The day started with a river crossing on the ferry that departed not far from the hotel. Once on the opposite bank, we rode alongside the river, with views of a distant castle, then through a town and into the wooded hills, where, halfway through a bend, I saw a creature bouncing around in the grass and slowed to get my best ever look at a red squirrel.
A short stretch of motorway followed and the weather, fine and dry when we set off, took a turn for the chilly and misty. This was a pity, because our destination was a famous viewpoint, the Drachenfels. We took the little railway to the top, peered hopefully out at the cloud-covered, Wagnerian forests, and ate currywurst.
The journey back followed the same route as the journey out, and was just as pleasant in reverse. Jen was riding pillion with John, and turned in her seat to take photos of the bikes behind as we leaned through the bends. I enjoyed a brisk overtake of almost the entire group, only for my bike's intermittent fault to kick in necessitating an embarrassing stop to turn the ignition off and on again. Back on the ferry, I located the balcony of my hotel room across the river and waved to Howard as we approached.
This evening was the pièce de resistance of the tour: the Rhine in Flames itself. It's a festival of fireworks, with villages all along the river putting on displays. We were to enjoy a dinner cruise, culminating in a ringside seat at the climax over Koblenz Castle.
Soon, we realised that our 400-person craft was merely one component of a vast flotilla, and that the others had better music than us (we seemed to be on the all-ABBA vessel). Police and fire boats travelled among the cruisers. Soup was served, then a mystery meat I helpfully translated from the menu as veal.
The first fireworks went off along the banks, and there was a scramble for the deck. John, taking his responsibilities as tour leader seriously, led me by the hand through the crowds so I could get a good spot:
"Move down the bus, please. Coming through. Got a child here, it's her birthday."
Red lights lined the river, and music drifted across from the other craft. We travelled under a bridge and came to rest with our stern towards the castle, causing a rush of passengers from the front to the rear deck. We stayed where we were, relishing our newfound elbow room.
Up the river, a ship blasted its horn. Others followed suit, and I braced for the blare of sound from our own. Then the disparate hifi systems coordinated to bring us Bond themes as fireworks burst above the castle. Breathtaking, awesome and a little bit cheesy, like all the best things in life.
It would have been nice to have been transported straight to bed as soon as the fireworks ended, but we needed to turn around and ply our way back to Boppard. We resumed our seats in the dining-room and wondered about coffee. A jolly German gentleman who joined us turned out to be the ship's owner, and ordered everyone an ice cream on the house. This, along with flagging down a waiter to demand hot beverages, perked everyone up to a state where we could make a nuisance of ourselves by standing in the gangway near the DJ, dancing to YMCA and Cotton Eye Joe. Hotel and bed 2am.
< Back | Forward >