G3VGR SOONWALDSTEIG     Jägerhaus - Bingen      

The morning was dull and overcast, but didn't look as though any rain was imminent. After breakfast, I started my last day on the Soonwaldsteig by making my way past Burg Reichenstein back up to the Rhein heights and rejoining the trail at the Morgenbachtal. The trail led me out of the Morgenbachtal up the Eselssteig, a very steep, rocky climb where the exposed parts were protected by steel ropes. At the top was a viewpoint where I could look down on Burg Reichenstein and the Rhein. From the viewpoint, I started out on the Eselspfad, (which is also shared by the Rheinburgweg), following the river upstream along the hills above the Rhein. As I walked along this undulating path, the sky cleared and the leaves on the trees were backlit by the sun and dappled light danced along the path before my feet. It was easy, pleasant walking along the Eselspfad, until my rhythm was rudely interrupted when the signs pointed me to the left of the trail and I descended a steep zigzag path to a lower level nearer the river. This path led me behind Burg Rheinstein, another of the "robber-baron castles" of which the Rhein is famous. However, this castle was rebuilt in the early 19th century. After passing the castle, the trail brought me to a rocky promontery with a good viewpoint. As well as looking back to the castle, I had my first views of Assmannshausen, directly across the river. Leaving the viewpoint, the trail climbed back up to the heights and continued on to the Waldgastätte Schweizerhaus, a restaurant and guesthouse, which was closed. I was unable to gain access to the terrace of the Schweitzerhaus, which appeared to have excellent views of the Rhein, so had to content myself with sneaking around the side of the walls for a view upstream obscured by trees.

The trail took me inland around the start of the Kreuzbachklamm, then continued its way through the narrow Poßbach valley. I took another small detour leading to the rocky outcrop of Damianskopf, which provided excellent views. I was directly opposite Assmannshausen and could also see Bingen a few miles upstream. It was noticeable that the water level of the Rhein was quite low, revealing many sandbanks which I never knew existed before. The trail descended past Forsthaus Heiligkreuz and continued on a narrow path parallel to a tarmac road until I reached Prinzenblick, the final viewpoint. I was very close to Bingen now and could see the town in detail. After sitting for a while and enjoying the view, I made my way down yet another steep zigzag path to the forest edge at the Binger youth hostel. A few minutes downhill walk through the streets of the district of Bingerbr´┐Żck, brought me to Bingen Bahnhof, the end of the Soonwaldsteig trail.

Having now completed the Soonwaldsteig, I crossed the Nahebrücke to Bingen Altstadt. I had arranged to stay overnight in Rüdesheim, directly across the Rhein from Bingen. As it was much too early in the day to check in to my hotel and start drinking wine, I took a KD ship from the Rhein Promenade to the pretty village of Assmannshausen, famed for its red wine. After taking the chairlift which ascends the Jagdschloss Niederwald, a 30 minutes hike along the Rheinsteig led me to the Niederwalddenkmal where the imposing statue of Germania overlooks Rüdesheim. From here, I made my way down through the vineyards to the old town and checked in at the Weinstube Zur Lindenau. Despite being a Monday evening, the winebars and taverns in the Drosselgasse were quite busy, mainly with Chinese tourists who have now replaced the Americans and Japanese that used to arrive by the coachload. Fortunately, I know Rüdesheim very well and was able to visit a restaurant which caters for local people instead of tourists. I celebrated my Soonwaldsteig trip with a Rheinische Sauerbraten and a bottle of Höllenberg, the excellent red wine from Assmannshausen. As is required, I finished with Rüdesheimer Kaffee. Next morning, after buying some fresh German bread from a local bakery and three bottles of Rheingau Riesling from the Zur Lindenau's cellar, I caught a train from Rüdesheim to Luxembourg via Koblenz to connect with an Intercity train to Brussels, then returned home on a Eurostar train.

Burg Reichenstein
Steep climb up the Eselssteig
View over Rhein from top of Eselsteig
Along the Eselspfad
Sunshine at last along the Eselspfad
Steep path down to Burg Rheinstein
Burg Rheinstein castle walls
Burg Rheinstein overlooking the Rhein
Steep drop near Burg Rheinstein
Uphill path from Burg Rheinstein
Waldgastätte Schweizerhaus
Trail near Kreuzbachklamm
View of Assmannshausen from Damianskopf
View upstream to Bingen from Damianskopf
View upstream to Rüdesheim from Prinzkopf
Bingen Bahnhof - end of the trail

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