It’s difficult to find anything open on a Sunday, but today I had planned well and James and I went to Marksburg, a medieval castle about an hour southeast of us. I had expected the GPS to take us most of the way on the Autobahn, but instead almost the entire drive twisted and turned up and down a single lane mountain road. The view alternated between bare winter forests and rolling fields and farmland dotted with the occasional town. Each tiny town was a cluster of steep-roofed houses overseen by a taller church tower somewhere in their midst. At one of the higher points, we even saw the remains of a snow that had not reached our area. With many signs warning of sharp turns, falling rocks, wild animals, and one specifically warning of squirrels just before the castle, I drove more cautiously than usual.
The castle itself towers from the highest point over the Middle Rhein town of Braubach and is the only castle of its kind to be essentially undamaged through time by nature or war. After driving up a guardrail-free path wide enough for one car (with a few pull-over areas to accommodate two-way traffic), we parked and walked up a steep set of narrow wooden stairs to reach the main entrance. From this height we had beautiful views of the sleepy town below as well as the Rhein River.
Our tour guide was very young but also very confident and knowledgeable about the castle. The 50-minute tour was in German but we used a free English booklet from the gift shop/ticket counter to supplement what we heard. In the early 13th century the castle had only one entrance: the Iron Door, which still stands and was one of the final sights of the tour. Today there are an additional three entry points: the Drawbridge Gate, Arrow-Slit Gate, and Foxgate. Inside the castle we explored the wine cellar, kitchen, bedroom, great hall, chapel, and more. Many of the rooms had deep window areas with benches for sitting and seeing (pre-electric lights) activities like literally and figuratively spinning yarns. In addition, outside we could see cannons pointed out of windows overlooking the Rhein, an herb garden with plants for “witchcraft and magic,” and the outside of a keep once used as a dungeon.