Castle Pfalz (Die Pfalz or Pfalzgrafenstein) sits on the island of Falkenau in the middle of the Rhine. Not surprisingly, it was a toll castle built for the sole purpose of generating revenue. The Baron would raise and lower chains across the river controlling traffic. It worked in concert with Gutenfels Castle (Burg Gutenfels) and the fortified town of Kaub on the other side of the river. They kept those who refused to pay in the dungeon, a wooden float in the well, until they were paid.
Apparently it has an impressive view from which you can watch ships travel on both sides (take the ferry from Kaub). As it was never conquered, destroyed, it is in good shape even though it doesn’t have electricity or a privy. The little extension was the outhouse; it uses gravity and rainwater.
Kaub is known as the spot where Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher crossed the Rhine with the Prussian and Russian armies, on New Years eve 1813-1814, in pursuit of Napoleon. During the war against the French, Blücher moved 50,000 troops across a Russian-built pontoon bridge. It was an extraordinary achievement. It was also an important step toward the final defeat of Napoleon…well, until Waterloo.
Oberwesel is a pictoresque town. He thought that it’s church, the Gothic Church of Our Lady (Pfarrkirche Liebfrauen), looked like a larger version of the church built by German immigrants in his hometown. The Günderrode House is famous in Germany because it featured in TV Series “Heimat.”
Schönburg, also known as Schloss Schönburg (beautiful fortress in German), is another impressive castle.
The Loreley Bend, before modern navigation systems many ships sank here. Immediately around the bend sits Loreley Rock, a infamous, steep rock 132 meters high. Legend has it that a pretty, naked blond woman sat on the rock singing and brushing her hair. She distracted the boatmen from their work and caused ships to crash (described in a well-known folk song). Today, a statue of a woman sits on top of the rock.
A likelier explanation for the large number of accidents is the narrowness of the riverbed and many rocks around a sharp curve in the river. Even with modern navigation systems, that section of the remains dangerous. When the water level is low, treacherous reefs appear here (if you believe the fable, they are seven hard-hearted virgins who were turned into rocks).
When we told some Germans where we were headed, they said “oh, the dangerous section.” Just last year a ship transporting sulfhuric acid overturned there. Luckily they were able to right it and get it under control before it leaked. Unfortunately, two crew members were swept overboard and drowned.
Founded in the 6th century, the village of St. Goar is the former capital of the area and the most heavily fortified town on the Rhine. It is a vibrant town in a picturesque setting, which isn’t surprising given their economies are based on tourism and wine.
In Rheinfels Castle’s heyday, it was the most powerful fortress in the area. The Baron who built it arbitrarily increased the duties and 27 towns formed an alliance (with 1000 knights and 50 ships) to stop him. The fortress withstood the siege and they gave up after about 16 months.
The scene of numerous bloody sieges, it has a storied history filled with violent changes of ownership. Napoleon took unchallenged control of the castle in 1796 and promptly blew a good chunk of it up. Today, it’s only a fraction of its original size. It’s still one of the coolest of the Rhine castles to tour.
Burg Katz, across the river from St. Goar above the town of St. Goarshausen, was bombarded in 1806 by Napoleon and rebuilt in the late 19th century. Don’t think about hiking up there. Some rich guy (or gal) owns it and it’s not open to the public.
- Fresh Seaside Air Inland Thanks To Saline Towers (schwingeninswitzerland.wordpress.com)