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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Europe, Part 1 · Rhine and Moselle Area Castles

Well, here I am finally getting around to posting the first batch of photos from our Germany (and France, and Switzerland, and Austria...) trip!  Our trip was absolutely wonderful....

The time since I've been back has been taken up in attending to all the details around home that were neglected while we were away as well as catching up for the next several weeks since just 2 weeks after I flew home, I flew out on my next adventure. :-)  That officially started this week, but I'll touch more on that later.... for now, here's the first installation!  I'll try to keep these coming fairly regularly, as it's best to write about these things before all the little details are lost to memory. :-)

Also, the usual disclaimer for my photos.... as you all know, I'm no photographer.  So let's just say that the photos really don't due any of this justice!

I decided to start out on the second day of our trip just to shake things up a bit!  We stayed for the first few days in Traben-Trarbach, which are charming twin towns on the Moselle River in Germany.  

They were so quaint, and we loved their unaffected charm.  The vines growing along every street were grapevines, which are completely appropriate given that this was the heart of Germany's wine country!

Our home: we stayed in vacation home rentals all across the country, and this one was in a refurbished boarding house overlooking the town.

Our day was spent driving along the Moselle and Rhine rivers, drinking in the beautiful scenery and stopping at 3 castles along the way.  These 2 rivers are known for their plentiful castles/ruins, so choosing just 3 to stop at was no easy decision!!

Our first stop was Cochem Castle.  The castle sits upon the highest hill in the town and dominates the landscape majestically.  The original castle was destroyed by the French in 1689 and remained in ruins until a wealthy merchant rebuilt it in the 1860s.  He remained true to the original design outside and decorated the interiors to his liking.  The mosaic/painting (can't remember which it was...) on the largest tower is a nod at the medieval love of painted walls, while the rest is stone to cater to the aesthetic ideals of the 19th c. :-)  The castle was their family's "summer abode"- just imagine that!

Like many castles in Germany, this is on a substantial hill, so this flat-lander had quite impressive leg muscles by the end of the trip!  Or was it just that this flat-lander was quite impressed by her lack of leg muscles?  I can never remember....

We were informed that this statue on the left is actually a lion with its helmet visor down, not Kermit the Frog.

I remain dubious.

Oh my.  I do love me some German architecture.  Be prepared for an unabashed onslaught of "cute!", "adorable!", etc in my retelling of this trip...

... because, really- THIS IS IMPOSSIBLY CUTE!!!!

So much time, energy, and thought went into every single aspect of this castle... it's just awe-inspiring to think about!

The interiors of the castle frequently featured elaborately painted ceilings.

The dining room was decorated much more "modernly", but was still rather attractive. :-)

I loved this little nook off of the dining room!

The panoramic views from the balconies were stunning!  As you can tell from these photos, the Moselle is a beautiful, calm river that winds tightly back and forth through steep hills and cliffs.

Driving along the river was one of my favorite parts of the trip- the road runs right along the river and there are charming villages every few miles as well as grapes growing along all the hills- even the very steepest!  I'd love to take a boat cruise someday to be able to enjoy it at a slower pace, too. :-)

Sigh.  I need a castle.

Our second castle was the magnificent Burg Eltz.  Unlike Cochem, this castle is original (well, it's technically the second castle, but it has been around since the 1200s!) and not situated on the river!  Its very un-strategic location in a valley is why the first castle was destroyed and after that, the family subsequently focused their efforts on developing allies and using their influence and connections to avoid sieges and fighting instead.

As you can see, it was a wise move because over 800 years later, this castle is still standing while every other castle in the area was destroyed. :-)

The castle has been in the family for 33 generations (just- wow.) and the current owners still visit every week.

The inner courtyard to the castle is so charming!  I love all the different rooflines and architectural elements!

A common feature I discovered on many castles is the painting on the underside of the gutters!  Now that's some serious attention to detail.

Our arrival timing worked wonderfully, because we were just in time to catch an English tour!  Hooray!! :-)  Unfortunately, photos are not permitted inside.  It was a wonderfully interesting castle and we were so pleasantly surprised by how extensive the tour was!  Although by the time you see it from the outside, it's quite apparent that it would take hours to traverse the whole of it!!

We went on the walking path going down to the castle, but chose to walk up on the bus path so we'd have better photos.  There were many places to stop off along the way, and I was so pleased to find the "iconic photo" spot since I didn't find it for Cochem. :-) If you ever visit, I'd either recommend just walking both ways on the bus path, or doing the opposite of us as the bus path is steeper so it's nicer not to walk up it! ;-)

In order to reach our next castle, we drove along a portion of the Rhine.  We happened to have a booklet about castles along the river which made for an enjoyable way to pass the time- as soon as we'd spot a castle and read the brief history of it, there would be another castle just coming into view!  Wow!

