(GERMANY – Part Two)
The last few days of our trip to Germany were spent taking a boat excursion up the Rhine River with Ginger and boys and a road trip into Bavaria with Matt.
We set out on the river cruise from the point of departure in the town of Rudesheim. The slow moving boat meandered up river past hilltop castles perched high above the neat rows of waterside villages. The Rhine River cuts through some beautiful countryside and on just about every hilltop there is a castle. Many have legends attached to them that are as interesting as their architecture. One such castle is Burg Rheinstein.
During the Middle Ages, many of the castle lords exploited their prime locations on the river by charging exhorbidant taxes to ship traffic using the Rhine waterway. For the unfortunate ones who couldn’t afford the tax, punishment was inevitable. If you look closely, you can see a round iron “basket” precariously hanging from the front tower. The unfortunate “toll runner” would hang out there until someone could come up with the toll money he owed. That is, unless he died of a heart attack first!
At St. Goar, we docked and disembarked to hike up the hill to Burg Rheinfels. Built in 1245 as a collecting station it was the mightiest castle on the Rhine and a walk through its walls proves that claim. The place was entirely self-sufficient in its day as up to 4,000 inhabitants could be found within its walls. It is an impressive structure accentuated by tall towers, fortified buildings, prison walls, mine tunnels and a giant central courtyard.
On both sides of the river we passed sweet little villages that exuded German charm – each one with it’s steepled church, brightly painted row houses and names like Bingerbruck, Niederheimbach, Kaub and….
What kind of name is THAT?!
The day ended with sunshine on the river and lots of smiles all around.
The next day we jumped in the car and as Matt expertly zipped down the Autobahn (“we’re not in Crete anymore, Toto”) into Bavaria, the countryside opened up into the picture postcard images of quintessential Germany.
First stop was the beautiful Weiskirsche (White Church) nestled in the foothills of the Alps and located out in the rural countryside. It is surrounded by quaint farmhouses, green fields, and gray-brown cows with big bells around their necks. Despite it’s humble surroundings, it is an extremely ornate and pristine church. The miracle of the “Scourged Savior” statue that shed tears in 1738 has made it a popular pilgrimage site for believers who come from all over the world.
We stayed overnight in the quaint but lively town of Fussen where we checked out the Hohes Schloss (Fussen castle) and then finished the evening off with some much needed spirits of the land.
The next morning we got up early to make our way to the most famous of all castles in Germany – perhaps in all the world, thanks to Disney.
It was a chilly, misty morning when we arrived at the small town at the base of the rugged hill. The low, wet clouds and mist hanging around the mountain peaks and in the valleys partially obscured the view of the castle and only added to the mystery of this fairytale castle – Mad King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein. We started our day with a tour of Ludwig’s childhood home – the equally impressive and more interesting Schloss Hohenschwangau.
After learning of Ludwig’s bizarre and somewhat troubled past, we toured the castle that was Disney’s inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the castle was its inhabitants. You can learn more at this website: http://www.neuschwanstein.de/englisch/idea/index.htm
Our short visit to Germany left us longing for more of this…
…and definitely this…
Thanks to the Barkers for our wonderful visit to Germany!