cold, with some powder skiing in late February and early March.

Where to Stay: We loved the riverfront Hotel Rheinlust with its spectacular views. The riverfront has many such hotels and many more are in the town We recommend staying along the river.

Special Travel Interests: German history, castles along the Rhine, Riesling wine.

Jewish Boppard and the Rhine Valley

Jews have been in Boppard and the Rhine Valley, and alternatively suffered and flourished there, for at least a millennium.

Historians report Jews being murdered in Boppard in the 11th century by crusaders and other anti- Semites who perpetrated ritual murder inspired by the myth of “blood libel.” By the 15th century, Jews were expelled from Boppard by the local bishop and did not return until the 16th century. By the 18th century, Jews established a permanent and apparently stable community.

The peak Jewish population of Boppard was about 100 at the turn of the 20th century and 92 Jews were there by the time the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi Party) took power.

In Boppard, Jews were assaulted on Kristallnacht in 1938 and Jewish-owned homes and businesses were wrecked. Most Jews fled by 1941. In April 1942, the town’s remaining 32 Jews were deported. At least 52 Boppard Jews perished in the Holocaust. Three Jews settled in Boppard after World War II but subsequently left.

The plundered and destroyed synagogue was reintegrated into the cityscape decades later. The building was purchased by optician Robert Holz in 1990 and, after compiling old documents and information, he had it renovated and restored.

Elsewhere in the Rhine Valley, Peter Worstsman reported in The New York Times in 2014, “There have been Jews in the Rhineland for as long as anybody’s been singing about it. They first sailed down the Rhine along with the Roman army. The earliest written testament to Jewish life in the region is an edict signed in A.D. 321 by Emperor Constantine allowing Jews to be elected to the curia of Cologne.” He went on to discuss Jewish communities in Cologne, Mainz, Worms and Speyer.

It is estimated that more than 115,000 people who identify as Jewish live in contemporary Germany. It is difficult to know how many of them live in the Rhine Valley, but many Jews do live there today. While German Jews still endure anti-Semitism, they continue to persevere.

Jeffrey and Virginia Orenstein are travel writers from Sarasota, Florida.

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