Lorelei may not sing, but statue’s beauty is bewitching
By MICHAEL ABRAMS | Stars and Stripes | Published: May 28, 2020
The myth of a siren, the creature who lures sailors with her song to crash their ships upon rocky shores, is at least as old as Homer’s Odyssey.
Not as old, but at least as popular in Germany, is Lorelei, the siren with her golden hair and melodic voice, who was the demise of many Rhine River boatmen.
She once sang her song from high atop a rocky outcrop where the Rhine flows at its narrowest point.
Lorelei makes her first appearance in an 1801 Clemens Brentano ballad as Lore Lay, a woman who bewitches and murders men, but falls to her death from a cliff.
It was Heinrich Heine whose 1821 poem made her the river siren, bringing death and despair to boatmen.
The Lorelei rock, where the boatmen supposedly crashed, is an outcrop that rises 410 feet over the river. It gives a foreboding feel to those sailing downriver or driving past it on the highway.
The top of the Lorelei has long been a popular place for a fantastic view of the Rhine valley. From various points you can see where boats maneuver through the narrow opening between the rocks. Downriver is a view of Burg (Castle) Katz on the hillside above St. Goarshausen.
The top of the outcrop has been remodeled and last year the Lorelei culture and landscape park opened, along with a visitors center. Paths lead through rose bushes to the lookout points. Benches let you rest among the flowers or watch the river. There is even a rock where you can sit and pose, pretending you are Lorelei, high above the Rhine.
The Lorelei is also a stop on the Rheinsteig, a hiking trail that stretches 200 miles from Wiesbaden to Bonn, along the east bank of the Rhine.
If you are hiking, there are stairs that lead down to St. Goarshausen in one direction, or 400 stairs down to the Lorelei statue.
In Heine’s poem, she sits on top of the outcrop high above the river, but here the statue of Lorelei stands at the end of a harbor breakwater stretching out into the Rhine.
The only way to get a good look at the siren is to take a 10-minute walk down a rocky path. By Russian artist Natascha Jusopov, it depicts a nude woman with long hair sitting on a rock. It’s not quite as romantic as having her sing her siren song from atop the cliff, but the setting also makes a nice place to take a break and watch the ships ply the Rhine.
After visiting Lorelei, take a stroll through St. Goarshausen’s old town. It features very narrow cobblestone lanes, a couple of wine taverns and a statue paying tribute to the salmon fishermen that once lived and worked here, the last along the Rhine.
If you haven’t had enough adventure, take the ferry across the river to St. Goar and its Burg Rheinfels.
We’re saving that for another quick trip on the Rhine.
DIRECTIONS: From Wiesbaden, the easiest way to get there is to take autobahn A 66 toward Ruedesheim. When it ends, follow highway B 42 to St. Goarshausen. Once there, follow the Lorelei signs up the hill.
From the Kaiserslautern area, take A 63 to A 61 to Bingen, then take L 400 to B 9 toward St. Goar. At Engelsburg, take the ferry across the Rhein to Kaub, then B 42 to St. Goarshausen. You can also take the ferry farther up the road at St. Goar over to St. Goarshausen.
The address is Auf der Lorelei, Lorelei 7, 56348 Bornich.
The parking lot to see the statue is on the left, shortly before reaching St. Goarshausen on B 42.
TIMES: The Lorelei culture and landscape park is open 24/7; the visitors center is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. These are temporary hours due to the coronavirus pandemic. Social distancing on the rock is 6 feet, and masks need to be worn inside the visitors center.
The Lorelei statue can be visited any time, but for safety reasons, it’s best to go only during daylight.
COSTS: The Lorelei culture and landscape park and visitors center are free. Parking is 3 euros for the day. The ferry costs 4.80 euros one way, including driver. Adult passengers pay 1.50 euro, children 6 to 14 pay .80 euro.
FOOD: There is a snack bar at the Lorelei culture and landscape park and restaurants in St. Goarshausen, but all are under coronavirus restrictions for now.
INFORMATION: German language-only website: www.loreley-besucherzentrum.de.
There is also a summer toboggan run at the Lorelei that just reopened if you want an adventure of a different kind. Info in German: www.loreleybob.de.
The statue of Lorelei, the siren that according to lore, lured sailors to crash their boats on the rocks at the narrowest point of the Rhine River, stands at the end of a harbor breakwater. At top left, the viewing platform of the Lorelei can be seen with its flagpoles, high above the river.
MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES