NAIROBI, July 17 – There is an adage that goes; ‘Germany is its most German along the Rhine River Valley.’ You can quickly get a feeling of what it could mean by simply enjoying a breathtaking boat ride through the middle Rhine Valley.
Germany’s Rhine River is exceptionally romantic. It glides its way beginning from the Rheinwaldhorn Glacier in the Swiss Alps as a tumultuous stream churning through deep gorges before emptying into the North Sea. In Germany, the river zigzags through the hillsides, between old castles and small German towns for miles and miles.
Each castle has its own distinct style, and sheds light on the rich history of the region. Now, picture yourself on a boat, on the river, cruising along and seeing all the sights.
I recently visited Bonn, Germany for a media conference, and our hosts were kind enough to indulge us in a cruise at the end of the event.
And Lady Luck just picked a perfect day for us – one of those warm days; the sky is clear, the air is fresh, the sun is shining, and the water sparkles below us.
Add to this picture more than 800 people of all races, speaking different languages and walking from the Bonn Conference Hall towards the river.
We were all going for a “dinner on the boat”.
THE CRUISE BOAT
It was around 6.30pm and being summer time, it looked like a warm early afternoon in Kenya.
At the bank of the River Rhine was a three-storey boat that, to me, blitzed like a moving five-star-hotel.
The top-most deck had an open roof with comfortable couches and other seats for tourists wishing to enjoy an open view on the cruise down the watercourse.
The middle floor was romantically set with candles, white table clothes and beautiful flowers, while a modern disco hall occupied the boat’s ground floor.
And, so we set off on the cruise.
From the Rhine I could see castles, cliffs, vineyards, important hotels and buildings, all pasting Bonn’s colourful history from the Roman times until its era as the seat of the German government.
THE VITAL RHINE
Also dubbed the German Rhine, it is the longest river in Europe stretching 1,320 km from the Swiss Alps, flowing past France, Germany, and the Netherlands before draining into the North Sea.
It is a busy river characterised by traffic, comprising of traders and tourists.
The river streams pass beside seven mountains, on which stand some important features. One of them is the Petersberg Hotel, one of Bonn’s outstanding landmarks.
This hotel has hosted some powerful world leaders – the likes of Queen Elizabeth, Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela – who visited the Federal Republic of Germany when Bonn was the capital city.
“They used to pay €1000 (about Sh100,000) per night,” said a Goethe Institute tour guide.
To this day, Petersberg Hotel still hosts important conferences even after the capital was moved to Berlin.
Some of the latest conferences include Partnership with Africa, the conference on the Kosovo crisis, as well as the signing of an agreement by anti-Taliban representatives and other Afghan political parties – the Bonn Agreement.
Famous formula one ace and German national Michael Schumacher married his wife Corinna at the Petersberg in 1995.
Due to its popularity, Petersberg has been dubbed the "German Camp David”.
Other remarkable features seen from the Rhine are castles that reflect Germany’s rich cultural history and its politics.
The many unmistakable castle features of the Rhine landscape date back to the Middle Ages: Godesburg, Dragenburg, Schloss Stolzenfals, and Reichenberg.
Most of them were built to protect land from marauders and predatory neighbours besides simple romance and prestige.
Their outstanding attraction is emphasised as they stand on mountaintops, exposed as objects of mystery and splendour.
Some of them also tell stories of World War II and other small wars before Germany’s independence.
Back to our boat ride.
The sun is slowly disappearing leaving yellow rays that spread across the splendour of the Rhine. Most of the small boats on the river have already docked. As if to take advantage of space, our Cruise Boat makes a huge turn marking the end of our five-hour tour.
As we get back, darkness is slowly creeping; this gives me an opportunity to walk down to the disco hall where I find people already jigging to the lurid tunes of one of Germany’s popular bands.
The variety of drinks ranging from beers, wine, cocktails, and Germany’s specialty spirit ‘Schnapps’ slowly enticed us into the wind up of the memorable tour.