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German Castle Tour 2012

In June 2012 we made a roadtrip to the German Rhineland, staying each night at a different castle hotel.

The first castle we saw was Dover castle, shown on the right, on our crossing to Dunkirk

 

Day 1: Dover to Chateaux Sedan via Dunkirk

United Kingdom to France

 

Sedan is today the largest fortified castle in Europe, and has been extensively modified since its early Medieval construction. An earlier fotification was present on the site and the main construction begain in 1424.

On 2 September 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, Napoleon III the French Emperor was taken prisoner with 100,000 of his soldiers at the First Battle of Sedan.

On 12-15 May 1940 the German army advanced through the Ardennes in what was thought to be difficult terrain for tanks and weakly defended. The Germans luftwaffe made the largest German air offensive of the war against the Meuse line, and the village at Stonne occupying the high ground changed hands 17 times in a fierce battle, and won the second battle of Sedan allowing them to bypass the Maginot line and capture France.

Hotel entrance

Castle entrance with huge earthworks and limpressive defences

The room was on two levels with a internal balcony overlooking the lower level

Sketch of the castle as it would have appeared in the early 15th Century

 

Day 2: Chateaux Sedan to Burg Liebenstein

France, Belgium, passing through Luxembourg to Germany

 

River views used as defence positions in WWII

Birds of Prey

Overlooking the river crossing

 

Castle Bouillon, Belgium

The route from Sedan to Germany took us past Castle Bouillon, an impressive castle overlooking the local river and valley and has displays of medieval life, falconry and a herb garden. In 1082 the castle came into the possesion of Geoffrey of Boullion, one of the leaders of the first crusade.

The castle had a layered defence with series of gatehouses, with what were once draw bridges and portcullises, having captured one, the defenders could fall back to defensive positions to withstand any attacker.

Falconry Cart

Betony
Fenel
Sage hormonium
Sage Officianale
Tansy
Wormwood
 

Parc Merveilleux, Luxembourg

For a break in the driving and history, took the afternoon off for a visit to Parc Merveilleux which was on route to Germany. The parc is filled with all sorts of animals from all over the world from monkeys, penguins, bats and fish to electric eels, with a few rides and adventure activties such as the archimedes screw shown on the right.

 

 

Burg Liebenstein

This was our hotel for the night, offering accomodation and a restaurant. The castle is one of a pair of castles called Sterrenberg and Liebenstein near Bornhofen, and an unlikley local legend tells of two warring brothers who owned each castle. Liebenstein is thought to be the curtain wall of Sterrenberg. The castle dates back to at least 1034 wehn it was first mentioned. The rooms were decorated in a tasteful medieval style.

The castle offered stunning views over the Rhine, the below picture is a panoramic view taken from the castle.

Several display cases exhibited some local artifacts

 

Day 3: Burg Liebenstein to Burg Stahleck

 

We took a castle boat cruise down the Rhine from Boppard to Ruedesheim and was a great way to see the castles for the reason that they were built in order to charge tolls on craft navigating the river Rhine. This was just one part of the Rhine and further castles exist further to the North West and South East.

The Rhine Valley from Rudesheim to Koblenz is a UNESCO world heritage cultural landscape with 21 castles along the 65 km of river and a further 19 on the valley heights and side valleys.

Maus Castle (Mouse Castle)

Begun in 1356 and completed in 1388 by the archbishop of Treves, Bohemond II, to protect his estates from the upstream Counts of Katzenelnbogen. During the 14th and 15th Century it was the residence of the Electors of Treves. It fell into disrepair in the 16th and 17th centuries with repairs during the early 20th century but suffered damage from shelling in WWII

Rheinfels Castle

Construction began in 1245 by Count Diether von Katzenelnbogen to help collect taxes. In 1255 it withstood for a year the siege by an army from the League of Rhenish cities. Additional buildings were added in the 14th century by Count Wilhelm II von Katzenelnbogen. In 1479 the castle passed to the hose of Hesse. In 1692 Landgrave Karl von Hesse-Kassel with 4,000 men successfully defended the castle against a French army of 28,000 sent by Louis IV. It was handed over without a fight and the exterior walls blown up by French revolutionary troops in 1797. In the 1970's the castle was made into a hotel.

Katz Castle, St Goarhausen

Count Wilhelm II von Katzenelnbogen began construction in 1360 to protect St Goarhausen and called the castle Neukatzenelnbogen, but shortened to Katz. Combined with Rheinfels it controlled passage along the Rhine. In the 17th century the castle had gun batteries added and was enlarged. It was demolished by Napoleon in 1806 and reconstructed in 1899. It is now in private hands.

Schonburg Castle, Oberwesel

Built during the 12th century and passed in 1166 from the archbishop of Magdeburg to Emperor Friedrich I. The Dukes of Schonburg had the right to tolls on the Rhine and in the 13th century the Schonburg family lived in the castle with up to eight branches of the family. Between 1320 and 1350 the curtain wall was added with the lower gateway. The castle was occupied by various armies in the Thirty Years War and in 1689 it was burnt by French troops in the Palatinate War of Succession. The castle underwent reconstruction in 1885 and 1951 to 1953. It is now a hotel and restaurant.

