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« Germany 4: Heidelberg… | Home | Germany 5.2: Castles … »

Germany 5.1: Castles on the Rhine

On Thursday, Kristine and I took the Bimmer and made out west from Wiesbaden towards a stretch of the Rhine that is just laced with castles.  Literally there was a castle almost everywhere you looked.  Some of them ruins, some of them restored to be hotels or hostels, and some lucky ones that were historically pretty accurate.

Our route was going to take us up the west bank on the autobahn, over the bridge in Koblenz, then back down the eastern bank.  The autobahn was too far from the river for Kristine's tastes, and after a detour through the steep terrain that seperated us from the River, we took one final hairpin turn and were confronted with THIS.

Yup, just an ancient town named Bacharach (believed to have been founded by the Celts sometime BC) with a giant single lane medieval.  Our glorious windy well paved road suddenly turned into cobblestones and we putted through this picturesque gem at 5mph.  In many towns this would be a pedestrian zone, but its actually a regional road.  L224.

 

We finally got down to 9, which hugs the Rhine.  While driving up the west bank, we got a good view of the castles on the East bank.  Here is Katz Castle.  Built by 1371 by the counts of Katzenelnbogen, its currently restored (except for the keep) and in private ownership.  A little upstream is a smaller castle that was built around the same time.  The difference led that one to be known as Burg Maus.  (yes, cat and mouse)

Finally we got to what ended up being my favorite castle.  These are the ruins of Rheinfels castle above St. Goar.  They are huge!  The castle was originally built between 1245 and 1255.  Upon its completion, those who erected the castle raised the toll on the river.  The castle was immediately besieged for 1 year and 14 weeks until the would be attackers had to give up.  The castle was a military presence and heavily modified in four different periods with its final modifications for military use ending in 1674.  There's currently a small hotel and restaurant, but most of the castle is in ruins.  For just a few Euro, you can do a self guided walking tour.  Unfortunately, its magnificence was hard to capture "on film."

 I'm standing in what used to be a defended part of the castle.  It would have been gated in the 16th century and fortified fully in the 17th.  In the 15th century we'd be totally outside the castle.  A big dry moat separates us from the buildings we see. (later we go IN the moat)

 

Here's me inside the clock tower about to enter the castle proper.

 

 Here's the clock tower from the inside of the castle grounds.  Its the highest part of the castle ruins, but only because there's nothing left of the keep other than the foundation.

 

Off to the side of the clock tower.

 

Like any good castle, the inner courtyard contained the stuff you'd need for every day life.  Unfortunately the brauhaus is out of service these days.  

Kristine being silly.

 

I'm actually standing on the foundation of the castle's keep taking a picture of stuff that was mostly built in the 14th and 15th century expansion of the castle.  The wall immediately to my right is part of the oldest part of the castle from the 13th century. 

 

Ruins.

 

They let us wander through a lot of stuff that just wouldn't be possible in the US.  There are many many arcades.  None of them were lit except for the tiny slits that were designed for people to shoot through.  Here's a picture with no flash.

 

In many cases the arcades were built on top of each other, sometimes three levels high.  They built vertical passages in to shout orders and pass supplies between levels. 

Heres what the same thing would have looked like from the outside. (approx)

 

Here's a view up at the clock tower from inside the wide dry moat.

We got to walk along that highest wall and actually go up on top of the clock tower.

 Me

They even let us into one of the dungeons.  It was just a small square room with a really high ceiling.  

Like any good dungeon it came with a trap door.  I bet it has a million uses.

 I have lots more pictures of this castle.  It just keeps going and going, and yet none of the pictures can capture how awesome it was.  In 1796 the fortress was finally blown up.  It went into private hands in 1812 and has stayed there ever since.

There's still two more castles we went to!



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