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Published: November 9th 2006
...I know it looks fake, but that's because this is a photograph of a postcard. It's a nice view of the castle, and I would never be able to get this angle with my camera. All the other photos in the blog were taken with my camera.
In an effort to avoid spending 200 Euro on train tickets, we purchased a Baden-Württemberg pass for a mere €27, its one downfall our inability to ride the faster intercity trains. So it was a three-hour trip down to Hechingen, which is just a little south of Stuttgart. The online meteorologist called for a temperature in the high 30s / low 40s (about 17°C or so) in the general area to which we were headed, and it was 42°F when we boarded the train in Heidelberg at 0811.
There was this one time on the train when the conductor was trying to explain that we’d have to change cars at the next stop because the car we were in was detaching there, and I certainly got the gist of what he was saying, but must have looked confused (as I’m sure I often appear confused when I’m trying to decipher German), and an Oriental man sitting across from us, who had been speaking Chinese with his friends across the aisle the entire trip, told me in perfect English what the conductor had been saying in German… and behind my smile I felt a bit small and under-educated.
This was our first view of the castle as we approached it by taxi from the town below.
a short stopover in Stuttgart, and arrived in Hechingen just in time to wander out of the train station and discover that we had missed the bus to the castle. As it turns out, there is only one bus up the mountain in the morning, and one bus down the mountain in the evening. Convenient. Thus, we were forced to take a taxi.
The Hohenzollern castle, nestled in the clouds at a height of 855 meters / 2805 feet, was very exciting for us. The post-medieval / neo gothic architecture - resulting from the original castle of the 11th century being destroyed in a siege, reconstructed in 1454, and later falling into ruin and then reconstructed / refortified again between 1850 and 1867 - actually resembled everything we had ever expected a castle to be. From the towers and turrets and crenellations to the winding tunnels and ramps leading up to the main fortress, this castle looks real and makes one feel transported, if one can ignore the tourists. And there were real, working drawbridges, four including one that had been paved, positioned over watery holes. Not exactly daunting moats, but wide and deep enough to drown a few
Seth looking very excited to be standing on the first true and working drawbridge that we've come across in all of our many different castle visits. This is where we entered the castle and began our long trek up the winding ramp towards the inner courtyard.
men in full body armour… though, of course, I’m quite sure the hot oil they poured into the tunnels was more effective at keeping intruders at bay.
Seth and I explored the castle grounds for awhile, photographing and theorizing, strolling initially along the outskirts of the castle grounds on a terrace with magnificent views of the surrounding valley, something I should like to have seen without the immense fog clouds that were immersing us.
The outside of the castle is very photogenic, and this did not change as we finished making our way up the ramp, stopping to chat with some vacationers from Michigan who were surprised to hear our American accents, and continued on, entering the inner courtyard. First we explored the two chapels: Christ Chapel and St. Michael’s Chapel, both very distinct, as they were built centuries apart, but both very beautiful.
We took a guided tour to see some of the insides of the castle. Though much was blocked off, we were still shown into the dining hall, a library, a parlour, and a bedchamber, as well as a museum at the end of our route. The tour was all in German, so most
On the Ramp
Seth checking out the ground below us as we steadily make our way up to the castle.
of our understanding of the history and significance of the family and their residence was gained through the book we purchased. During the walking tour, we were required to wear wool slippers over our shoes, which I found amusing, and which led to much shuffling and sliding.
One of the things I love about visiting castles and palaces is being inside a building that is truly a work of art and is elaborately decorated: ornate from the marble or wood-inlayed floors to the groin vaulted ceilings covered in fabric to the walls that are hand-painted to resemble wall paper. And I also love the little quips of history that catch me unawares, such as finding a painting of Queen Victoria in a room full of family portraits and for the first time seeing her described as “Victoria - Crown Princess of Germany & Prussia, Princess Royal of Great Britain & Ireland.”
At the end of the tour, the guide did give us some history in English, mostly related to the Royal Prussian Crown. As you can tell from the reflection of me in the picture I took, there was only a single layer of bulletproof glass between myself
On the Ramp
A view of the castle above us from a lower portion of the ramp.
and a real, honest-to-goodness king’s royal crown. There was also mere glass separating myself and a dress woven in silver, which was done with such incredible craftsmanship. Seth and I were interested to find in the museum a large, gold christening goblet, the bottom of which displayed a sculpture of St. George slaying a dragon. There was also a carved, linden wood statue of St. George doing this very same thing in the vestibule of the Catholic chapel.
After the museum and a quick stop in the gift shop, we head to the Burgschenke restaurant for a late lunch. We both ordered potato soup, perfect to counteract the freezing winds at this altitude. It was a typical creamy soup, full of typical veggies, and completely delicious, but the good quality sausage that it contained, I was surprised to find, was visually identical to sliced hot dog pieces.
Then there was some more exploring in the cold before we head down the mountain to catch the bus… a little early, just in case. The bus gets us to the bahnhof in time for the 1627 train, and after another stopover in Stuttgart, we arrive in Heidelberg at 1949. All
On the Ramp
A view from a higher position on the ramp... still approaching the main castle courtyard.
in all, of course, this adds up to approximately six hours on the train and only four at the castle. I feel it was worth it, though. After all, it was far to cold to sit up at the castle daydreaming or meditating all day, and, when I remember to use my motion-sickness patch, riding the train can be fun or even relaxing. It’s an adventure all in its own. In Germany, at least for us, the journey is always part of the destination.
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