It’s a funny thing with childhood dreams: so often when they finally come true, there's a big danger they'll disappoint.
So I was filled with some trepidation when I finally got to revisit the Rhine Valley. The middle part, Bonn to Boppard, is filled with mysterious castles. Merry men and women imbibing the Riesling and getting quite round on too many sausages. Would the wine be rather sweet and the people rather sour?
The great attraction of July, a super multi-firework spectacular called 'Rhein in Flammen' (The Rhine in Flames) seemed almost ominous; luckily I remembered this was not such a dangerous affair, with no real fires involved.
A procession of 100 white ships of all sizes would progress upstream to be met by fireworks at every curve of the Rhine and return to Koblenz to the biggest of them all late at night. Bengali fires give a mysterious red glow to the green hillsides and vineyards along the Rhine Valley, and then at every deep bend the river makes, a new firework explodes behind a dimly lit medieval castle. Amazing! And they love doing them musically here, not a big mighty bang like in London on New Year’s, more of a show of fireworks dancing merrily along the valleys. Pretty rather than awesome. (Mind you, the one in Koblenz came very close to awesome: a half-hour of display in front of the Ehrenbreitstein fortifications, all colours and displays worked out with German precision, but very playful, a real joy to behold.)
Certainly all the passengers on MS Loreley, the lead ship from the Koeln Duesseldorfer KD fleet were a happy bunch, and very satisfied after having these gorgeous displays every ten minutes. What a way to have your supper. They ate and drank and were merry, and the wine flowed in measure, and was lieblich – Lieblich, a word almost lost from the vocabulary as people preferred their wine 'trocken' (dry) for a long while. While the MS Loreley had stylish dining rooms, on other boats there was music and dancing, the little ones had small groups of maybe 20 hopping around the deck.
In Koblenz, a huge crowd lined the riverbank – Rhine in Flammen generally has around 200,000 spectators (little for London, but an enormous crowd for those small towns in the Rhine Valley). There was almost an Italian summer atmosphere, with people strolling, eating, and dancing well into the warm night. A dream came true- it sometimes happens.
Should you be tempted, book now: the tickets sell out a year ahead. So for all of you who are tired of London’s noise or Berlin and it’s clubs and posers, rest assured there is a life after Berghain.