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I’m a bit late with my post today as I spent the day at the Rhine with friends. And since I’ve already written about 19th-century travels on the Rhine, I thought it might be nice to share pictures of our day trip and add to them some descriptions from guidebooks from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Koblenz with the "German Corner," where the rivers Rhine and Mosel meet

View of Koblenz with the “German Corner,” where the rivers Rhine and Mosel meet

We visited Koblenz, which Murray’s Handbook for Travellers on the Continent: Northern Germany of 1845 describes thus:

“Coblenz is a strongly fortified town on the left bank of the Rhine, and right of the Mosel. It received from the Romans the name Confluentes, modernised into Coblenz, from its situation at the confluence of these 2 rivers. It is the capital of the Rhenish provinces of Prussia, and its population, together with that of Ehrenbreitstein, including the garrison, is about 25,000.”



Right across the Rhine from Koblenz lies the Ehrenbreitstein. Murray’s tells us the following about the fortress:

“Ehrenbreitstein (honour’s broad stone), the Gibraltar of the Rhine, connected with Coblenz by a bridge of boats. In order to enter it, it is necessary to have permission from the military commandant residing in Coblenz, which a valet-de-place will easily procure, on merely presenting the passport, or a card with the name of the applicant upon it.”

The garrison was destroyed by the French in 1801, but was rebuilt by the Prussians between 1817-1828 and, together with Koblenz on the other side of the river, was meant to protect the Middle Rhine.

Deutsches Eck

Deutsches Eck

One of the most famous sights of Koblenz is the so-called German Corner (Deutsches Eck), where the river Mosel meets the Rhine. After Kaiser Wilhelm’s death in 1888, a colossal equestrian statue was erected here in commemorate the Kaiser who had brought about the German unification of 1871. The statue was finished in 1897.

Electoral Palace, Koblenz

Electoral Palace

Bradshaw’s Continental Railway Guide from 1913 has the following to say about other sights of Koblenz:

“The beautiful Rhein Anlagen (gardens and promenade) extends along the river front a little south of the boat bridge. Above and behind the Anlagen is the Schloss [i.e., the Electoral Palace], formerly a favourite residence of the German Imperial family; the royal apartments may be seen.”

Prussian government building and Koblenzer Hof

Government Palace and the hotel Koblenzer Hof

Bradshaw’s also mentions “the imposing Regierungspalast (Government office) with square peaked towers” as well as the “[n]ew first class hotel” right next to it, the Grand Hotel Belle Vue – Coblenzer Hof, which had just opened in spring 1913. The ad in the guidebook proudly points out that there’s “running water in every room.” 🙂

ad for Coblenzer Hof in 1913 guidebook

Ad from Bradshaw’s Continental Railway Guide (1913)

But not just the buildings along the Rhine are particularly nice, you can also find beautiful buildings when you walk through the town itself.

pretty houses in Koblenz

Pretty houses in Koblenz

And oodles of churches like the Liebfrauenkirche, which is dedicated to Mary.

Liebfrauenkirche, Koblenz

Liebfrauenkirche, Koblenz

As you can see I had a truly wonderful day! 🙂 And I also had something to celebrate, namely the re-launch of my debut novel, The Lily Brand, which was published ten years ago by Dorchester. Here’s the blurb & the pretty new cover. Until the end of this week, you can still snatch it up for the launch price of $2.99.

Troy Sacheverell, fifth earl of Ravenhurst, was captured in France. He’d gone to fight Napoleon, but what he found was much more sinister. Dragged from prison to an old French manor on the outskirts of civilization, he was purchased by a rich and twisted widow. And more dangerous still was the young woman who claimed him.

Lillian had not chosen to live with Camille, her stepmother, but nobody escaped the Black Widow’s web. And on her nineteenth birthday, Lillian became Camille’s heir. Her gift was a plaything: a man to end her naiveté, a man perfect in all ways but his stolen freedom. Yet even as Lillian did as she was told, marked that beautiful flesh and branded it with the flower of her name, all she desired was escape. In another place, in another world, she’d desired love. Now, looking into burning blue eyes, she knew there was no place to run. No matter if should she flee, no matter where she might go, she and this man were prisoners of passion, inextricably linked by the lily brand.

And while her heart remained locked in ice, his burnt with hate. Would they ever find true happiness?

