If you’ve ever imagined living in a castle and yelling out things like, “Where are my jesters? I’m sad!”, Germany is the place for you. And a Rhine river cruise is the ideal way to see these castles, which are best photographed from the water. (Brand g’s 2020 Rhine cruise does a daytime cruise through this gorgeous stretch of river, where you’ll pass several dozen castles in a matter of five or six hours.)
Obviously, with all these castles in a relatively short stretch of river, most were not inhabited by Germany’s royalty. They were the “estates” of robber barons, who built these fortresses as armored bunkers – to protect from all the pissed-off poor folk who might try to steal a bit of their wealth, since, shockingly, there was no 911 in medieval Europe.
[Note the “punishment cage” hanging off the tower]
In the late 1800’s, as Germany formed into a state, they began to restore and protect these castles in order to create tourism; and indeed, today, the castles are managed by a state commission. Any modern buildings in the charming towns that dot the landscape are kept out of sight from the river view, so all you see is charm with a capital C.
Here are some quick tips for cruising through this castle-crammed stretch of water:
- Have a camera with a reasonably good zoom lens.
Since most castles are perched high atop hills, if you want the castle to be more than 20% of your photo area, bring a phone or camera with a good zoom lens. (10x or more is ideal.)
- Actual cameras work best, since the zoom lenses on phones are not great quality thanks to the slimness of the phone body. If you don’t like lugging a real camera around, you can also consider buying a small, inexpensive snap-on zoom lens for your phone.
- Make sure whatever camera you have has freshly charged batteries.
You’ll take a LOT of photos.
- Obviously, you can watch and photograph the passing castles while wearing your onesie with the bunny tail in your cabin, but if you go up to the top deck, you’ll have a view of both sides of the river, which is key to catching all of them.
The better river cruise lines will have entertainment and/or serve lunch on the top deck during this stretch of cruising, so you don’t have to miss a moment.
[Let’s just call it “atmosphere”]
- Bring your Burger King crown and pose for lots of video selfies, yelling out stuff like “Off with his head!” and “Wow, peasants have terrible fashion sense!”
There is no other stretch of European river quite so scenic as the Middle Rhine. If you don’t go with Brand g, be sure to check with your cruise line before booking to ensure that they do a daytime cruise of this magical valley. It’s a can’t-miss moment!