Captivating Castles

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August 29th 2011
Published: August 29th 2011
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The Middle Rhein River Valley is filled with a series of ruins, Burgs, Castles and Kirches that capture the imagination as you climb to see them closely, tour those that are open to the public or view from a distance. Castles or Burgs can be 1000 years old and have ties to the royal families and have been destroyed and restored by private or commercial entities or used by robber-barons such as Soonack Castle. They can have a history of serving as a hiding place for treasures during wars in the 15th and 16th centuries such as Ehrenfels Castle or sitting in the middle of the Rhein River as a customs tower such as The Mouse Tower with an interesting legend attached to it. The legend tells of tight-fisted Bishop Hatto II (968-970) of Mainz, who was thrown into the tower as a punishment for his wicked deeds and was allegedly eaten by mice.

As we travel down the Rhein we have an opportunity to explore the legend of Loreley (Lorelei). A legendary steep rock, 132 m. high, it rises steeply above the Rhein, which is only 90 meters wide at this point. The siren Loreley is supposed to have lured passing sailors to their death, as described in Heinrich Heine's well-known song. When water levels fall, one can still see the hazardous reefs of the Seven Virgins. According to legend, seven hard-hearted virgins were transformed into rocks there.

From Koblenz to Weisbaden, a distance of 90 Km. there are no bridges available to cross the Rhein and access from one side to the other is by auto or passenger ferries. Of course they run continuously from approximately 6am-8pm, depending on season and day of the week. Passenger and freight trains run on both sides of the river as do highways, and of course the river is a very busy commercial and pleasure ship route. The flooding in the spring of the year has been marked in villages along the river, but we have also seen the high water markers on buildings, walls and have heard from natives about the impact of this flooding. Most of the areas that we are camping in are under considerable levels of water at those times. Train tracks and villages are built above where the most common flood levels occur.

Much of the charm of the small villages along both the Mosel and the Rhein rivers has been the fully restored half-timbered houses. There have been a few that we've seen that have not as yet been renovated and so we're able to see some of the details of the original construction.

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