Get it on Amazon or Kobo

cover of Sandra Schwab's The Lily Brand

Posted in Places | Tagged , | 2 Replies

Celebrating Sandy's 10th blogiversaryA few days ago I celebrated my 10-year blogiversary. I started blogging only a few weeks before my debut novel was due to hit stores in July 2005. (Ten years ago — gosh!) At the time I was working on my second novel, Castle of the Wolf, a gothic romance (or at least it was intended as a gothic romance) in which my English heroine inherits a castle in the Black Forest, but, alas, finds it inhabited by the grumpiest man imaginable (but sort of hot, too) (of course!). And she has to marry him (of course!). There’s an unfortunate incident with a dead mouse, another unfortunate incident with a not-dead bat, and a lady with sturdy boots who stomps all the gothicness to dust. Quite… eh… literally.

And because my heroine needed to somehow get from England to the Black Forest, I decided it would be awesome (AWESOME!!!) if she traveled up the Rhine, past the lovely castles of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. And maybe I could put in one of those gruesome folk tales? (Because, see above, gothic romance.) Like, the story of the evil Bishop Odo of Mainz being devoured by mice in his tower in the middle of the river? Awesome.

So I spent about two weeks (or more) doing research on traveling on the Rhine and, incidentally, also on British tourists on the Rhine. (Two weeks of research for half a page in the finished book. Just saying.) I pushed back the date of my story to 1827 because that was the first year which saw steamboats on the Rhine, and even tried to see if I could dig up a timetable for said steamboats. (In case you needed any further proof that I tend to go a bit batty where research is concerned: there it is.)

The rising interest in the Rhine and in particular in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley (the super-beautiful part between Bingen and Koblenz, with all the pretty castles clinging to the hills on each side of the river — now a UNESCO World Heritage site) at the end of the eighteenth century was in large parts due to Romanticism as well as to the new aesthetic ideal of the picturesque.

A sketch of Castle Sooneck

A sketch of Castle Sooneck

The first wave of British tourists arrived in the late eighteenth century — among them Anne Radcliffe, who afterwards wrote a whole book about her trip, Journey Made in the Summer of 1794, through Holland and the Western Frontier of Germany with a Return down the Rhine, published in 1795. And it seems that she was quite enchanted by what she saw:

“Sometimes, as we approached a rocky point, we seemed going to plunge into the expanse of the water beyond; when, turning the sharp angle of the promontory, the road swept along an ample bay, where the rocks, receeding formed an amphitheatre, […] then […] we saw the river beyond […] assume the form of a lake, amidst wild and romantic landscapes.”

The steadily increasing stream of tourists came to a halt during the Napoleonic Wars, but immediately resumed afterwards. Going to see the castles of the Rhine became so popular that later in the century the author Thomas Hood remarked,

“It is a statistical fact that since 1814 an unknown number of persons have been more or less abroad, and of all the Countries in Christendom, never was there such a run as on the Banks of the Rhine. It was impossible to go into Society without meeting units, tens, hundreds, thousands of Rhenish tourists. What a donkey they deemed him who had not been to Assmannshausen!”

Incidentally, the most wildly popular English poet also happened to write the most wildly popular account of a journey on the Rhine: since the publication of Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, many British tourists would drag a copy along on their travels so they could trace Childe Harold’s steps. This becomes obvious in the Shelleys’ History of a Six Weeks’ Tour from 1817:

“The part of the Rhine down which we now glided, is that so beautifully described by Lord Byron in his third Canto of Childe Harold. We read these verses with delight, as they conjured before us these lovely scenes with the truth and vividness of painting, and with the exquisite addition of glowing language and warm imagination. We were carried down by a dangerously rapid current, and saw on either side of us hills covered with vines and trees, craggy cliffs crowned by desolate towers, and wooded islands, where picturesque ruins peeped from behind the foliage, and cast shadows of their forms on the troubled waters, which distorted without deforming them.”

Soon, a whole tourist industry grew up around Rhine travels: 1822 saw the publication of the first panorama of the Rhine, consisting of a folded map of the river with larger pictures of the most important sights. Three years later, a publisher in Frankfurt released a panorama of the river and included a small leaflet with explanations of the sights in French, English, and German. (You can take a look at it here.)

Soon, proper guidebooks followed, like Baedeker’s Die Rheinreise (Journey on the Rhine) of 1832. On the other side of the Channel, the firm of John Murray, one of the most influential British publishers with authors like Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott, started to publish the famous “Red Books”, the Handbooks for Travellers. And again, not surprisingly, the first of the series was the Handbook for Holland, Belgium and the Rhine.

