"The Rabbi of Bacharach" Top 5 Page for this destination Bacharach by Nemorino

Bacharach Travel Guide: 143 reviews and 432 photos

Bacharach on the Rhine

"On the lower reaches of the Rhine, where the banks of the great river start to lose their smiling countenance, where hills and cliffs with their audacious ruined castles rise defiantly exuding a wilder and sterner dignity, there lies, like an eerie legend from a bygone era, the gloomy and ancient town of Bacharach."

So begins the unfinished novel The Rabbi of Bacharach by the nineteenth century German writer Heinrich Heine (1797-1856).

"But the walls of Bacharach were not always so decayed and crumbling, with their toothless battlements and blind turrets in whose cracks the wind blows and the sparrows nest. In these poverty-stricken, repulsive muddy lanes which one sees through the ruined tower, there did not always reign that dreary silence which is only now and then broken by crying children, scolding women and bellowing cows. These walls were once proud and strong, and these lanes were alive with a fresh, free life, power and pomp, joy and sorrow, much love and much hatred." (My translation.)

Heinrich Heine was not the only nineteenth century author to discover Bacharach and the Rhine Valley. In 1800 Clemens von Brentano wrote the original Lore Lay ballad about a sorceress who lived in Bacharach.

In 1840 the great French novelist Victor Hugo, author of Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, spent three days in Bacharach and wrote an enthusiastic description in his book Le Rhin, first published in 1842. (More about these folks in my General Tips on this page.)

Update: I have also translated some of Victor Hugo?s observations from the same book, Le Rhin, for my Liège intro page and my tips on the Théâtre Royal de Liège, the Palace of the Prince Bishops and the Liège Museum of Public Transport, telling of Hugo?s travels by stagecoach.

When I went to Bacharach in June 2010, however, my intention was not to investigate 13th century anti-Semitism or revel in 19th century Romanticism, but rather to take part in a benign and uniquely 21st century custom that for obvious reasons was completely unknown in previous centuries, namely a VirtualTourist meeting.

This was a very small meeting suggested by Mark (travelfrosch) and Sara (sarams) from New York, who had brought their six-month-old baby Ryan to Europe for the first time. I came up from Frankfurt and Ingrid (trekki) came up from Darmstadt. We had a very nice meal together at the Kranenturm, and then a pleasant walk around Bacharach with lots of conversation. (More about this on my Restaurant Tip on this page.)

  • Last visit to Bacharach: Jun 2010
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (28)

Comments (30)

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Jan 17, 2016 at 4:10 PM

    Such picturesque landscapes Don. The many ruins are still lovely, but its too bad they could not have been saved. Cruising the Rhine looks delightful. Excellent page!

  • glabah's Profile Photo
    Nov 24, 2015 at 10:42 PM

    An interesting choice for a VT meet, and definitely different background than the usual cityscape.

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      Nov 25, 2015 at 1:12 AM

      Yes, it was Mark's idea to meet there, and I thought it was a very good choice. Up to then I had only read about Bachcarach, and seen it from the river boats, but had never actually stopped there.
      Thanks for your visit to my page.

  • Oleg_D.'s Profile Photo
    Jun 4, 2015 at 4:41 AM

    I already want to visit that place and start thinking about Rhine cruise.

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    May 14, 2015 at 12:29 AM

    Thank you dear Don for bringing back sweet memories and ... for your explanations in preparation of my upcoming "tour" with the gang :-)

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      May 14, 2015 at 9:16 AM

      Hi Ingrid, thanks for having another look at my Bacharach page. I hope it will be helpful as you prepare your tour for the VT group. I look forward to seeing you at the VT meeting next week, but I will only be there for two nights and one day (from Friday evening to Sunday morning), as I have to return to Frankfurt on Sunday.

    • Trekki's Profile Photo
      May 14, 2015 at 9:52 AM

      Oh yes, it was!! Especially your Rabbi of Bacharach and Victor Hugo explanations! And the unfold story behind the "saint".
      I too look forward to meet you again :-))

  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo
    Jul 21, 2014 at 6:56 PM

    Great tips Don. Some wonderful castles here!

  • Maryimelda's Profile Photo
    Mar 1, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    I know what you mean about traffic bridges across the Rhine. That would be a crime and I don't even want to think about it.

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      Mar 2, 2014 at 2:44 AM

      Kate, thanks for your visit to my Bacharach page.
      Thanks to the Greens party there will be no new bridge between St. Goar and St. Goarshausen, at least not in the foreseeable future. After the last state election in 2011 they formed a coalition government with the Social Democrats, who wanted new bridges over the Rhine and the Mosel. As a compromise, it was decided to build one over the Mosel but not the Rhine.

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    Dec 8, 2013 at 4:51 AM

    Thanks for the tips

  • LoriPori's Profile Photo
    Apr 5, 2013 at 3:37 AM

    I love all those German castles. Hans and I took a similar Rhine cruise many years ago, because I distinctly remember the Pfalzgrafenstein Castle. Interesting page Don and looks like a nice little VT Meet.

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      Apr 6, 2013 at 1:56 AM

      Yes, we had a really nice little VT meeting there. Thanks for your ratings and comment.

  • Regina1965's Profile Photo
    Aug 15, 2012 at 8:18 PM

    What beautiful castles. And what a sad legend on the Jews and the blood.

  • kris-t's Profile Photo
    Aug 12, 2012 at 3:19 PM

    Hi Don, yes it was a lot of devastating fires in Moscow. The worse fire was in 1812 when Russian troops did not want to leave any food or shelter to Napoleon?s army. After Russian army and most residents abandoned the city, fire was set deliberately and about three-quarters of Moscow were gone?
    Very intersting and informative Bacharach page. Love the Fürstenberg castle tip.


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