Rhine River, Germany
On August 10th, 2017 I explored the Rhine River in Germany to tour a few of its castles. From its source high up in the Swiss Alps to its mouth at Rotterdam on the North Sea, the Rhine is never more beautiful of enchanting than where it flows through this steep gorge in the heart of Germany, between the towns of Bingen and Bonn. For 80 miles the Rhine meanders through a glorious landscape of castletopped hills, terraced vineyards, and overhanging cliffs. There are more castles in the Rhine Valley than in any other river valley in the world.
Some castles were still in great shape and others were barely standing. The picturesque Siebengebirge is a group of wooded hills that—are visible from far across the Rhine plain. Geologists may describe them as volcanic in origin, but tradition holds that they were created by seven giants who, while digging out a channel for the Rhine, heaped up seven great mounds of earth.
At 1053 ft. high, (pictured above), the Drachenfels or “Dragon rock” is the most famous of the hills, occupying a magnificent position overlooking the river near Konigswinter.
The valorous medieval hero Roland, nephew of Charlemagne, is said to have spent some time in the ruined 2th-century castle that crowns the summit, and there to have fallen in love with the lord’s charming daughter. But the hill is better known for its legends of dragon-slaying and of Siegfried, the hero of the Nibelungenlied saga.
My next exploration was of the Marksburg Castle, (pictured above). It is one of the principal historical sites along what is known as the UNESCO World Heritage Rhine Gorge.
Marksburg Castle sits above the town of Braubach, Germany and is the only hill castle on the Rhine River to have survived the turbulence of warring factions that literally destroyed so many of the castles in the area. As the only Rhine river castle never to have been destroyed, it has been continuously inhabited for more than 700 years.
These cobblestones provided a grip for the horses’ feet but made walking on them difficult. Walking through its cobblestone interior, I really got a vivid sense of what medieval life was like, as this castle has been lovingly preserved to the period. In fact, Marksburg is considered the best-preserved castle on the Rhine.
Rather than being the homes of royalty, the castles on the Rhine were actually the strongholds of noble families who raised fortresses against one another. Their castles were actually more like armored bunkers (pictured below), designed to protect their land, their people and their harvest. Furthermore, each one was vying for the wealth that river tolls afforded them. You see, the Rhine was a major trade artery, and these castles were actually toll stations that extorted a payment from anyone wishing to continue further along the route.
I especially found the picture below interesting. It is an outside view of the toilet that dropped the waste below.
Additionally, as the day ended, I explored the Burg Eltz. Burg Eltz, near Koblenz at the confluence of the Mosel and Rhine Rivers, is one of the most romantic medieval castles in Germany and all of Europe. Encircled by the river Elz, which gives its name to one of Germany’s most eminent noble families.
Burg Eltz is an authentic medieval castle romantically located in an isolated valley in the Rhinelands off the Mosel River near Koblenz in Germany. In contrast to other castles in the Rhine area, Burg Eltz has never been taken in war and thus maintains its historical appearance. It has been the family home of the Lords and Counts of Eltz from more than thirty generations.