The Rhine Valley
The Rhine River is arguably Europe’s most famous and most important waterway. From its source in Switzerland to its ending in the Netherlands, the river runs almost 800 miles, with the stretch from Basel downriver completely navigable. However, the romantic Rhine of castles, robber barons, and legends is primarily between Mainz and Koblenz, where the scenery is most dramatic. At first, nearly 1,500 ft wide, the river flows slowly through a broad open valley, then narrows dramatically from the Bingen until, at the Loreley rock, it is only 426 ft wide and flows at six mph.
Valleys of the Rhineland
During July and August, Rhine towns can become uncomfortably busy, but they can be surprisingly quiet just weeks prior to or after the main holiday season. During spring and autumn, when the Rhine Valley is at its prettiest, even weekends can be quiet, except during the frequent festivals held in towns along the river. In winter, many sights and towns close down for the season and the valley is often filled with fog, which can be hauntingly beautiful, but hides much of the scenery and castles that most visitors came to see.
Most of the famous castles along the Rhine, and there are many, have been ruined twice – first by invading French troops, who blew most of them up in the 17th century, and then by Rhine Romanticism, when many were rebuilt and restored during the 19th century in a false romantic notion of what medieval castles should have looked like. They are still pretty, however, and worth seeing.
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