Friday, July 01, 2005


A pair of old queens in their castle

Worried that I'm going to keep travel blogging until I've posted every g...d... picture I took?

Along the Rhine: "You can see a castle every five meters."

I hope it's okay that I'm still travel blogging over a week after getting home. I suppose I could have just pretended I was still traveling, and many of you would never have known the difference. But I'm too honest for that. Everything you read in these pages is the truth. Except for the pseudonyms. And the stuff I make up.

A couple of weeks ago, on a beautiful Saturday morning, B and I set off for the Rhine, driving along a stretch of the river between Koblenz and Mainz where, our German hosts informed us, “you can see a castle every five meters.” The Rhine River winds through a narrow valley with steep hills on either side, quintessential German villages and, yes, castles.

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Rheinfels Castle, St. Goar. Left, the ruin. Right, model of the castle back in the day.

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Views from Rheinfels Castle. Right, the village of St. Goar.

B and I spent a few hours wandering through the ruins of Rheinfels Castle in the village of St. Goar, which offered spectacular views and seemingly endless dark corridors and courtyards.


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Hey, what's with the coolers?


Picnic! The Germans will picnic any time, anywhere.


Something about the St. Goar’s ruin put both of us in the mood to tour a well-preserved castle where we could hear our footfalls echo on cool, smooth paving stone. The most practicable one for us to visit in the waning afternoon hours was Sooneck Castle. The excurison started out hopefully enough, as we marched up a solitary, wooded road to a lonely hilltop, where we saw these promising battlements.


But this one turned out to be the place where you couldn’t go inside the building without the “fuhrer” (tour guide).

Entrance only with tour leader!

And the interior was too well preserved – restored in fact, and redecorated in the style of a 19th century chateau rather than a medieval castle. I'd show you the interiors, except that picture-taking inside the castle was strictly verboten!

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Castle Sooneck, front door and interior courtyard. No pictures inside!

One got the distinct impression that the two aging queens who served as tour fuhrers had actually bought the place, restored and redecorated it, and then imposed their strict no-shoe rule. Well, not exactly no shoes.


Yes, we had to put these massive slippers over our shoes! As der Fuhrer droned on in (what I took to be) pedantic German (we were handed a paper with a short English text in lieu of a live translation), I fought back giggles over the slippers until I realized: “these things are dangerous!” They were so slippery I thought there was a decent chance of actually slipping and falling and maybe tearing a hamstring or blowing out your knee.

Tour members, with slippers. Sorry about the blurry quality,
but I had to pretend I wasn't taking pictures.

To go up the stone stairs, we kicked off our slippers only to put on a fresh pair from a second box upstairs. I eventually began to imitate the fuhrer’s be-slippered movements: sort of a nordic-ski style gliding motion.

Turns out, by the way, that "the flat-roofed castles of our imaginations" are just “a romantic fiction” -- according to the English tour text. Meanwhile, the German lecture went on and on and on. I think he was talking mostly about the (mostly late 19th century) portraits and antiques in the rooms. I was bored, and totally trapped. As in similar circumstances in elementary school, my imagination drifted to visions of Sherman tanks fighting their way across the Rhine bridges in 1945...


Turns out that we were not allowed to leave without a fuhrer either.
Below: one of the fuhrers.


I believe this is when der Fuhrer was yelling at us to come down and start the tour.


Your 'reports' are SO cool. Show as many photos as you want.
Y'know, I kind of was beginning to wonder (1) when you'd stop travel blogging and (2) how many photos you took during your trip. I'm not complaining about it. Like I said, I was just wondering.

Btw, I love the castle photos. Makes me want to travel there with Ethan -- who is really into castles and all things medieval.
Your posts are one of the only things that are keeping me sane right now. That and the Golden Girls. (Although the latter might indicate that I'm losing my sanity) Anyway, keep up the great posts!
And another thing -- I just read that part about the fuhrer and I am laughing hysterically. That photo is priceless. I am laughing so hard that I can hardly type this comment. And my laughing -- here at S. Catherine's Socio-Legal Center in Oxford -- is totally distracting everyone around me. The guy across from me just said: "I wish that I had something as entertaining as you have." I'd show him your post, but then everyone would know that I am just playing and not working.
That guy's the Fuehrer? Where's his mustache?
I was only worried that you're NOT going to keep travel blogging just because of the minor detail that you've returned home. You've set the standard quite high, though, for the next major excursion I take. It will no longer be acceptable for me to tell myself that, "I'll write more when I'm traveling," or, "I'll write more when I return home and reflect." Both are musts! And since they've been done on CM, they must be reasonable goals. Or would you admit you've outdone yourself, Oscar?

Thanks for sharing! ~jlp
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