Today, after breakfast we went to see the Marksburg castle. Supposed to be a challenging walk, there are some rough spots, but you should wear sturdy shoes and go to see it! It is the only castle on the Rhine that was never destroyed. It was added to and remodeled through its 1,000 year history, so it is very interesting.
My favorite part, and the hardest part for walking, was the ramp for the knights to enter the castle on horseback! First we saw the gates to the castle, where the original gate was quite a bit higher and larger than what we see now. In fact, the gates were large enough for mounted men to enter mounted! So naturally there were no steps then – and there was a ramp for the horses! So cool! Later, when the doors were cut down in size, for defensive reasons, steps were also cut into ramp to make it easier for people to walk. Today, the ramp is actually easier to traverse, as the stones are well worn from foot traffic and quite uneven.
The castle is currently owned by the German Castles Association and is the subject of research and restoration. There is a special exhibit of armor through the ages, beginning with the ancient Greeks right up through the musketeers – a collection unlike any other and very illustrative. There is also a room where implements of “discipline” are displayed along with those of “torture”, though these are not in the original torture chamber of the castle (supposedly too small for visitors). We also saw great horn drinking cups and lots of wooden furniture. The kitchen and the wine cellar are also quite interesting.
We had an exceptionally nice day for the castle visit, and our afternoon followed the “castles” theme. We cruised down the Rhine, playing “castle ping-pong” as our cruise director, Alex, called it – looking first at a castle on the left side of the ship, then one to the right, then the left again, then the right, and so on, Each was more suggestive than the previous, many still just ruins, others restored to hotels or conference facilities. Beautiful, high locations overlooking villages at water level, often a church spire signaled the existence of the castle high overhead. This was the best afternoon of the trip for me. This is exactly what I thought I was signing up for! The sun was wonderful, but the wind was extremely gusty at times, too, knocking over empty chairs.
Finally about 4:30 we docked in Rudesheim. Gerry and I signed up for a wine tasting excursion for our evening outing. We visited the winery of Johannes Ohlig, seeing the vineyards which are owned by many, many families – some families
owning just 4 or five rows of vines, others a few more, but all in one field! The land is passed down through the generations, but no one seems to give up ownership (that just isn’t done!) In the winery, we got to see the cellar (all moldy and black (that’s a good thing) despite the fact that the casks are all stainless steel! We also got to taste four wines, starting with a sparkling white, then a rosé, then a classic Riesling and finally a higher end late harvest wine (spatlese).
Common wisdom says that the wines from this region, the Rieslings, are all sweet, but that simply isn’t true. We have had dry and semi-dry wines, all crisp and delicious. The wines served as our “house” wines on the boat are all from around here, and there hasn’t been one that we haven’t liked, and many we would seek out at home to drink again. And it isn’t that they just go well with the foods we are eating from this region. Rieslings go well with many different cuisines, too.
We returned to the ship for dinner, German specialties is the theme for tonight. The waiters are decked out in blue and white check shirts, one in lederhosen!