The major point of moving down the mid-Rhine region of Europe on a riverboat cruise is the ancient castles that dot the hillsides. Some of the castles are abandoned and in ruins, others are privately owned---one by a Japanese man who paid 25 million Euro(!), and others have been turned into hotels, perhaps charging prices not reflective of their service(?)...some even with parking at the top of the hill!
Most of the days were overcast and trying to get good photos of the castles without the definition of sunshine was a challenge.
They were all sizes and shapes.
Seeing castles from a cruising river ship is certainly the lazy way to experience the history and architecture, but I was able to visit a few castles. They require walking up many stone steps and then navigating lots of cobbles and slate and rock beds. People trip and fall all the time as they look away for a second from their foot placement. The photo below was the only one I could find where I captured the uneven terrain. You can see the threshold was smooth, but further in, it was treacherous!
"To reach my bed, I have 158 steps to climb, explained Hermann Hecher, the genial owner of the Burg Reinstein, near Bingen. " And it's really terrible when I forget something. Because then I have to go all the way back down and up again!" Taken from Castles in the Air, A Journey Down the Rhine. Hecher, a former opera singer, purchased his castle from Prinzessin Barbara von Hessen und Rhein, Herzogin von Mecklenburg, for the sum of 360,000 Deutschmarks---whatever that translates to today.
The stories from this area are haunting like the Grimm Brothers horror tales and romantic like words that were written by Bryon and Shelley.
|Die Pfalz constructed by King Ludwig|
Castle maintenance and repair is not for the faint of heart. The government sometimes will provide a grant or loan, but like agro-tourism, they make money by putting on falconry shows, having butterfly houses, and renting out for weddings.
And as you can see from these photos wine is an important crop. It is a passion with the Germans and I learned for the first time that Reisling can be dry. The slate stone upon which the castles are built is important in absorbing the heat of the sun which is important to the vines growing at the upper limit of this wine growing area. I did not go on a wine-tasting because they are usually unrewarding to me. If I ever return I will pay for a private tour, which is better.
Yes, the grape harvesting on these steep hillsides is still done by hand, but fewer and fewer are willing to work that hard and small wineries appear to be closing.
Well, thanks for coming along the river with me. By the way, do you have a favorite castle?