While eating breakfast each morning I’ve been watching people walking by along the Rhine River to get an idea of the weather. Mostly people have been wearing just coats, although yesterday many had hats and gloves so I knew to expect a colder day. This morning a lady walked by wearing a white powdered wig and a Napoleon-esque suit and hat. A few minutes later a man walked by in a similar colorful old-fashioned outfit, carrying a small horn. I wasn’t sure what this meant I should wear. I went with just a coat and scarf, but stuck a hat and gloves in my pockets just in case.
Steve picked me and James up in his new red Mustang and drove us northwest to Cochem Castle (or Reichsburg Cochem, in German). The ride itself was lovely – about an hour and a half of roads that wound through fall foliage-studded hills into the Moselle valley. Reichsburg Cochem was well worth the drive. Situated on top of a small hill so it looked out over the valley, it was everything you would expect a medieval castle to be – stone towers and archways, cannons, coats of arms, etc. Built in the year 1000, it changed hands several times and was destroyed by the French in the late 1600s. In the late 1800s, a new owner from Berlin had it rebuilt so that the outside retains a medieval look while the inside reflects 19th century style.
The majority of the tour was in German but we had an English handout to read along the way. Reading ahead was actually a good way to learn new vocabulary because then I could listen for the German words for useful as well as more interesting things like “well” (Zisterne) and “Witch’s Tower” (Hexenturm). A few highlights (aside from the spectacular views of the surrounding valley town from every window) included beautiful furniture decorated with inlaid wood and ivory, the mounted head of a 400-pound boar, a suit of armor from an Austrian knight who was seven feet tall, and 5 liter (1 ½ gallon) tankards that once contained the amount of wine monks could drink in a day.
I was glad that the walk back would be downhill, until I realized how steep it was. Walking slowly and leaning back on the cobblestone path, we noticed many more details on the way back to the car. For example, even the metal guardrails were decorated with medieval flair. Each bar had a dragon head on one end and a spade-shaped tail on the other. At the bottom of the hill, one part of the rail even had a knight fending off two dragons. I think it will be hard for other castles to compete with Reichsburg Cochem, although I’m looking forward to seeing how they compare.