Gutenfels Castle (solid rock castle)

Construction began in 1220 and by 1257 was owned by the Falkenstein family. It was enlarged and further fortified in the 14th century. In 1504 Elector Ludwig the peacemaker withstood a siege and renamed the castle Gutenfels. During the Thirty Years War it was captured by the Spanish. In 1793 the castle was surrendered to the French without a fight and in 1806 Napoleon slighted the castles fortifications. In 1833 the castle was restored.

Pfalzgrafenstein Castle

King Ludwig of Bavaria raised the Rhine tolls and built the castle as protection against his enemies which included Pope John XXII. Construction begain in 1326 with a defensive wall added around the tower between 1338 and 1340. A chain accross the river helped enforce the toll. Further additions were made in 1607 and the 18th century. Today the castle is a museum and shows the castle set in the 14th century.

Stahlberg Castle

Built by 1219 by the archbishop of Cologne and in the mid 12th century was owned by the Counts Palatine.

Stahleck Castle

Built in the 12th century by the archbishop of Cologne. In 1689 the castle was blown up during the Palatinate war of succession. In 1925-1927 a Youth Hostel was constructed on the site.

Furstenberg Castle

In 1175 the castle was in the ownership of the Zahringen family. In 1243 Counts or Urach took ownership of the castle and became the first Count of Furstenberg. The castle was captured during the Thirty Years War by the Spanish in 1620 and the Swedes in 1632. In 1689 the castle was destroyed in the Palatinate War of Succession.

Heimburg Castle

The castle was built between 1290 and 1305 by the Archbishopric of Mainz. After falling into ruin the castle was destroyed by the French in 1689, but was restored in the 19th century for residential use and remains privately owned.

Sooneck Castle

The castle was built to protect the lands of Kornelimunster Abbey near Aachen. From 1241 the lords of Hohenfels controlled the castle but their illegal collection of tolls caused an alliance of Rheinish towns, the Rheinische Stadtebund, laid siege to the castle in 1254. In 1282 the castles of the robber barons on the Rhine were destroyed by king Rudolf of Habsburg, including the nearby Reichenstein castle. Today the castle can be visited as part of a guided tour.

Reichenstein Castle

Built in the 11th century by the Kornelimunster Abbey near Aachen. In the 13th century the castle was owned by the robber barons. In 1253 an alliance of Rheinish towns, the Rheinische Stadtebund, captured the castle from Philipp von Hohenfels who promised to reform but carried on robbing. Reichenstein was captured in 1282 by king Rudolf of Habsburg after a four year siege to starve the inhabitants and its owner Dietrich of Hohenfels, into surrender. In 1290 the castle was burned and came under the control of the Dukes of Bavaria. The castle was rebuilt in 1344 when the archbishop of Mainz took control. Two round towers were added in the 15th century. The castle gradually decayed until it was destroyed by the Palatine War of Succession in 1689. In 1834 the gate building was converted into a private residence, and in 1902 work completed on renovating the entire castle into a new gothic style residence. Today the castle contains a hotel, restaurant and museum.

Rheinstein Castle

The first castle on this site was named Vautsberg or Fatzberg Castle and built in the 13th or 14th century, possibly to help besiege Reichenstein castle. In 1323 the owner of the castle was Matthias count of Burcheck and archbishop of Mainz. It remianed under the control of several further archbishops of Mainz and fell into disrepair in the 16th century. In 1829 work was completed on turning the medieval remains into into a residence with further building work in 1842. Today the castle has accomodation, restaurant and museum.

Ehrenfels Castle

An earlier structure may have existed, but the remains today were built 1212 for the archbishop of Mainz to protect against attacks from the north by Elector Palatine Henry V, it also served from the start of the 14th century as a toll post. From the mid 14th century it was a residence for the archbishops and after 1379 came into the possession of Mainz Cathedral. The was destroyed by the French in the Palatine War of Succession in 1689. Little remains beyond the main castle as surrounding defences were cleared for vineyards. The exterior is accessible today through the vineyards, but the inside is only visited by pre-booked guided tours.

Mauseturm - toll tower

The Romans first built a structure on this spot and was rebuilt bu Hatto II archbishop of Mainz in 968 who demanded tolls from passsing ships. Legend says that the Archbishop committed a murder and fled to the tower and was eaten by mice. The German word musen means to 'look out'. In 1298 the tower became a customs point for collecting tolls. The watch tower visible today was built at the start 14th century, destroyed by the French in 1689 and rebuilt as a signal tower 1855.

Bromserburg Castle, Ruedesheim

Originally a Roman fortification next to the river Rhine, but over the now sits back from the river bank. The castle was built in the 10th century and extended in the 12th century as a residence. It was owned by the Archbishops of Mainz until it passed into the Bromser family in the 13th century. Parts of the castle were destroyed in 1640 during the Thirty Years War by the Duke of Longueville. In 1811 it was made into a residence for noble families. The castle was lived until until 1937 and aquired by the town council in 1941. Today the castle is a museum.

