Hi all! Yes, I know I haven’t posted anything this year and it’s killing me not to get to really do the Camino this summer. I have a pretty major qualification I’m in the process of getting which is taking all the money I would normally spend on the Camino (no paid holiday :-() so it will likely be next year before I get a nice, long trip. I may decide to take off a week and do a 5 day hike if I can save enough, so fingers crossed! I have, however, been doing lots of day hikes closer to home, and last weekend a friend and I decided to check out the Rheinburgenweg. When we got there in the morning I was totally excited to see Jakobsmuschel signs everywhere!
Turns out the Rheinburgenweg and the Jakobsweg join forces on the Rhein, so, awesome! We picked Bad Salzig to St. Goar as it is supposed to be one of the most beautiful stretches of the whole trail, but also one of the most difficult. Pro Tip: when a German hiking guide says a trail is “difficult” dear lord they do mean it. Luckily they also mean it when they label it an especially lovely trek.
We started out bright and early in Bad Salzig and headed straight up the mountain, and then down the other side on a trail so steep we actually slid down a good part of it! Luckily there was only a little bit of rain and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. All the trails on this stretch are dirt or field, so make sure you come prepared with dry socks. Trust me on this one.
The climbs are extreme but always when you’re about to give up hope, you’ll come across a viewpoint with giant benches to take a break and enjoy the fruits of your labors. There’s also a place with a famous statue of the Bietende Nonne and a Unesco flag which is totally worth seeing.
The first town you come to is Hirzenach, and it’s absolutely worth taking some extra time to see the parish gardens. Also noteworthy is that if you are hoping to find a cafe to rest in after the first mountain, you’re out of luck. Everything here opens late. But hold on until you get to the next village of Holzfeld, which has a goat cheese hut, picnic tables, and wine and beer on tap. They close at 13:00 on Saturday and we just missed it! Don’t let that happen to you. On the plus side, we found some old gentlemen outside doing work on their house who were looking for an excuse to take a break, and they offered us coffee and a great chat to get our spirits up for the next part of the trek!
About halfway up to Holzfeld we stopped and had a proper picnic, which was great. To be honest, the climb up nearly did me in, and Alex, who is afraid of heights almost lost it on the teetering Alpine trail on the way down (the photos don’t really show how unstable the trail was and how sheer the drop was) so it was nice that we each were able to motivate one another on one part of the trek. After Holzfeld there really isn’t anything but forest until St Goar and the Rheinfels castle, so PLEASE remember to fill up your water bottles there. However much you have won’t be enough if it is a hot day!
I will say though, that once you top that last hill and come out of the forest and see the Rheinfels castle towering in front of you, it is totally worth all the effort! The climb down is on a goat path zig zagging steeply down a wine hill, but at the bottom is a wine cellar with a restaurant and a bathroom and lovely cold things to drink, so don’t lose hope!
At the bottom you’ll also have to make a decision. If you still have lots of energy, you can do one final steep climb up over the next hill, see the castle and then go down into St. Goar. If you’ve had it for the day you can follow the road to the river and in 1 k you’ll hit the town. You can go up to the castle from there and it’s easier. We chose option two. The prospect of a proper dinner and cold beer, the hot sun and our tired feet made the decision really easy! Also keep in mind that St. Goar is pretty but it’s an absolute tourist hell. I wanted to continue on on Sunday, but there were no rooms to be found. This didn’t disappoint me so much once I saw how busy and touristy it really was. After a long hike like that I think it’s nicer to be somewhere small and quieter. If you are planning on staying overnight, try looking in Biebernheim a few k. later. All in all this was an excellent, challenging day. If you’re doing this as part of a longer Jakobsweg trek, the next stage is much less physically demanding so never fear.
Till next time!
Oh, and last weekend we hiked on the Rheinsteig over some of the Siebengebirge to the Drachenfels, where Siegfried slew the dragon in the Niebelungan legend. I’m posting about that over on my blog for my nephew’s travelling stuffed animal, you can check it out there soon, if you’re interested.