Queens of the Rhein

If you ever need to feel like a Princess again (yes, I’m talking to you Bill), the Rhein Valley in Germany is just where you should head!  After spending the night in Rothenburg, we took the Romantic Road – which incidentally, is really not that romantic at all, especially with all the construction.  We bailed out early, near Wurzburg and Maylene got to have fun with the autobahn — just where the heck is Ausfahrt anyway?!

We arrived at Burg Liebenstein at around 3 pm and were upgraded to a suite due to scheduling issues and had two amazing views – one of the Rhine river and the castle surroundings and the other of the castle next door – Burg Sterrenburg.

Castle Across the Way

Castle Across the Way

Our room was at the top of the main house up a curling, crooked staircase barely big enough for our luggage – and trust me, we travel light at 30 lbs each with two backpacks and a small bag between us.

Before leaving, the owner showed me the fire escape and joked that this was the staircase that the ghosts used to access the bedroom while we slept.  Hahahaha… very funny.  Of course I was a bit paranoid about that but shouldn’t have been – we slept peacefully after the obnoxious Americans in the patio finally were told to go to their rooms by the owners.

We had dinner on the outdoor patio area and watched the sun set over the Rhein Valley and Sterrenburg castle.

Sterrenburg and the Rhein at Sunsent

Sterrenburg and the Rhein at Sunsent

Absolutely beautiful and a delicious meal that we both enjoyed.  We felt like royalty as one of two tables on the patio and could easily roll back time 500 years to imagine how the previous inhabitants would have passed the beautiful, late summer evening.  Magic!

We woke and enjoyed breakfast overlooking the Rhein Valley in a room decorated with plate metal armour and double-wielding swords and felt like we had the total castle experience.

In the evening we watched a Rick Steve’s video on the valley and learned that a nearby castle, Burg Eltz, was his favorite in Europe and decided to go check it out.  I navigated and Maylene drove and we checked out a whole bunch of castles along the river while I read from the guidebook.  These castles sprang up every few miles along the river so the Robber Barons could establish a fiefdom and use their control over the river to levy fees on the river merchants – reinforced with the very large chains they strung across the banks – good times!

Anywho – somehow, after a few wrong turns we finally found the road to Burg Eltz and followed it until termination at a point where it said the castle itself was 40 minutes away by hiking trail.  At this point, we had already come so far and had finally found the place, so we went for it – the hike through a part of the Black Forest was a pretty good one — not too strenuous but definitely an up and down and over the river kind of walk.  We finally arrived at the castle after 30 minutes

Burg Eltz Interior

Burg Eltz Interior

and found it to be under repair and coincidentally, charging twice what we had expected – oh yeah – and you can only go in by guided tour every 30 minutes.  That’ll be 25 minutes to the next English tour.  Okay – well, let’s make the best of it — having a quick snack before the tour began.  The tour itself was not exactly — errmmm… – well executed, let’s say.  Anyway – after it was over, I could not convince Maylene to go to the included treasury — she just wanted to get the heck out of there (and let me just admit that it was a rather feeble attempt).  So – we sped down the mountain and 30 minutes later hit the road again and saw a sign just down the road for the Burg Eltz P&R — 10 minutes away from the castle — arrggghhh!  That’s okay though – as it was – the best part of visiting this castle was the hike to it!

With map in hand and Maylene at the helm, we headed out of the Mosel Valley via a side street directly to St. Goar so that we could try to catch the ruinous Rheinfels castle before closing.

Rheinfels Ruins

Rheinfels Ruins

We made it with plenty of time to spare and loved the late afternoon walk through this amazingly enormous castle.  It reminded us of the Colosseum in Rome – on that scale, also used for a quarry, and just as run down.

We spent the night at Rudesheim am Rhein in this super-cheesy duck motif hotel – yes, duck was on the menu btw – “ente”, we learned a new word that day boys and girls.  It was in a great location though and we walked throughout the tiny town in the evening, sampling wine from a local vineyard — the Riesling is the local winner and was delicious!  That’s been a really cool aspect of the trip – sampling the local wines and beers that are so regionally distinct.  Yummm!!

The pics might look better in the album below – I had some trouble inserting some of them. Update: in true SNL “Your Company’s Computer Guy” fashion, Maylene said, “MOOOOVE” and fixed these pics.  Good times.

