For a number of years I had been needing an excuse to stop at Remagen on the Rhine and see what history remained of a favourite son of theirs, Rudi Caracciola.
Located on the Rhine in a picture-postcard spot, Remegan has recently begun a celebration of the Caracciola family’s ties to the town. Otto, Rudi’s father, was a very successful businessman in the town having introduced steam boats to the area to transport the wine farther and quicker, making himself very wealthy, and then turning his attention to the hotel business which was also a great success. Obviously this made for a very comfortable upbringing for Rudi, and his family home is still there and can be seen from the street. It is easy to find as at the top of the street is a large wall mural to Rudi and Otto.
Just down from his home the town has erected a statue to him celebrating what would have been his 100th birthday, and walking along the riverside you arrive at Caracciola Platz which is in front of what remains of the family hotel, now a large pizza restaurant.
Strolling into the centre of town we enquired at the tourist office to see what, if anything, we had missed. A young lady explained that there was a room in the local cinema dedicated to him but it was closed at this time of year (March), at which point a gentleman next door strolled in and suggested a phone call to see if the key holder was free, if we could wait five minutes.
Luckily our friend arranged for us to have access and as we strolled with him to the cinema he explained a little more about Caracciola’s relationship with Remagen. Yes, he grew up here but he was not a frequent visitor once he became his own man; a fight with a Belgian military officer over a lady resulted in him leaving the area for his well-being, and from then on he was very much an ex-pat! The room at the cinema had some mementos and reminders of Rudi’s racing history, but was very much in the second person rather than actual possessions, etc, but it was a charming stop and the conversation with the key holder very entertaining and informative.
Sadly I have to report there are no pre-war Mercedes or any such thing hiding away undiscovered, and for most UK visitors the famous bridge of WWII fame is the primary draw, but if you are in the neighbourhood take an hour and stroll. If the sun is shining, you may wonder why Rudi did not visit more often!
The perfect motor sport fan’s day out is easily found. Start at Kerpen for the Schumachers’ kart centre and museum, on to Horrem to visit the ‘Villa Von Trips’ which has a large number of lovely mementos and history to the racing Count Wolfgang, and after Remagen pop back into Bad Neuenahr for a meal at the Restaurant Cafe Le Mans which is a homage to Gulf Porsche and the McQueen movie. A great day in a great part of the world — but obviously then come back to Spa!
Neil Leigh, Spa, Belgium