Thursday, September 25, 2014

Not Another Bloody Castle!

Regis loves castles. She loves looking at them from afar, loves touring them, and just really enjoys visiting places that have castles. The river cruise through Europe was perfect, one day is spent cruising the Middle Rhine, and the brochures claim that “There is a castle around every corner!” is not really that far from the truth.

Castle Overlooking the Town
The day started with a tour of Marksburg Castle. This spectacular castle sits right on top of a hill overlooking the Rhine. This castle is unique, because it was never destroyed and so although sections are “restored”, it remains basically as it was in the 13th century. The castles on the Rhine were mostly built to allow someone to control a section of the river and collect “tolls” from ships using the essential waterway, so they are built on the rocky hillsides looking down on the river. As a result, the castles are built to fit the hillside and come in many shapes and configurations, rather than your “regular” square castle with four ramparts and a central building protecting the lords and ladies. Marksburg castle wanders up and down over the hilltop with the actual rock it is built on serving as the floor in sections (Not real comfortable . . . ). It was a wonderful tour visiting the chapel, kitchen, armory, living areas, and the torture chamber.

Castle Ruin
Once leaving Marksburg, there literally seemed to be a castle around every corner. This of course makes sense. The castle sitting on the hillside could only control the section of river they could see, so as soon as one castle as out of sight another greedy robber baron could build another castle and start collecting tolls. It must have been a nuisance for the boats using the river, and indeed in time, as the central government became strong enough the practice was stopped.

Wake me at the next Castle
Unfortunately most of the rest of the castles were torn down at least once if not multiple times. The King, to prevent the collection of tolls, destroyed some. Apparently the French came in during the 1600’s and destroyed most of the castles to establish their control of the region. Some have remained as ruins, but many have been rebuilt. Our guide on the boat giving a running commentary as we cruised past these castles used the expression “Restored in the  . . . style”; in other words they were sometimes not restored, but rebuilt to suit the new owner. Some are private homes, some museums, one is a hotel, and a number are youth hostels (you sleep in bunk beds but have the BEST view). This entire section of the river has World Heritage Site designation, so most of the castles are now somewhat protected, but it really is a spectacular section of the river.

We spent the afternoon, sitting up on deck chairs on the sundeck, waiting for the boat to round the next corner and the next spectacular castle to appear. We got to the point that even Regis was saying “Oh no, not another bloody castle!”

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