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A Day in Rothenburg

After Switzerland, we took the train up to Frankfurt just to pick up a rental car.  This time, however, we had no intention of using it as a hotel room, thank goodness!  Instead, we decided to ditch the train system again to get to that ever-elusive European “back door” Rick Steves keeps espousing.  Before heading off to the nearby Rhein River Valley, we made like the birds and flew south down the Autobahn to the quaint medieval village of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

With the car camping experience fresh in our minds, we decided to finally redeem one of our hotels.com rewards nights to “splurge” on a pricey room. We hit the jackpot with the King’s Suite in the Villa Mittermeier. Hands down, it was the most luxurious experience we’ve ever had in a hotel with outstanding customer service. Recommend.

IMG_7047

We checked into the hotel early, and because of Charity’s mad research skills, we knew our hotel was across the street from the Old Town wall. Sweet. We threw our stuff down in the room, ooh’d and aah’d over the coolness in the room, and made for the wall.

Now, way back in the medieval day, when Munich and Frankfurt were just bumps in the road, Rothenburg was the second-largest city in Germany at a population of 6,000. It was the crossroads of two major trading and pilgrimage routes, so it prospered for hundreds of years. Then, in the 1600’s, a series of unfortunate events including the Thirty Years War and the bubonic Plague left Rothenburg devastated, and it effectively went to “sleep” for a couple of hundred years. During the age of Romanticism in the late 1800’s, artists and travelers stumbled upon the sleepy town, giving birth to its tourism industry which it has enjoyed ever since. So it is with this knowledge that we visited Rothenburg, and we heard from friends who had been that it was the best example of a medieval town.

We did a bunch of wandering right away, following Rick Steves’ trusty self-guided walking tour. There were some really cool sights including the tiny door for curfew breakers and the rampart walk during which you could pretend to be a sentry on patrol OK, maybe that’s just me. Inevitably, I thought of how many times sentries died in RPG sessions. Yeah, morbid.

Stairs up to the town wall

Stairs up to the town wall

Testing the towns defenses

Testing the town's defenses

To be sure, we liked Rothenburg a lot. It truly was a cute German medieval town, one we’re glad we added to our trip… that said, the whole experience could be so much better if they banned motorized vehicles (except for deliveries and shuttles) throughout the town center. Loved the fountains (even through none were fit for drinking), loved the historic buildings, loved the ramparts, heck we even loved the huge, cheesy Christmas store. Hated the traffic in the town. I mean, seriously. The Old Town is super tiny. Walking the ramparts around the whole thing– that’s only 1.5 miles. During the day, the town is overwhelmed with tourists dodging cars on crazy cobblestones in narrow alleys. The cars just detract from the experience.

On Rick’s recommendation and the main reason we wanted to overnight in Rothenburg, we wanted to take the Night Watchman’s tour that night. The English tour runs daily at 8pm, long after the day-trippers have disappeared, leaving the town quiet (well, but for that dang town bell) and relatively empty. We had awesome local cuisine for dinner (brats, kraut, and potatoes) and washed it all down with local beer and wine.

The tour itself was great, and we really enjoyed it. The guy who runs it is a good host, guide, and showman. His effected accent is fun, and he is full of random and historical tidbits about the city. If you’re ever in the area, you should check it out. Pretty cheap at 6 euros (you throw the money in his hat at the end, hehehe).

One story I particularly enjoyed involved the German occupation of Rothenburg near the end of World War II. The soldiers stationed there were ordered to fight to the death, and the Allies bombed the town, destroying large chunks. Knowing they would not give up the town, the Allied General ordered its total destruction. Luckily, the U.S. Assistant Secretary to War John McCloy, called off the general. The reason? McCloy’s mother had visited Rothenburg as a young woman and loved it so much, she brought home a painting of the town, a painting McCloy grew up with in the family home. On the German side, the Officer in Charge decided to commit treason and turned over the city without a fight. To rebuild, Rothenburg put out an SOS to the world. Since the end of WWII, people have been able to buy one meter spaces along the city ramparts, and we saw bricks from private citizens and companies alike spanning the decades. Neat.

So here are just a few of the many pics we snapped in town.  Enjoy!

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