A picture of Baedeker's Traveller's Manual of Conversation

Another of Baedeker’s early publications: The Traveller’s Manual of Conversation in Four Languages

Murray and Baedeker soon joined forces and started to distribute each other’s guidebooks. To make them more uniform, Baedeker also used red cloth for the covers. Indeed, their guidebooks were all standardized, were regularly updated, and were made to fit comfortably into a coat pocket.

But that’s not all.

The star-based rating system that’s now used by online retailers, booksellers and review sites?

That was invented by John Murray for his guidebooks. (So now we know who’s to blame for that!)

The steamboat that were introduced in 1827 formed yet another part of the new tourist industry focusing on Rhine travels. The traditional way of traveling on the river was on boats dragged by horses, and the owners of the horses were not particularly happy about the new steamboats that took business away from them. And so, in 1848, the stable owners of the town of Neuwied fired cannon balls (!!!) at one of the steamboat to express their displeasure — a rather drastic measure (and not a particularly successful one: the boat was hardly damaged and, of course, the steamboat didn’t go away).

Have you ever been on a river cruise? And fellow authors, do you use guidebooks for your research?

A sketch of Castle Sooneck

… or at least I hope I will.

And not just any castle, but Castle Sooneck, one of the umpteen (and I mean UMPTEEN!) castles, ruin, and other historic sites along the banks of the river Rhine in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. A cultural heritage organisation of the area as well as a local newspaper were looking for a “castle-blogger,” somebody to move into Castle Sooneck for six months and blog (in German and English) about life on the banks of the Rhine. The deadline for applications was at midnight on Sunday – and of course, I sent in my application. For how cool would it be to live in a castle?!?!


Let’s just say it probably won’t be all roses and rainbows: Apparently the view from the castle-blogger’s bedroom will be the (active) stone quarry next door. And down in the valley up to 400 trains a day pass by on one of the major transport routes of Europe.

Add to that that castles tend to be drafty places and that those thick walls don’t make for particularly warm rooms. What the colder season (= anything that’s not summer) can be like in a historic building is rather vividly described by the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire in the chapter about “Cold Houses” in her book Home to Roost:

“A new heating system was installed when we moved in[to Chatsworth] and it works pretty well. Even so, the wind can penetrate huge old window frames which don’t fit exactly. In September we go round with rolls of sticky brown paper to stop the gaps. When the front door is open and people with luggage dawdle, all our part of the house feels the blast so we’ve cut out a small door out of the big one and you have to enter at speed. There are zones of intense cold, seldom visited in winter: the Scupture Gallery, State Rooms and attics, where a closed-season search for forgotten furniture can feel colder than being out of doors.”

I would imagine that it’s probably different in a castle (if anything, it would be worse). But hey, that’s what woolen sweaters, thick socks, and the tea kettle were made for, right? Moreover, the scenery of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley would certainly make up for any minor inconvenience: it is one of the most beautiful areas of Germany – and Regency people were mad for it.

Tourism dwindled down during the Napoleonic Wars, but as soon as Napoleon was safely banished to his island, the British came back to the Rhine in huge numbers, undeterred by either customs stations or the German beds, which, apparently, were on the horrid side if Murray’s Hand-Book for Travellers on the Continent: Northern Germany, 1845 is to be believed:

“One of the first complaints of an Englishman on arriving in Germany will be directed against the beds. It is therefore as well to make him aware beforehand of the full extent of misery to which he will be subjected on this score. A German bed is made only for one: it may be compared to an open wooden box, often hardly wide enough to turn in, and rarely long enough for an Englishman of moderate stature to lie down in.”

No, not even the German beds could deter the British tourists. Happily, they all followed in the footsteps of Childe Harold, often dragging a copy of Byron’s work along on their journey to appreciate more fully the

blending of all beauties; streams and dells,
Fruit, foliage, crag, wood, cornfield, mountain, vine,
And chiefless castles breathing stern farewells
From gray but leafy walls, where Ruin greenly dwells.

The ruins and castles still dwell along the Rhine, and it would be a great thrill indeed to explore (and sketch!!!) them all as the castle-blogger of Sooneck. 🙂


What about you? Would you like to live in a castle for six months? Or would all the stairs put you off?

Posted in History, Regency | Tagged , | 8 Replies
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