Saturday, January 2, 2016

Rhine River Castles

Our fifth day on the river took us through the Rhine River Gorge. This section is the most beautiful and is lined with castles, one about every two kilometers. Because it is navigable all the way from Rotterdam to Basel, the Rhine has always been one of the world’s busiest rivers.
Trains travel along the river on both banks
Liebenstein and Sterrenberg Castles in the distance
This section of the Rhine is narrow which made it easier for local barons to set up ‘toll booths’ along the river. The fact that there was no central government in Germany meant that these local ‘robber barons’ had free reign to do as they pleased. So they built a castle with a tower and even used chains across the river to enforce the tolls. 

Pfalz Castle is situated in the river easing the collection of tolls

Many of the castles would be destroyed when France became powerful and decided that the Rhine River should be the eastern border. Louis XIV has many of the castles in the 1680s. More would be destroyed by the French Revolutionary Army in the 1790s and by Napoleon in 1806. 

Schonburg Castle
Rheinfels Castle
Maus Castle
Then in the late 1800s, they began to be rebuilt often in the neo-Gothic style of the Romantic Age. Today, they are hotels, hostels, restaurants, and museums and a delight to travelers in the area. 

Sooneck Castle
Liebenstein and Sterrenberg with the wall built between to separate the brothers who became enemies over a woman. One story has it that they settled things and celebrated with an arrow in the air each morning. One day one arrow found its mark as the other brother opened his door to fire his arrow. Perhaps some of the story is true.
 As has been the norm for this trip we had decent but not beautiful weather for most of the day. The partly sunny forecast turned out to be true. We had blue sky in places, but often the sun was obscured by the remaining clouds. At least is was not raining and we were able to sit on the upper deck and enjoy the views.

St. Nikolas Catholic Church
Another of the many churches
The trip through the gorge took about two  hours and we arrived at Koblenz about noon. After lunch, we were treated to a tour of Marksburg Castle. Marksburg avoided the destruction of the French period and is today a museum showing how the castle inhabitants lived and worked. 

Marksburg Castle
The three towers were from the lead smelter at the bottom of the hill. Today the stacks stand idle. The factory recycles car batteries.

When carts were no longer entering the castle the door was narrowed for protection
The cannons were ready, but the castle was never attacked

The bellows pushed the wine into a fresh barrel for drinking
The kitchen

Tapestries also provided insulation from the cold walls
Self-sufficiency was essential
A variety of armor
A rack used for torture
Drainage ditch. They thought of everything
The blacksmith's forge. He made tools, not decorative pieces.
View of town from the castle
Beautiful tilework

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