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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

SAILING THE MIDDLE RHINE







One of the very few sunny days we had during our river cruise was the day that we sailed the Middle Rhein. This was meant to be the source of some beautiful scenery as we passed by multiple huge castles built on both sides of the river. Our cruise director was located in the window filled viewing deck and told some of the history of each of the castles as we passed them by.  They also celebrated this beauty with a demonstration of making russian coffee and serving many deserts ( as if we could possible be hungry.

I am sorry to say that i missed most of the castle histories as I chose to sit up on the open top deck so that i could photograph some of the amazing scenery. i have to say that although it was really a lovely sunny day, the wind was blowing "a gale", so that I nearly blew over in my chair. It was also a COLD WIND, so I was happy that the crew was so kind to provide cozy blankets for each of the crazy folks who chose to sit outside. This section of the Rhein went between Koblenz and Bingen, and had over 20 huge castles which watched down on the river and protected their villages in the past. Each one of these amazing and huge buildings is full of history. I was able to buy a pamphlet about each of the castles, so that i later had some idea of what I had viewed, and the history of each. The castle above is Deuernburg Castle and was started about 1356. It was quite decayed and was sold in 1806 when it was painstakingly restored between 1900 and 1906 and is currently privately owned.


Passed by gorgeous roling hillsides filled with .... guess what.... lovely vineyards.
This beautiful scene is one of the KATZ CASTLE, This was built around 1371 to help fortify the upper and lower county area. It was in 1806 that Napoleon ordered this castle to be blown up, however there was victory over napoleon and the ruins were later restored.. This castle is also privately owned ( someones weekend home???) and is not currently available for tours.
PFALZRAFENSEIN CASTLE, which is located on a rock cliff in the middle of the Rhine River which was built about the year of 1324 and exacted hight tolls for boats sailing the Rhine.

SCHONBURG CASTLE , build in about 300 AD, however the actual time is uncertain, but thought to be initiated by the Romans. SUCH HISTORY HERE!!!!




STOLZENFELS CASTLE along the Rhine river was build around 1248 and is available today for tours. Quite a site while cruising the river.

Monday, May 23, 2016

MARKS BURG CASTLE, BRAUBACH GERMANY

So also wanted to share another castle that we visited the very next day. Our ship went on to Braubach Germany and off we went on another very fascinating castle tour, this time to Marksburg Castle.  Another amazing 1000 AD century castle overlooking a city below. This castle was another amazing place with quite a history. It was originally built by the aristocracy and eventually was used as a prison and also a shelter for wounded soldiers. The entrance to this castle was quite difficult with very steep passageways made of rough cobblestone. We were told that at one time, large horses with mounted knights, in full armor,  climbed up these stone passageways, and that the horses were very large and very strong. After looking at some of these suits of armor, I can definitely tell why the horses had to be strong. The highest tower seen above, was the "keep" where under siege, the women and children could be the safest while the castle was being protected.
You can see here a little of the steepness of the long approach to this castle. Can you imagine riding up this on your horse in your armor. Hurrying home to the castle to protect it. This was also surrounded by a large moat which was another protective device of the time.
There were many canons pointing out to the landscape for protection, and even had an example of the cannon balls. Looks as if it would need to be a direct hit to be effective. Such a difference in a thousand years from the weapons fired now. No comparison.

Included in this castle, with no surprise, was a winery. The told us that it was required that each person in the castle had to drink 3-5 liters daily. 3 liters for women, and 5 for the men.
This was one of t he beds that we saw and it was interesting to see. Both the foot and the head were elevated, so that two people sleeping in this had their heads at opposite ends. The slept sitting upright as it was considered bad luck to sleep flat like the dead did. Their souls were considered safer to stay in their bodies when they were upright.
There were , again, many little nooks where the occupants could enjoy their music or games, or just looking out on t he landscape through the amazing stained glass windows.
This was a ceiling of one of t he  rooms where prisoners were held. The art work was gorgeous, however, all along the walls and ceilings were scratch marks where the prisoners tried out of fear to scratch off the paint.  Do you think there are any ghosts of this era left here.  Such tragedy and pain in this room, and others here too.
There were several rooms also that held ancient suit s of armor, made individually for the different size knights. Another place we visited had a huge, nearly 7 feet tall, looking like a giant compared to  the rest of them. Hard to imagine what these weighed.
This room was where the men were tortured, and some of t he methods described were truly terrible. The rug on the wall behind showed the tree main ways of killing the men sentenced to death. Pulling them apart with each limb tied to horse going the other way, and another was burning slowly to death. First though, the men were dropped through  the 'HOLE OF FEAR"  to the area that they were execute ed in.  Hard to imagine this sort of setting and practices, but definitely was practiced.

