Friday, August 17, 2012

A Fairy-Tale Castle

Eleven days have gone by since I last wrote, and since I'm not quite done recording and reminiscing about Europe, I need to get cracking. Life is barreling along in the meantime, with a trip to and from Chicago last weekend and the day ever closer when I take my only girl off to college, far away. So, you can see, I must write, and quickly.

Our grand European adventure ended with two more castles, the biggest cathedral of all, and plenty of satisfying time with special people in the mix. Let me just say that the grandeur and variety of ancient architecture never grew boring or predictable for me. I did not once feel the words even well up in my brain, "Oh brother, ANOTHER old castle." Didn't happen. I loved it all.

And so, picking up from where I left off, it's now Thursday, July 26th and we're still staying near Ramstein Air Base with our pals the Parishes. There's a castle that she's anxious for me to see, and this actually will please Rick Steves, because it's his favorite castle in all of Europe. It's called Burg Eltz and it is unique among castles because it's never been destroyed and descendants from the original family who built it still retain possession and actually reside there.

Along the way, the car behaved beautifully until we were off the highways and driving on single-track dirt roads that crossed wheat fields. Then the gearshift did the whole disconnect thing again. Oh how our hearts dropped to our feet. This time, Amy was brilliant enough to realize that the car had actually stalled out, rather than just drifting to a stop, and knew that we had been left in some gear rather than neutral. So, she started it up, and we eased our way up the hills to the castle parking lot at a very slow pace (it turned out to be first gear), grateful that we were not still back in that wheat field.

We paid our pittance for parking-I think it was  2 Euros, 50 cents, and called ADAC again. They promised to send someone and since we were there, we took the lemonade route and went to tour the castle.

And oh, what a castle! It can't be seen from the road. It can't be seen from the parking lot. You actually walk about a mile from the parking lot to the castle and then, all of a sudden, a secret valley widens out before your eyes and you see this:

I know! I was actually here! It's grand and has a bridge to cross over to get to it, with places where guards would have stood watch. It has a courtyard, its own chapel, staircases, cool stone dungeons, and all the places where you can see that it was built and carved right out of the existing rock, as so many castles were. It was astonishing in scale and beauty. I loved the setting most of all, and again, found my mind understanding better how so many of the great tales of literature and fantasy came about. This does put one in mind of adventures and what must have gone on all those centuries to keep it running and protected and preserved. A river runs through the valley, so we followed stone steps down to the shade and cool water. The kids skipped stones and enjoyed a break from the heat while Amy went back to wait for the car people to come. We lost our phone service, so after a while we went back up to see what was up with the car and savored our last views of this amazing place.

Defensive rampart with stones for dropping on unfortunate enemies. Each of the round rocks is the size of a giant pumpkin. We wondered if they used catapults. 
Some of the details of the half-timber construction. These are the parts of castles that are seldom seen because they get destroyed or decay first. This place was fascinating in it's completeness.  

The view from below, at the river's edge.

We walked another way back to the carpark, through the woods on a path carved from the edge of the cliff that allowed
several last views of Eltz from different vantage points. 
Burg Eltz
Our heroic driver secures the van to the wrecker while a very hot, tired crowd looks on. When he was done, we piled in for our 2-hour ride home in a very expensive Mercedes. Not exactly the Mercedes one dreams of, but we sure were grateful. 
And PS. It was a great day to visit a Fairy-tale castle, because that day was my 26th wedding anniversary. I hope our descendants will still be talking about us in 800 years!

1 comment:

  1. So, that looks COMPLETELY pretend. Movie set. I can't believe you saw it with your own eyes. Amazing :)


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