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I recently wrote about how sketching and journaling is one of the best things to do while traveling. As I flipped through old journals looking for sketches for that post, I became totally engrossed with a couple of entries from my Mucha sketchbook. The entries were from my third — and Jim’s first — visit to Bacharach, and reading them transported me back.

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We arrived in Bacharach at 8:30 am after a series of trains, the longest of which was an overnight sleeper. It was an exhausting trip, made even more brutal by a curious and intense heatwave that was smothering the Rhine Valley at the time. Bacharach was, of course, beautiful, but even in the morning we were tired and sweaty after walking through town and dropping off our backpacks at the hostel.

After taking care of a few necessities at the TI, and being warned that temperature was expected to hit 100 degrees, we decided to check out a castle on a tiny island in the middle of the Rhine. It was supposed to be about a mile away.

We set off along a path that paralleled the river. And after what seemed like a long time — and more than a mile — we still had no sight of the castle or ferry service to the other side. The morning clouds dissipated and the heat intensified.

I was drenched in sweat. Whenever we reached a shady spot along the path, we took breaks to drink our carbonated water — compliments of our night train experience — and rested against the short stone wall. At one point we heard distant church bells ringing in the afternoon. I was ready to give up. But Jim convinced me (tired as he was) to continue on to the next bend in the road to see what lay behind it. Reluctantly, I agreed.

So with me still in my pajama t-shirt — an old San Diego souvenir that read “Life’s a Beach” — we trudged along, sweating. And then…

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…I spied the island castle. It slightly resembled a ship and shimmered in the water and sunlight.

I couldn’t help but break into a smile and became immediately energized.

A few minutes later we spotted the ferry and took it over to the “city” of Kaub — another Rhineland village on the opposite bank of the river with its castle in the hills above. It felt so good to feel the breeze of the water. From Kaub we would be able to take a second ferry to the castle island. We had some time to explore the town before our next ferry and went in search of a snack.

Walking into Kaub, it felt like almost the whole town was closed. And it was much more work-a-day than Bacharach. At first we thought it must be a regional holiday, but then figured it must just be quiet because it was Saturday — and so hot. After walking through the whole town in just minutes, we decided to try a grocery store about the size of a mini-mart.

We looked around and didn’t find much until we got to the frozen food section, which had a box of neapolitan ice cream sandwiches — eight of them — for 1.50 euros.

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Using the little German we learned in Berlin, we purchased it from two old ladies who smiled knowingly at us and the ice cream. After paying, we went outside and sat down on a shaded bench that faced a very small town square and well.

Of course, in 100 degree weather — and without access to a fridge — ice cream sandwiches don’t last long. I guess that hadn’t quite hit us when we bought the entire box, but as soon as we sat down we realized we were going to have to eat them all right then, right there.

It was a race against melting into a disastrous mess — that we narrowly won. I didn’t think I’d be able to eat all that ice cream, but the funny thing was with all the exertion and the heat — 3.5 ice cream sandwiches was the perfect amount to recover my energy and finally reach our destination: the island castle.

— Laura Rowley

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Written by Laura Rowley

I am an artist, flight attendant, and travel blogger.

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