Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rheinfels Castle

Among the many fortresses dotting the Rhine there are a select few that stand out for aesthetic reasons, sheer size or their turbulent history.  The castle ruins of Rheinfels lays claim in history as one of the mightiest fortresses in the Middle Rhine region.  The ruins are all we see today.  In spite of its much diminished state, it leaves ample evidence of its impressive battlements and sprawling  dimensions.
We took a self guided tour, reading our way through different sections, visualizing the grandeur of this medieval fortress.  My imagination required little additional support, as around every corner we saw something which bespoke its once proud past.  In some places the walls were 4 meters thick.  Beneath this superstructure is a labyrinth of tunnels, cellars and vaults which held armories, soldier housing and food supplies.  Of course, they also had their wine.  In 1587, a huge barrel was constructed to provide safe storage for 200,000 liters of wine.  This invariably boosted moral and offered some compensation for the cold, damp living conditions the soldiers endured.

Within ten years of construction, in 1245, the fortress was subjected to its first test.  For a year, it withstood a siege before the attacking forces gave up.  In the centuries that followed, it gained importance as a customs castle, reaping the benefits of tolls, taxes and duties of those passing this treacherous part of the Rhine River.  The wealth, power and strategic location of the castle proved it to be a prized possession of the counts, nobles and landgraves, and ultimately it become one of the strongest fortresses in Germany.

In 1692, Louis XIV sent a powerful army to try and take the
castle.  He too was unsuccessful.  The turbulent history of the castle came to an end in 1794, when it was handed over - without a struggle - to the Revolutionary French army.  Sadly the walls and inner castle were destroyed by the French and rocks carted off for projects elsewhere.  A hotel, museum and a few other sundry shops now occupy portions of this grand structure.

St. Goar is the small town that lies at the foot of the castle and is a
key stopping point for cruise boats going up and down the Rhine. We made it a day with about 15 other couples taking in a relaxing Rhine cruise past the fabled Loreley.  Arendje took advantage of the extra people to get a picture.  She said she wanted a bear hug and I was nowhere around.  I was looking at cuckoo clocks.

On the boat we were serenaded by a throng of German tourists, doing what good Germans do, celebrating a beautiful day in their beautiful country, by singing songs and otherwise having a good time.

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful castle! Dad, I laughed out loud at the cuckoo clock part because, OF COURSE you were off looking at cuckoo clocks while poor Mom is sight-seeing by herself. Haha. I'm thinking cuckoo clocks are your new hobby for 2010. Don't worry Mom, it'll change soon :)