Most of our sightseeing tours (or historical or cultural tours) during previous ICBE consultations are usually done on land. So, it was a treat that the organizers of the 5th ICBE Consultation held in Vallendar, Germany in April 2009 planned a boat cruise. Since Sonnenau, the venue of the consultation, was an hour away from the Rhine River, it was a novel idea for the organizers and a treat for the participants.
The bus was coming at 09:00 hours to Sonnenau, Vallendar and we participants were already waiting outside 30 minutes earlier. We were asking, “Where’s the bus, where’s the bus?” When the bus arrived, we slowly got in and chose our seats. Most preferred a window seat and when there was none, they chose an aisle seat. Relatives sat near each other and so did friends. The bus followed the mountainous curves of Vallendar passing along the Rhine river. While we were on the bus, Mecky Oblas sang the Loreley in German. She translated it later and the lyrics of the song would be found in this essay. The bus went uphill going towards the direction of Niederwald, Rüdesheim am Rhein until it parked at Niederwald. One by one, we walked out of the bus and walked towards the Niederwald Monument. Of course, the first thing to do was to pose for photos with the monument as our background. Most of us had our cell phones ready for the picture-taking. The Rhine river could be seen from the monument and many of us spent some time appreciating the panoramic view. Wow! Wow! What a view. Others also took photos with the Rhein river as background. The monument was built between 1871 and 1873 to commemorate the unification of Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm I. When we were walking back towards the bus, some of us saw a man with a music box. It looked like an ice cream container, which the ice cream vendor in the Philippines usually pushes around. We asked if we could pose for a photo with the man operating the music box and he agreed.
The time came for what we were waiting for--the boat cruise. We returned to the bus and occupied the same seats. The bus went down in the direction of Bingen and we went to the Rhein Fahre, where we were to wait for the boat. While waiting for the boat, we brought out our packed lunch and found a place to eat. Families came together and friends gathered to eat their lunch composed of a sandwich with ham and cheese, an apple and fruit juice. Finally, the boat came and when the passengers disembarked, each one of us walked on the plank and found our places. Some found a table with seats by the side of the boat; others found a table in the middle of the boat. Families were seated together; young people came together. Everyone was smiling and happy. Many had a hat on. Most ordered a bottle of beer or non-alcoholic beverage. It was a smooth ride and everyone was enjoying their drink and posing for photos with a castle in the background.
We saw castles to the left of us and castles to the right of us. There must have been 20 castles. The mountain slopes were filled with vineyards. It was still spring, so leaves were still emerging from the grape vines. At one point we saw Loreley, on top of the mountain.
One unique castle we saw was “the Pfalz.” It is a small castle located on an island in the middle of the river. It is a toll castle that was erected 1326 to 1327 by King Ludwig the Bavarian. Despite wars and natural disasters, “the Pfalz” was never destroyed, unlike some castles along the Rhine river.
The boat cruised along the Rhine river and went north with a stopover in Sankt Goarshausen. We disembarked and went around the place. Some went looking for a store selling music boxes. Others went to buy ice cream. Next destination would be the Loreley Rock View point and the bus went uphill to bring us there. We had a look at the Loreley at the corner edge of the rocky mountain top and recalled the lyrics of the Loreley song that Mecky sang in the bus. At the Loreley viewpoint, many of us posed again for photos. Our background would be the Rhine river and the mountains beyond.
To enable us to recollect the Loreley song, we furnished the lyrics in German and its English translation.
1. Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten, daß ich so traurig bin;
ein Märchen aus alle Zeiten, das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.
Die Luft ist kühl und es dunkelt, und ruhig fließt der Rhein;
der Gipfel des Berges funkelt im Abend son-nen schein.
2. Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet, dort oben wunderbar,
ihr goldnes Geschmeide blitzet, sie kämmt es mit goldenem Kamme
und singt ein Lied dabei; das hat eine wundersame,
3. Den Schiffer im kleinen Schiffe, ergreift es mit wildem Weh;
er schaut nicht die Felsenriffe, er schaut nur hinauf in die Höh`.
Ich glaube,die Wellen verschlingen am ende Schiffer und Kahn;
und das hat mit ihrem Singen die Lorelei getan.
Translated to English:
1. I know not if there is a reason
Why I am so sad at heart.
A legend of bygone ages
Haunts me and will not depart.
The air is cool under nightfall.
The calm Rhine courses its way.
The peak of the mountain is sparkling
With the evening's final ray.
2. The fairest of maidens is sitting
So marvelous up there,
Her golden jewels are shining,
She’s combing her golden hair:
She combs with a comb also golden,
And sings a song as well
Whose melody binds a wondrous
An overpowering spell.
3. In his little boat, the boatman
Is seized with a savage woe,
He’s rather look up at the mountain
Than down at the rocks below,
I think that the waves will devour
The boatman and boat as one;
And this by her song’s sheer power
Fair Lorelei has done.
We would like to end with the impressions written by Dominga Webber of Great Britain and Albert Bacdayan from the USA, which were mainly on the boat cruise.
Dominga Webber said:
The side trip to the Lorelei and the boat ride along the River Rhine was a nice surprise. Having seen the vast grape plantation along the river, I now understand why lots of British people frequently visit the place just to have a sip of that free wine tasting of the famous wine produced in the Rhine. The good weather complimented the merriment of the group during that day and a special thanks to Mecky (Mrs. Oblas) for her commentary and her rendition of the Lorelei song.
And Albert S. Bacdayan said:
The bus ride and cruise along the Rhine were exquisite, offering images and feeling good for a lifetime of remembrance. Those nicely manicured vineyards on a top to bottom run, the many castles that dotted the landscape and Loreley are images that, together, form a powerful and enthralling cultural landscape to recall.