Experience the magic of Rhine Aflame

by A.L. Shaff
Contributing writer

Each year during the Night of the Magic Lights, also known as “Rhine Aflame,” the castles above the vineyards at Bingen, Trechtingshausen, Assmannshausen and Ruedesheim dazzle in blue bengal fire. Then, just at dark, the whole river explodes as thousands of rockets and flares burst into the air and fall in cascading displays.

As the more than 50 boats float in procession, passengers gather on board and folks onshore migrate to the banks for this spectacular 20-minute show unlike any other in Europe. Always held on the first Saturday of July, this year the festival coincided with the American Fourth of July festivities and attracted river boats full of celebrating Americans.

But, all is not lost for those who wish to catch a similar fabulous experience later in July. The United Service Organizations at Vogelweh offers a similar trip July 18. The cost is $89 for adults and $79 for children. However, parents are advised not to bring children because of the late hours, the crowded boats and the consumption of alcohol. The Fourth of July trip leaves at 2 p.m. Saturday from Vogelweh and returns at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday.

Those who can’t get a ticket to these popular events or wish to make private arrangements can look online at www.firework.rhine-river.com or simply search under “Rhine River Lights” for a schedule of dates. Luckily, the celebrations are not limited to the Bingen-Rudesheim area of the Middle Rhine because towns and cities as far north as Bonn and Cologne also hold similar nights with equally spectacular firework shows.

Many of these celebrations link wine fests with the fireworks displays as well as music and dancing that offer opportunities to join German locals in enjoying the wine festival season.

For example, Spay and Koblenz hold their Rhine festival called “Mega-Night on the Rhine” on Aug. 8 with the final fireworks display cast against the Ehrenbreitstein fortress as a backdrop. The town of Oberwesel offers fireworks set to coordinated music on Sept. 12.

On Sept. 19, St. Goarshausen and its twin, St. Goar, present “Rhine Aflame” from the castles Katz and Rheinfels and from a ship in the middle of the Rhine to close its week-long wine festival in the historic centers of the towns.

In each case, the scenery of the majestic Rhein provides the ultimate setting for the interplay of fire, water and light that practically steals the breath away.
USO on Vogelweh’s fall schedule includes “Rhine Aflame” trips on Sept. 12 to Oberwesel and Sept. 19 to St. Goar and St. Goarshausen. The trips cost $89 for adults.