Our last stop was the fairytale-worthy Rheinstein Castle!  Due to the street signs taking us the long way to Burg Eltz, and then taking longer than expected at the castle, we weren't sure if we'd actually be able to make it to Rheinstein before they closed! (granted, 3 castles in one day is optimistic, but that's how we roll when traveling overseas ;-))

We pulled up a mere 40 minutes before closing, and the castle was high up on a cliff above us!  Much huffing and puffing later (what was that I said about leg muscles? I think the same thing applies to lungs...), and we made record speed to get up the many (many!) switchbacks in time to make it inside.  Since we were so limited in time, we didn't have time for the booklet about the castle history, which was a pity.  However, the castle itself was so charming that it was a delightful visit nonetheless!

The castle, like so many others, was a ruin until the 1860s when it was rebuilt into an idyllic castle.  I am so glad that it was such a fad to do so- it's hard to imagine what the country was like 200 years ago when so many of the castles were just ruins!  Then again, I'm not too much of a purist when it comes to castles... I just like them to be pretty. ;-) 

Unfortunately, due to our constrained time, I didn't take many photos.  After all, my attempts wouldn't do it justice, and really- the memories are more valuable anyway. :-)

Most all of the rooms of the castle were open for exploring, and we were the only ones there- it felt like it was our very own personal castle!! :-)

The castle is built on many different levels on the side of a cliff, so the views are amazing!  We were free to wander all over, even up to the top of the towers.  The tower on the left required many more stairs than it looks like to reach, and they were getting quite precarious by the end!  You can see the view down into another courtyard on the right (as well as an unfortunately modern addition....).

Sadly, there weren't any good, photogenic views of the whole castle to give the overall feel of how amazing it was, so I'd highly recommend looking up images online- it really is rather impressive.  Seriously, go do it NOW! ;-)

We ended the day quite tuckered out and still recovering from jet lag, so we heartily enjoyed a warm meal at a local restaurant in Trarbach!


  1. Enchantingly beautiful scenery and architecture. I love areas like this, which look as though they could have tumbled straight out of a fairy tale. Thank you for sharing some of the highlights of your trip with us. I can hardly wait for part 2.

    ♥ Jessica

    1. Thank you so much, Jessica! It's a great excuse to relive the trip and solidify some memories. :-)

  2. I'm really glad you enjoyed your time in Germany! I lived very close to Rheinstein for 8 1/2 years so makes me glad to hear that another person has enjoyed the area as much as I did! I'm looking forward to hearing more about your trip!

    1. Morgan, wow! I'm jealous you got to explore this region in-depth for so long! It truly is lovely. :-)

  3. Wow! What an exciting adventure for you and your family!! These castles are incredible.

  4. I'm glad you enjoyed your trip - next time, take me with you! ;) I love Germany, but I've never been, sadly.
    If you love castles, like myself, have you heard that Dracula's Castle in Romania was recently put up for sale? I'm not too sure what Romania is like, but if I had the money I would have snapped it up right away!
    I can't wait to see the rest of your photos, Lily!

    1. Ellie, oh my! I hadn't heard about that Romanian castle! Sounds dreamy!

  5. Just looking through these photos for a second time. They are all so wonderful. I have taken the train from Frankfurt to Koblenz, so I got a look at some of this beautiful Rhineland scenery, but this is making me want to go back and actually explore. Thanks so muh for sharing these with us

    1. Thanks for commenting, Kaitlyn! Hope you get a chance to go back and explore more! :-)

  6. What a positively amazing time you must have had! Someday I would love to go traveling abroad...

    the Middle Sister and Singer

    1. Yes, there's really nothing like traveling abroad... America has lots of nice aspects, but in many places it is sooo lacking in depth and history, I think. Unfortunately, traveling once to Europe is never enough, so budget accordingly.... ;-)

  7. Such amazing looking places! What a treat to get to vacation there! <3

    1. It was an amazing vacation! I am very spoiled. :-)

  8. I love this post! I usually visit this blog for the beautiful outfits, but I'm enjoying your travel posts just as much. I visited Cochem Castle about 15 years ago on a school trip and this brought back lovely memories. I took a photo of the same statue, on the amusing assumption that they had massive plumed frogs as their heraldic animal :)



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