Perhaps, unconsciously, it had been my love of raw onions that had brought me to Germany in the first place.
I had tottered into “zum Rebstock” in search of food. At first I had been drawn to the most impressively old—and, probably, most underhandedly touristic—of Bacharach’s wine taverns. Altes Haus (Old House), it was called, and though the kitchen had already closed for the afternoon, the waitress had brought a glass of the local Riesling to my table while I perused a book about the area.
I hadn’t noticed that the wood-paneled rooms had emptied almost completely until the couple at the table next to mine asked for another glass and were refused. “I’m really sorry, but we close between 3 and 6 every day,” the waitress explained. Resigned, we paid and shuffled back out onto the street.
Deciding which tavern to enter next seemed impossible. Every brightly painted half-timber facade seemed as likely a place before which one could enjoy a glass of local wine with a plate of cheese. Grape vines seemed to hang over every door. Finally, after walking up and down Bacharach’s main street a number of times, which, given the minuscule scale of the town, took under ten minutes, I settled on “zum Rebstock,” sat down at a table outside, and ordered a glass of Bacharacher Wölfshöhe and a plate of “wine cheese.”
In newspaper clippings included in the menu, I read about the Heidrich family that owned the tavern and, quite possibly, had made the wine I was drinking at that moment. The Heidrich family had been making wine in the Bacharach valley for 500 years, I learned, and one of the Heidrich sons had won all sorts of awards for his fruit schnapps. Though mostly filled with tourists, the story gave me the feeling that Bacharach was still the close-knit wine-producing village that it had been for the last half century.
The wine arrived first—a cool, fruity white wine that had began its life on the hills I could see from my seat. “Here,” I thought to myself merrily, “you could become a wine-o in style.” I raised my glass to the grape fields and sipped slowly, content just to sit and absorb the feeling of the time and place. I was, it seemed, the only person in the restaurant. Tourists seemed to fill the streets in bursts as they were, I assumed, let out for a quick stop by passing cruise ships.
When my plate arrived I found on it a small wheel of cheese, unwrapped though the packaging was still present, a cube of butter, two slices of bread, and a pile of thinly sliced raw onions. I smiled—you won’t find many onion lovers more committed than me, which makes me feel quite at home among German cuisine—and toasted Bacharach once more.
Onions or no, Bacharach had already gotten me—the grape fields, the age-tilted buildings, the small creek that ran behind an equally charming (if not a bit gaudily decorated) grouping of half-timbered homes and a hotel, not to mention the scenic train ride along the castle-spotted Rhine should you be lucky enough to be coming from a destination directly to the north or south.
As I walked to the train station the next morning, I snapped pictures of buildings I wanted to remember. Many had sayings painted above their doors, and just before reaching the train station I found one that seemed to sum up my stay there: “Halte in Gedächtnis wach, wundervoll ist Bacharach.” (Keep awake in your memory that Bacharach is wonderful.)
If you’d like to read more about Bacharach, check out this YG article on the city’s castle youth hostel.