Monday, October 21, 2019

Cochem, Germany and Reichsburg Castle

We departed Koblenz late that evening and started up the Mosel River to Cochem. We passed through three locks that raised the boat since we were going upstream. Unfortunately, we did not see much along the way other than village lights as it was dark.
The next morning we awoke to this. Looking out the window of our cabin at the smooth as glass Mosel River we got our first look at Cochem and beautiful Reichsburg Castle towering over the town. We knew we were in for another special day.
Our tour guide met us at the boat and we walked across the bridge from Cond, where the boat had docked, into Mosel. The two towns were not connected with a bridge until the Skagerrak Bridge was built in 1927.
A panoramic view of the castle, town and bridge. 
A view of the town from the bridge. The castle dominates the view of the whole valley while the onion domed Church of St. Martin towers over the town.
Left is Endert Gate, the largest of the three city gates that were built in 1332. This gate has the gatekeepers house, jail and the home of the wall master. On the right is Alte Thorschanke, a half-timber house that was built in 1625 and one of the few buildings in the town to survive the French attack in 1689.
A look through the Endert Gate shows how thick the fortification was. 
The town had several floods (hochwasser) during the 20th century. 
Cochen dates back to 886 when it was settled by Celts and Romans. The beautiful Geschiedenis Monument mosaic tower wall tells the history of the town from then to the 1960's. The town was called by many names through the years, though they all had a similar spelling.  
Cafes and shops along the river front promenade getting ready for the lunch crowd.
Rick, Denise and Nanc prepare to sneak into the town through this low narrow entrance.
The onion spire of St. Martin.
We got a look inside and were treated to a beautiful array of colors with the bright sun shining through the windows.
The Market Plaza was surrounded with many beautiful half-timber buildings. Most of them were rebuilt in the old style after the city was heavily damaged during WWII. 
This half-timber building is one that survived the war with very little damage.
Walking the narrow streets of the town we saw many beautiful old buildings, some that were businesses but many that were homes. This one seems to have settled a bit over the years.
Zom Stuffje is a unique little bar and restaurant. There is not much seating inside but there are picnic tables along the narrow alley.
Not a very big veranda, but they don't have to cut grass.
Tribute to Rhichsburg Castle.
We walked up to Balduin's Gate where there were vans waiting to take us the Reichsburg Castle.
The gate into Reichsburg Castle, the largest on the Mosel. Construction of the castle began in 1000 as the home of Palatinate counts. It was built as a defense fortification that was said to have housed up to 40,000 knights.
Looking down on the Mosel River, Cochem and Cond. Click on the picture to make it bigger and in the top left corner you can see a roller coaster that is on top of the hill. You can see how narrow the river is here. This is where our boat had to back down the river to a spot that was wide enough to turn around that I wrote about in an earlier post.
The mosaic on the castle tower is of St. Christopher.
From 1151 to 1294 the castle was the residence of the royal Stauffen family. It was then loaned to the Archbishop of Trier and was expanded during the 14th century.
In 1689 the castle was captured by the French under the Sun King, Louis XIV. He destroyed the fortifications and the building soon crumbled into ruins. The gates today are only to control the people waiting for their tours. 
In 1868 the castle was purchased by Berlin business man Louis Ravene who reconstructed it in the Neo-Gothic style we see today. 
A timeline of the history of the castle through the years. 
One of the courtyards.
An up close look at the towers. 
The well in this courtyard went all the way down to the river level so they could get water during a siege.
The leaded stained glass windows were beautiful.
The Great Dining Hall.
They must have really been into symmetry. There was a door on the left into the next room so on the right they put in a door that opens to a wall. 
The view from inside the castle of the river and towns below.
The ceiling of the spiral staircase was beautiful.
There are many stained glass windows throughout the castle.
One of many grand fireplaces.
The Knight's Hall had a couple suits of armor. This was one giant knight. There was another one that Nanc could have fit in.
Looking upstream from the castle. The river takes a huge turn at this point but we did not go that way as we turned around and headed back to the Rhine when we departed.
The castle today is used as a wedding and party venue. They have several different tours including a Medieval Knight's dinner, a ghost tour and special wine and Christmas events.
The pastel painted houses were very neat.
Some of the street art in Cochem. The man is a nobleman and the lady is said to be a local busybody.
In the afternoon we did a wine tour in Cond at the H.H. Hieronimi Weinkeller. Our guide was the sixth generation owner of the winery.
Some of the old time wine making equipment.
Barrels in a cave where the wine is aged. 
Nanc enjoying some fine Germany Riesling white wine. We did buy a couple bottles to bring home.
The boat left Cochem at 5:00 heading back to the Rhine in Koblenz and then on to Cologne. Not a great picture but it shows you don't need to be outside to watch the passing landscape as they have it on the TVs in the lounge and cabins.
The first of three locks we passed through on our way to the Rhine. This one had a big lock for big boats and a much smaller one for pleasure boats. 
Another beautiful little town and vineyards along the Mosel River. As with everyday so far we were very busy all day and were looking forward to a relaxing evening.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Rhine River Castles and Koblenz, Germany

