With great reluctance, we packed up our things had our luggage taken down to the car, and said farewell to the Schönburg. We had all day to get back to
Just north of Oberwesel we passed the famous cliff of Loreley, a 430-foot-high outcropping of dark slate named for the beautiful blonde nymph who lured sailors and fishermen to their deaths in the treacherous rapids below. At the well-fortified town of
Just a few miles further north, near the town of
A few miles further on, we stopped along a wide bend in the river to watch a container barge chug past and to take some pictures of the E-Class in yet another spectacular setting (photo, right; by this point we should have enough photos for an entire “E-Class in
Marksburg was built in the 12th century to protect the silver and lead mines in the area and, as I mentioned previously, is the only
After our tour we checked out the gift shop and were going to drop in at the restaurant for a bite to eat, but the place looked totally deserted, so we decided to get underway again. We stopped at the base of the castle for some more pictures (photo, right) and then continued south, now on the east side of the river. We got a better view of the good-sized resort town of Boppard from this side, and were able to stop and get a decent shot of Burg Maus (the Rhine highways are somewhat lacking in pullouts for photo fanatics like me). At St. Goarhausen, we were finally able to see what we had only glimpsed as we drove through St. Goar earlier: the immense, sprawling ruins of Burg Rheinfels (photo, below). First established in 1245, the fortress was repeatedly expanded by the counts of Katzenelnbogen and their successors, the landgraves of
A few miles further on we got a nice view of Schönburg towering over Oberwesel, then we continued up the river to Kaub and Burg Pfalz. At first we were only going to stop for a quick picture, but then we saw the waiting boat and decided to go ahead and check out the castle. For a few Euro we were ferried across to the island along with a German family with two young children. From the island we had a good view of Burg Gutenfels above Kaub and could see back down the river to Schönburg and Oberwesel.
Burg Pfalzgrafenstein – shortened to Pfalz – is a unique six-sided, six-story tower built on a rocky outcropping in the middle of the
We walked up a steep flight of stairs to the castle’s imposing entry gate (photo, right) and paid our admission to a couple of guys hanging out in a cozy room tucked inside the castle walls. They joked with us a bit and gave us a much-abused laminated guide to the castle, then we proceeded on our self-guided tour.
Unlike many restored castles, the Pfalz, which quartered about twenty men at any given time, reflects the living conditions of the 14th century and is furnished very simply with a smattering of household goods. One of the most interesting tidbits gleaned from our handout was that one of the masters of the castle was excommunicated by the Pope for collecting illegal tolls on the river. In the winter of 1814, the island was used by 60,000 Prussian troops led by Blücher to cross the
Inside, we explored several floors of the castle, including the well-fortified defensive walls armed with cannons, several strategically placed gun ports, and the officers’ living quarters. In the center of the castle there is an enormous clay bread oven, which is apparently quite a rare specimen. We discovered the rather spartan lavatory as well as the dungeon, into which unfortunate prisoners were lowered by means of a piece of wood tied to a rope.
After completing our tour of the interior, we made a complete circle around the castle, admiring its oddly elegant structure (photo, right). The foundations are marked with the highwater marks from various floods – the highest being from 1988. A gilded lion holding a sword and shield adorns the “prow” of the castle; during one particularly harsh winter, the ice flows on the river came up to the lion (easily 25 feet above the current river level) and wrenched the sword right out of its paws.
It was late afternoon by the time we took the boat back over to the mainland and continued on our journey south. We spotted two of three castles near Trechtingshausen, both perched on rocky outcroppings overlooking the river: the sprawling Burg Reichenstein and the rather quaint (by comparison) Burg Rheinstein. The latter was the home of Rudolf von Habsburg from 1282 to 1286, who destroyed the castles of Reichenstein and nearby Sooneck and had their robber barons hanged in an effort to restore law and order on the
The final checkmark on our list of Rhine castle sightings went to the Mäuseturm (
From Bingen we hooked up with the A61 and high-tailed it home to Stutgart, bringing to a close our last great Germany-based European adventure.
More photos from today: