Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Where is the Princess?

Stolzenfels Castle
Middle Rhine

On my last post, I left off with our traveling south from Koblenz...appropriately named Going South. Clever, huh?

We continued our journey south to see some of the 40 castles and fortresses that still exists along the Middle Rhine.  The Middle Rhine is one of four sections of the river. Actually there are more than 40 castles and fortresses in this section according to some sources....those say correct number is 48. ("po-tate-o... po-tah-to",... it's still a lot of castles and fortresses) The Middle Rhine runs the length  of the river between Bonn, Germany and Bingen, Germany.  One of the most expedient ways to see a lot of these, would be to take one of the Rhine cruises. However, if you are there in December, you have to check to see what cruises are available. Many of the tourist cruises end on October 31st.  We chose to drive the distance so we had the luxury of stopping where and when we wanted.  Today, I am going to talk about just two stops.  I fear that I am already past the point of boring you with our itinerary.

Thought Number One: Stolzenfels Castle
No sooner had we left the city of Koblenz heading south...thinking our next stop would be in Boppert when we saw the prettiest castle sitting up on the bluff...which of course meant we needed to scope it out.

According to Europedia, the Stolzenfels Castle is open to the public everyday of the year for tours.  What I quickly determined is that Europedia is as accurate at Wikipedia...which means that I wasn't horribly shocked to see:

We, however, weren't deterred from walking around.  While my photography skills don't do justice to how pretty the setting actually is...it truly is  no less than spectacular. (My husband's camera does a bit better job capturing the richness of the colors but neither can capture the true beauty of the place.) There is a winding trail that goes up to the castle past a chapel and a gate house.  

A little background about the castle:

  • The castle was built in 1259 as a toll station on the Rhine until 1412.
  • It was occupied by several countries including Sweden in 1632 and France in 1634 and 1646.
  • The French destroyed much of it in 1689 during the Palatinate Succession War.
  • After the defeat of Napoleon, the town of Koblenz demanded ownership and gave the ruins to the Prussian Prince Royal, Friedrich Wilhelm.
  • In 1836 the castle was restored to it's original glory.

 Thought Number Two:  Bacharach, Germany

After making stops in several towns along the way, each being more charming than the last, we pulled into Bacharach and parked next to one of the old fortress towers. 

My husband had been to Bacharach a couple of other times prior to my arrival, so you will notice some differences in the pictures. The day, I arrived,  the town had Christmas markets in the streets.

Bacharach has two very prominent tourist draws. One of them being the ruins of an ancient chapel. The Werner Chapel, unfortunately,  has a tragic story attached to it.  The chapel was first built in 1289 to honor a 16 year old named Werner of  Oberwesel who was murdered. The murder was blamed on the Jewish community and the accusations brought with it a number of crimes against the Jewish population.

The chapel remained uncompleted and was further damaged by the French when they destroyed Stahleck Castle that was located just up the hill.

What remains of Werner Chapel, however, is the architectural skeleton of what is some of the most enduring examples of Gothic art used in design of buildings.

The real attraction to the area is the Stahleck Castle that sits further up onto the hillside.

Background of the castle:

  • There is no clear evidence when the castle was built but it is believed to be around 1135 AD.  
  • The castle was sacked 8 times over the course of its history leaving it in various states of ruin.
  • It was finally beyond repair when the French destroyed it in 1689. The French not only decisively destroyed the castle but also, destroyed Werner Chapel as well.
  • In 1909, the castle footings and remaining walls were stabilized so work could begin to rebuild it.
  • By 1925 it was rebuilt  incorporating the remains of the original structure, with the help of Erst Stahl.  His intent was to  rebuild it in it's original "spirit".  The newly rebuilt castle was intended to be a hostel. 
  • During the First and Second World Wars, the buildings were taken over and used by the Third Reich for various reasons including an indoctrination camp for the young men of Germany.
  • It returned to a youth hostel in 1947.
  • Today it houses over 42,000 overnight stays a year. The 168 beds are nearly always reserved.

So...that is where, I will leave off for today.

Next week, I will show you Amsterdam.

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Chubby Chatterbox said...

I can't get enough pictures of castles, and I'm looking forward to your experiences in Amsterdam, one of my favorite places.

Cheryl P. said...

Amsterdam is one of my VERY favorite places on the planet. I hesitate to tell people that as they jump to nefarious assumptions but, I do love the art and culture there. Plus, our son went to the university there and was so happy living in Amsterdam that I feel his affection for the city.

I fear I am boring people that aren't into travel though. I have decided just to don the Amsterdam post and call it done. It might have to be a two-parter though, so I can bitch about the regional trains never being on time. BUT, those ICE trains are awesomesauce.

Robyn Engel said...

I'm in awe of the Werner Chapel, especially because it's unfinished. Seeing the trees so vividly in the unfinished windows is so unique.

You lead an interesting life, Cheryl. Thanks for taking us along with you.

lisleman said...

How easy it would have been to skip the toll as your boat went by? Maybe they had a few cannons at the ready.
Most of the castles I've seen were in Ireland or England. The one German castle we did see was the famous (Disney World famous) Neuschwanstein Castle. I suspect you have seen that one (on a different trip?).

Cheryl P. said...

Thank you, Robyn. I had a feeling of awe just standing next to it. There is something very somber about it. I agree with you...those windows are unique. I found there is something very striking...borders on beautiful in a lot of the ruins.

Cheryl P. said...

I was curious about that too. I never got the explanation how they collected money from boats. A lot of the towns had toll bastions..how they worked is beyond me.

Yes, I have been to Neuschwanstein Castle, although it's been awhile. (I think 1988) From the exterior Neuschwanstein is the epitome of what a person thinks a castle should look like.

Lady Jewels Diva said...

That fortress tower makes me think Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair, and you in that princess dress, lmao!

Wendy said...

Of course, Miss -ooops -Mrs Princess Cheryl just has to be dressed in pink, hum? Just imagine how the Real princesses in those castles must have felt. I had a son who went to Germany and believe me, I never experience this absolute charm and majestic awesomeness from his recounting. I love the videos. Nor am I weary of your adventures and looking forward to Amsterdam (where he did not go). Even though I know its historical, I find it so challenging to believe that people lived ,loved and died within those castles. I love how the country works to keep the history. I know it is for the tourists, but they could have torn them down long before tourism was like it is today, but they did not. I am in awe. Awe.

Pickleope said...

Oh crap! So Jew murdering is a German tradition going back to the 13th century!?! Better not tell them it's a tradition. Bad idea.
Fun fact: Bacharach changed its name from Baccarat to Bacharach once Burt Bacharach's popularity overtook the popularity of the game baccarat. Bacharach over baccarat, as the old saying goes. Who needs baccarat when you have Bacharach. I'd play baccarat with Bacharach but Bacharach will stab your back like a rat when playing baccarat. (I'm not above word play.)

Cheryl P. said...

I thought the same thing about all those towers...very reminiscent of fairy tale princesses being locked up. I doubt that the caretakers of Burg Stahleck appreciate me putting an anti-hostel (or hostile) princess in it.

Cheryl P. said...

I think Princesses are limited to just three colors, pink, purple and blue...at least that is all I have ever seen them dressed in. Maybe young men wouldn't appreciate all the romanticism involved in the history of castles. Clearly, we over sentimentalize some of it. I bet living in cold, dank castles that were getting sacked regularly by opposing armies might be less than the idyllic situation.

It is so hard to wrap one's mind around the generations that have lived in these places...as you said "lived, loved and died". To think that something could be built in 1000 AD or even 1135.. and still remain intact (even if only partially in some cases).....amazing.

I think the idea of something that is so timeless is intriguing to those of us from the U.S. (this probably doesn't apply to Canadians) that structures that become obsolete or in disrepair...would be bulldozed down and a big shopping center or parking garage would sit there.

Thanks for saying I am not boring you to tears.

Cheryl P. said...

Sadly, there is some truth in that, Pickleope. A very disturbing history in regards to anti-semitism.

I would say that is a few too many Bacharachs, or Baccarat as the case may be. I am totally dizzy.

Jo-Anne said...

I loved this post I can tell you I have never stayed in a hostel and don't thunk I ever will but a castle that might be interesting to stay in

Cheryl P. said...

I never have stayed in a hostel either. I have talked to people that have, including my son. I think that is for the more adventuresome types. At Burg Stahleck there are rooms for individual families, I believe but I would still want the "frills" that go with most hotels. There are a number of old castles that have been converted into true hotels.

oldereyes said...

Very nice and informative, Cheryl, and while photos never do reality justice, yours are very nice. Muri and I have been considering a river cruise and you travelog makes me think the Rhine might be the one to do. I notice you've included several videos. Very nice. What did you use to make them?


Cheryl P. said...

I would go back and do a Viking cruise on the Rhine in a heartbeat. This was great fun. I am having coffee with a friend this morning that has taken a number of river cruises and ask her about her preferences. If you are interested shoot me your email and I will tell you what she says.

I made the movies or slideshows really on Windows Movie Maker. Super easy. Then I published them to You Tube to make them easy to embed into my blog.

The real trick is finding music that is free to use. I found some music out of Sweden that I wanted to use on one and You Tube issued a warning pretty quick that there was a copyright on it. I am sure I could of just plowed ahead, noted who it belonged to in the comment section....but I am a rule follower. So I began hunting for some artists that were willing to openly share and give me permission to use their music.

Riot Kitty said...

I didn't know about Europedia...or were you being clever and making it up? :) The arches in that shot are incredible. It must be so different growing up in a place with so much history.

Cheryl P. said...

No..seriously...I went to Europedia and looked up Stelzenfels and it said that the castle was open for tours every day. Seems the people at Europedia aren't privy to the castle schedules.
Those arches are amazing. That isn't just one or two sets of arches that I took a lot of pictures of ...there were 5 or 6 of them as the path wound up towards the castle. It's hard to show the size of them in a photo but they are bigger than you would think.

abeerfortheshower said...

I'm sorry, Mario, but the princess is in another (German) castle. Womp womp!

The whole story of Werner of Oberwesel is fascinating, if only because from what I've read no one even knows how he was killed. And in the end this kid got an entire chapel named after him. And sainthood. I wonder what a guy like me would have to do in this day and age to end up a saint with my own chapel. Sadly, I'm not seeing that happen.

Cheryl P. said...

It is an interesting story albeit very anti-Semetic. I guess if you want to get sainted as Werner of Oberwesel was...you have to have some bigoted people find your mutilated dead body rotting on a place that is big enough for a chapel to be built AND your rotting corpse has to smell like lilacs instead of normal decompostion. I am truly surprised that anyone believed that story but stil...there is a church ruin there still claiming it happened.
I have to say though...those ruins are quite beautiful in their own right. The original chapel that was being enlarged (but never got finished) when the French blew it up was probably something to see.

AletaObrien said...

What a shame that the chapel was never completed. It would have been amazing. I'm glad the remains are still there, at least so show the level of beauty that years ago could exist. I think of our block buildings with mirror windows and high rises... they have nothing on history and grace.

Wow... all those castles... geezz... they didn't have homes, they just built castles, from the number of castles available in the area! How wild.

My cousin stayed in a hostel when she was in Europe. She said it was like bunking with a bunch of strangers. Not my cup of tea.... I'm a spoiled American :)

Cheryl P. said...

From what I gather there was a small chapel built but then they decided to expand it. The expansion never was completed before the chapel was destroyed. I couldn't find out any information as to what that original chapel consisted of.

Yeh, seems like a lot of castles for sure. Although, there are tons of buildings that are marked with dates dating back hundreds and hundreds of years. They just don't draw tourist traffic.

My husband took a picture of one of the multi-person rooms. Not my cup of tea either. The picture is taken through a window so it isn't very clear but you can kind of get an idea.

Bodaciousboomer said...

I am so happy for you that you've been able to take such a great trip. The only truly old relic I've ever seen is my Mother in Law. My best friend took a river trip last December to see all the Christmas markets. One day, I'll do some traveling. Of course by then I'll probably be in an urn...

Cheryl P. said...

You are naughty!! Luckily your MIL probably won't ever read my blog.

Yes, I read on your blog that Evelyn came back with some awful virus. Luckily I managed not to have any problems at all. The trip was without a hiccup. It really is great fun. I hope you get the chance to take a really fun trip. You work too hard...a break would be nice.

meleahrebeccah said...

"Actually there are more than 40 castles and fortresses in this section according to some sources" --- That's amazing!

And ZOMFG the Stolzenfels Castle is just breathtaking! I'm going back to watch that video AGAIN!

"What remains of Werner Chapel, however, is the architectural skeleton of what is some of the most enduring examples of Gothic art used in design of buildings." --- Wow. Just wow.

Cheryl P. said...

If only pictures did it justice, Meleah. It was so beautiful that it took my breath away. I am ordering a new and better camera in hopes that if I get back the pictures will be closer to what it really looked like.

The Werner Castle...who would of thought that empty windows could look so artistic??? It was amazing!