The above room was where the blacksmith place was, and the guide here is showing the difference between the size horseshoes of todays horse on the left, and the horses that the knights  rode.  No comparison, but it must have taken a really large horse for the duties that they had climbing and carrying heavy armored knights  on their backs .

This is a "borrowed photo' from Google taken from above this castle. Just imagine all of the hundreds of years of history in this place.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

REICHSBURG CASTLE IN COCHEM GERMANY

 Was quite excited when we arrived in Cochem, as I had heard it was a beautiful place and was anticipating touring my first castle, which is Reichsburg Castle.  This castle was built around 1000 AD.  Pretty amazing when you think of all of the history that has taken place in this amazing building, which is in very good condition. The first thing that really shocked me when I saw this was how it was so huge and really dominated the city of Cochem.  If you are interested in more of the history of t his building you can find it HERE.
 This castle has its own vineyard, and in addition to being a tourist attraction, they also produce wine from the castles own vineyard.
 As we left our ship, we went by tour bus up the winding hillside overlooking the village, finally arriving at the main gate below.  Can you imagine the guards that oversaw this in the ancient times.

 We had not even gotten in to the castle though, when we were told that one of the other ship passengers in a tour group ahead of us had been injured and that we would have to wait until the ambulance, with its loud Klaxon, had arrived. It took about 5 minutes until the ambulance arrived, and only a few minutes longer for a helicopter to start circling  the castle ( I was pretty sure this was not good news) and was right as it circled and then landed  in the courtyard, eventually picking up the lady who had been injured . She was from our ship, and was taken to another city larger than
Cochem.  She did have a pretty bad concussion after tripping on the rough cobblestones and falling down a stairway.  Everyone was quite concerned and although we all hoped that she would be able to rejoin the cruise, she was kept in  the hospital, and told that she would be hospitalized for 2-3 weeks. This sort of thing is a big reminder to those of us who travel abroad to be sure and purchase good  travel health insurance.
 The views from the castle were great  and you can imagine how the guards in their armor were able  to see enemies approaching from miles away, either by horseback or by the river. We were told that the castles charged a fee for the boats going down river, and that was one of their sources of income


 On  our tour, we were able to view 7 completed rooms in this castle, along with many little nooks that would have been lovely to sit at and view the surrounding countryside.
 One of  the ways  that the nobility protected themselves was by having their own water supply in case of siege, and this was their well. We were told that it was about 500 feet deep, and it had been dug by hand power.  Can you imagine how long this would have taken in 1000AD??
 The dining room which was one of the 7 completed rooms with many hand carved pieces, including the built in cupboards and shelves.


 After our tour of this castle, we then continued our tour in the town below, which was lovely. Love all of the brick and cobblestone walkways which were all very narrow with fascinating doors and windows everywhere. I took a gazillion photos of doors and windows on our trip.
 This was in the town square/ market area which had great little stores with lots of options for great souvenirs. Know this would be a charming place to visit during the Christmas markets. We had plenty of time after our tour t o shop and explore before heading back to the ship. This was ONE  of my favorite stops on this cruise, although loved all of our stops. Have been a bit jealous when hearing in some previous comments about people who have had the opportunity to live in Germany, as this would be a fascinating experience and wonderful opportunity.

Friday, May 20, 2016

BERNKASTLE WINE TASTING

So it was so amazing riding along the Mosel River on the ship and watching all of the vineyards passing by. Certainly made me appreciate all of the local wines that we were offered to try out.  It was incredible to see how steep these vineyards were, and had to wonder how the people farming these accessed these steep areas and got the grapes down.  It was my understanding that many of these terraced areas were once again, the product of the Romans who often were responsible for rocking in these terraces.  Many of the vineyard vines were well over a hundred years old, and they were only seen on one side of the river as this was the side that got the correct sunlight for the grapes to be the best flavor. Also learned that most of the ground was covered with slate which helped keep in the sunlights warmth when night comes. Can you imagine families working these same fields for many generation.


In a short time after seeing all of these amazing fields, we arrived at BernKastel and had planned an evening at a local vineyard and winery for a wine tasting.  I loved the building it was in, above, and the 11 acres of family vineyards above it.  We tasted 4 wines and bought several of their premier wines to later enjoy at home.


This wine is also sold in the US under a different name which escapes me now. Did have a great time at this wine tasting and also seeing how amazing the hillsides are covered with the steep vineyards.







After our wine tasting, we enjoyed a walking tour of this charming city. Thought this was a most interesting house that we saw, and loved all of the interesting windows and doors. Such a beautiful  place Germany is, and in so many ways, very much as I imagined it to be. Tomorrow, on to Cochem.