Koblenz and the Rhine River

The Marksburg is one of the many castles on the hills overlooking the Rhine River. I took this photo from the train window on my way to Koblenz.

Of course I could claim that this photo was the result of my consummate skills as a photographer, but actually it came about more or less by accident. At one point I had a perfectly clear view of the Marksburg from the train window, so I immediately raised my camera and pressed the button. The camera, however, was a cheap model which reacted very slowly, and by the time the shutter finally opened there was a tree in the way. So I thought I had messed up yet another photo until I had a look at it on the screen at home.

Loreley from the train

There are direct trains at least once an hour from Mainz to Koblenz, taking the scenic route through the Rhine Valley and passing by such places as the Loreley, where the legendary Rhine maidens sang so beautifully that they lured love-stricken barge captains to their doom, much as the Sirens did in ancient Greek mythology.

Cat and Mouse Castles from the train

Burg Katz (the Cat Castle) and Burg Maus (the Mouse Castle) are two of the many castles overlooking the Rhine on the way to Koblenz. Like most medieval castles, these two have a long and complicated but not very interesting history. Suffice it to say that Burg Katz was built starting in 1371 on orders of Count Wilhelm II of Katzenelnbogen — which looks as though it must mean “cat’s elbow”, though that was not the original meaning of the name. Burg Maus was built starting in 1356 and originally had a different name, but later got its mousey name by virtue of being close to Burg Katz but smaller.

Deutsches Eck (German Corner) with statue

The city of Koblenz got its name from a Latin word for confluence, the place where two rivers come together. The Moselle, above, joins the Rhine here at the German Corner (Deutsches Eck) in the center of Koblenz.

An ugly equestrian statue of the militaristic German Emperor Wilhelm the First was erected at the German Corner in 1897. It was mercifully destroyed by artillery fire at the end of the Second World War, but instead of leaving well enough alone, somebody insisted on raising money to make a replica, which was unveiled in 1993.

Fortress Ehrenbreitstein

One hundred and eighteen meters above the Rhine River, overlooking the city of Koblenz, is the fortress of Ehrenbreitstein (literally ‘Honor-broad-stone’), which it its present form was built by the Prussian Army between 1817 and 1832. Its huge thick walls were evidently intended to resist artillery fire.

Ehrenbreitstein from across the river

Anyone fascinated by Prussian militarism could theoretically take a tour of Ehrenbreitstein Fortress. The tours begin every hour and are in German, though groups can also arrange (in advance) to have tours in English or French. There is also a video in German, English and French which deals with 19th century military life in the fortress.

In one wing of the fortress there is a youth hostel which I can’t remember anything about, even though I stayed there a mere fifty-five years ago.

The Rhine Ferry

To get from Koblenz to Ehrenbreitstein there is now (since 2010) a spectacular cabin lift crossing high above the river, but it is also still possible to take the ferry boat, which is what I did when I was there in 2006.

Pontoon bridge plaque

From 1819 to 1945 there was a pontoon bridge across the Rhine River, where the ferry boat now runs. It consisted of 36 floating pontoons, two or three of which had to me moved out of the way every time a ship wanted to pass.

I always thought pontoon bridges were temporary things, put up by an advancing army and dismantled soon afterwards, but this one was used for 126 years before it was finally destroyed at the end of the Second World War.

My photos in this post are from 2006. I revised the text in 2020.

See also: Operas in Koblenz.
See more posts on the Rhine River.

9 thoughts on “Koblenz and the Rhine River”

    1. I have since learned from reading Victor Hugo’s book The Rhine, about his travels in 1840, that there was also a pontoon bridge in Cologne. It also had to be opened in the middle to let the boats through. Apparently there wasn’t much road or river traffic in those days.

  1. I really like Koblenz, having visited twice to date – once on the Rhine cruise with Chris and my mother in law, once for the VT meet. During the latter Isa and I went to Ehrenbreitstein on the cable car, which I loved, and had a great time at the photography exhibits and the historical gardens, as well as a lovely lunch in a cafe with a view. You don’t have to be interested in Prussian military history to find something there to interest you!

      1. Try to get in the car with the glass floor for an interesting view directly downwards! When we were there it was car 17 so we let a few go past before boarding 😉

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