We departed Rudesheim at 12:30 sailing through one of the most impressive parts of the Rhine River Gorge. There was one castle after another all the way to Koblenz where we arrived a couple hours later. It seemed like we were passing through some kind of fairyland with so many castles on the steep hillsides of the narrow gorge. This was very strategic because the river was so narrow it was easily defended.  
The Rheinstein Castle was originally built in 1316/17 by the Archbishop of Mainz. It had fallen into disrepair over the years until Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig bought it in the 19th century and began to reconstruct it. It was the first castle we saw and signaled more beautiful sites were coming.
Reichenstein Castle was built in 1100. In the 1200's the castle fell into the hands of robber knights and was besieged, captured and destroyed by King Rudolph in 1282. He forbid the castle to be rebuilt and it sat in disrepair until 1344 when the Archbishop of Mainz built a new double wall surrounding the court. It again fell into disrepair in 1572 and remained so until the middle 1800's when it was restored to what we see today.   
The Furstenberg Castle was built above the village of Rheiniebach in 1219 by the Archbishop of Cologne to collect tolls on those using the river and to protect his property. It was destroyed in the 17th century during the War of the Palatine Succession. It was never restored. 
Loved the houses in this little town. Why just have a yard when you can have a vineyard at you door?  This also shows how very steep some of the vineyards are.
Stahleck Castle was built in 1142-43 above the town of Bacharach. It was of the strongest castle on the Middle Rhine. It was destroyed during the Thirty Years War  and rebuilt in 1666. In 1689 French troops blew it up and it was not rebuilt until 1925 and now serves as a youth hostel.
Pfalzgrafenstein Castle was built on a small island and served as one of the most profitable toll posts on the river. The tower was built in 1326-27 and a wall around it was added between 1338 and 1340. Other additions were added in 1601 and 1755. Despite a 39-day siege in 1504 it has survived undamaged. On the hill above is Gutenfels Castle that was built to help fortify the town of Kaub.
Oberwesel still has a medieval look, as sixteen of the twenty-one old towers and some of the fortified wall are still standing.
Overlooking Oberwesel is Schonburg Castle. It was built between 1100 and 1149 by the Dukes of Schonburg. It was burned down by French soldiers in 1689 during the War of the Great Alliance. It laid in ruins for 200 years before being restored and is now a hotel and restaurant.
More of the old towers, the town and vineyards of Oberwesel.
The Lorelei raises 430 feet above the river at one of the most treacherous points on the Rhine. The river is only 350 feet wide at this spot making it difficult to navigate. Legend has it that Lorelei was spurned by her lover. When on her way to a convent, she asked to go to the top of the cliff for one last look at her beloved castle only to jump into the river to end her life. It is said she has lured men into the dangerous waters to their death over the years.  
The Katz Castle was first built in 1371 overlooking the town of St. Goarshausen. It was bombarded by Napoleon in 1806 and rebuilt in the late 1890's. Today it is privately owned and open to the public.
The ruins of the medieval Rheinfels Castle that was built in 1245. It was expanded over the years and was the largest castle between Koblenz and Mainz, covering five times the area it covers today. While much of it has fallen into disrepair, part of it is a luxury hotel and spa.
Another beautiful castle but, unfortunately, I could not find any information about it.
While not castles, these are two of my personal favorite buildings. The building in the back is a church and the building attached to it is a bar. A sure way to recover from a long, uninspiring sermon. 
Beautiful waterfront of Boppard. In addition to the castles, we saw many beautiful little towns along the river. Boppard, like many of the towns and castles in the valley, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Marksburg Castle high on the hill overlooking Braubach, built in 1117, is one of the best preserved on the Rhine. It was maintained and rebuilt through the years by Count Eberhard and his heirs until 1429 when it went to the Count of Hesse. When Napoleon seized the area in 1806 he gave the castle to the Duke of Nassau. In 1900 it was sold to the German Castle Association to be preserved. It was damaged by American artillery fire during WWII and has since been repaired.  
Going back 3,000 years the site of the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress was used as a fortification because of its strategic location high above the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel Rivers at Koblenz . Construction of the current fort began around 1,000. It was expanded and improved many time over the years only to be blown up by the French in 1801. The fortress was rebuilt in the 1800's and survived WWI and WWII. It was used as an archive for cultural objects during the war. Today you can take a gondola from Koblenz across the Rhine to the fortress. 

These are only a few of the over forty castles we saw as we traveled the middle Rhine River Valley. This was a high point of the trip so far and the day was not yet over. Soon after docking in Koblenz a little after 4:00, we had a walking tour of the city. Koblenez means confluence, as the city is at the confluence of the Rhine and Mosel Rivers. After all those castles, the city was a bit disappointing with very few old historic sites because so many were destroyed during WWII due to the city's strategic location.
At the confluence is this equestrian statue of the first German Emperor William I that was built in 1897. The statue was so badly damaged in WWII that it had to be taken down. When Germany was divided after the war it was decided the statue would not be restored until Germany was once again united. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 Germany was reunified on October 3, 1990 and the statue was re-erected. 
Part of the old Berlin Wall is now in the park with the date it was built, June 17, 1953, and the date it fell, November 9, 1989. I have seen parts of the wall in many places and this is the cleanest I have ever seen.
As with most European cities, Koblenz has many old narrow streets, but here, almost all the buildings are post WWII.
Not to be missed is the eye roller clock. The face below the clock is Johan Lutter, a 16th century robber who was sentenced to death in 1536. As he was being put to death they say his eyes were rolling back and forth and he stuck his tongue out at the people. The tongue comes out every 15 minutes and on the hour so you need to time your visit.
Another famous Koblenz stop is the statue of a little boy peeing. 
As you can see by the wet ground, you need to be careful where you stand if you want to avoid an unpleasant shower.
The city is so proud of this boy, he is on all their manhole covers. As you can see, there is really very little worth writing about in Koblenz. That said, this day of the cruise was fantastic, starting in Rudesheim (last post) and seeing all those beautiful castles along the Rhine.