As a child growing up in the Rhein-Main region of Germany, I learned many of the myths and tales told of places along the Rhein. I remember going to some of these places with family visitors and re-telling the stories. During a recent train journey to Cologne, I travelled past some of these places, the names of the towns feeling incredibly familiar, although I really can’t say I know Bingen or St Goarshausen.

I took pictures from the train and only caught two of the places of myth on camera. So rather than telling you ALL the stories, I will limit it to two.

The first is about the payment of customs duties. In the middle of the Rhein river, opposite the town of Kaub, is a little castle on a stoney island.

This is the Burg Pfalzgrafenstein, also called Pfalz at Kaub. Its purpose was to ensure that all passing ships paid their taxes to Ludwig IV, the Bavarian when passing the town of Kaub. The river’s flow used to be such that boats and barges could rarely pass the island on the side nearest the road and train track. By watching all the traffic between the island and the town, customs guards were able to fire at any that did not stop to pay their dues. Dredging and other work on the river in the 1970s now make this the more passable side of the island, enabling frequent ferry trips for tourists from the town to the castle.

The other famous sight I managed to take a picture of is the Loreley. The myth is that a beautiful girl sat at the top of the rocks here. Her singing would distract the sailors on the boats, they would run aground and locals could loot the goods being transported.

Seeing the turn of the river around Loreley, nearly 180°, I suspect navigating the river here would have been difficult regardless of whether a girl was sitting on the rock and singing. I wonder whether she was invented by the shipwrecked mariners as an otherworldly explanation for their poor navigation skills!

I took some more pictures of more castles along the river, but did not note precisely where they were so cannot tell you what they are called, who built them and whether they are now hotels, museums or in private ownership.

Although there are plenty more myths along the river, my remaining pictures tell the tales of modern facts rather than ancient stories. The Rheinhessen wines are known around the world, and although many are not exported, here is where many a grape has grown and been harvested.

By all accounts, the Rhein remains a significant cargo transport route. When there were droughts in the summer of 2022 shipping was disrupted and a number of industries suffered supply issues as a result. On a Wednesday morning in November though, there was not much river traffic.


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