Boosenburg Castle (Uppper Tower)

Located next to the Bromserburg Castle and built in the 9th century, the castle came into the possession of the Boos von Waldeck family in 1474 and in 1830 to the counts of von Schonborn-Wiesenthied family. Today it remains privately owned.

Today the Rhine is very much still in use for barges carrying a variety of different cargoes

 

The castle river trip included a stop at Ruedesheim where we visited Bromserburg castle, whuch contained displays on wine making and glass.

 

Burg Stahleck is today a Youth Hostel and offer family rooms for very reasonable prices. YHA membership is required. The restraunt serves good meals and beer.

Werner Chapel, destroyed when Stahleck Castle was blown up in 1689.

 

Day 4: Burg Stahleck to Burg Katzenstein

 

Car ferry accross the Rhine

With few bridges over the Rhine, cars can cross on several ferries for a few Euro's. There was a festival at Ruedesheim so there were hundreds of Harley Davidsons up and down and crossing the Rhine.

 

Eberbach Monastery

Eberhard I von Katzenelnbogen 1311 effigy 1330

Johann II von Katzenelnbogen 1357

Johann IV von Katzenelnbogen 1444

Philipp d j von Katzenelnbogen 1453

Philipp von Katzenelnbogen 1479

Philipp II von Nassau-Saarbrucken-Weilburg 1492

Erzbischof Gerlach von Nassau 1371 Erzbischof Adolf II von Nassau 1475

Eberbach is a huge monastery with a large number of effigies and epitaphs. It is also a working winery in which the wine presses can wine barrels can be seen. A shop at the entrance contains a fine slection of wines for purchase as well as many books on the monsastery.

A monastery was established by Adalbert of Mainz which was used by Augustinian canons then Benedictine monks but failed to establish itself until the Cistercian monsatery was founded in 1136 by Bernard of Clairvaux. The monastery suffered damage during the Thirty Years War, the monks being forced to flee, twenty of which returned in 1635.

Inside the church at Eberbach Monastery

Vaulted ceiling inside the monastery

Dog Parking!

Barrels of wine, aging in the wine cellar of the monastery

Eberbach Riesling, we took some crates away for later sampling

Wigand von Heinsberg 1511

Adam von Allendorf und Ehefrau Maria Specht von Bubenheim 1518

Kraft von Allendorf and wife Lisa Wolff von Sponheim

Fourteenth Century Scuptures

The monastery was the setting for the 1985 film The Name of The Rose, written by Umberto Eco, featuring Sean Connery as William of Baskerville and Christian Slater as Adso.

 

Taunus Wunderland

For a break in the driving and history, we stopped off one afternoon at the Tanus Wunderland, a theme park/fun fair,with mltiple rides and activities.

 

Burg Katzenstein

The castle is located withina GeoPark with a small display on the Geology and Palaentology of the reason.

Burg Katzenstein is located in Baden Wurttemberg and offers superb accomodation, restaurant and banqueting at a fantastic price, with a warm hospitable reception from the owners. The room we were given was huge, we definitely reccomend staying here if you get the chance. A medieval market is held each year in the castle.

The castle is decorated with images reproduced from the early 14th Century Codex Manese

Before going to bed we were asked to close the gates to the castle!

The castle museum includes a tower, chapel and some reproduction weapons and armour. The murals of the chapel date back from the 13th and 14th centuries.

The castle tower dates back to 777 A.D. and was owned by Edlen von Hurnheim in 1262, and by Graf von Oettingen in 1354. During the Thirty Years War, the French burned the castle and was rebuilt in 1660.

 

Day 5: Burg Katzenstein to Burg Colmberg

 

A stunning medieval castle hotel with superb views over the dear park and surrounding lands and golf course. This was the view from our bedroom window.

It would be lovely to have a banquet within the castle, the walls of which are decorated with boars heads as well as replica arms and armour.

Deer Park, venison was on the menu

Food and drink can be served in the beer garden shown below which lies in the castle courtyard and is the recepion for the castle.

Breakfast rooms

Model T Ford in the castle

Red squirrel

 

Day 6: Burg Colmberg to Domburg

Germany to the Netherlands

 

Westhove castle in Domburg is a Youth Hostel with very friendly people. A large local family was having a get together so the beer was flowing well, despite the Dutch having lost to Denmark in the football.

The castle was built at the start of the 13th century and in 1277 became the property of the Abbey of Middleburg and was used as the Abbots summer residence. The castle was further extended in 1562. In 1572 a group of Dutch nobles called the Geuzen, opposing Spanish rule, stormed and prtially destroyed the castle, and following this the castle was rebuilt. The castle suffered damage in WWII and was repaired in 1948.

 

Day 7: Domburg to Dover via Dunkirk

Netherlands through France to the United Kingdom

 

 

Passing through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Ardennes, Germany and Holland we have barely touched upon all that there is to see and hope one day to return and explore further.

 

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