Day 5: Koblenz, Part 2 (Saturday, March 23, 2013)



We slept in until 8:45am which is really late for us. Dan has been working so much, so hard, for so many months, I was glad to see him still snoring at 7:30. Then I fell asleep again, too.

We had breakfast at the hotel, a little 15 room place that’s charming, off-the-beaten-path, personal, owned by a nice, short, round guy named Claus. Enough said about that. We bundled up – it was in the 30s all day and much worse when the wind picked up, which was often – and set out for our trek to the castle, about 4 miles each way. Google maps had us backtracking about a 1/3 of a mile to cross a bridge, which seemed crazy to us since there was another way across the river in about a 1/3 of a mile the direction we needed to go. We assumed the map was wrong. It wasn’t. We got there to discover it was a freeway with no access for pedestrians. Within minutes of Dan saying “maybe we’ll get lucky and a cab will come by”, one did. In a nowhere neighborhood on the wrong side of the river on a Saturday morning. Good cab karma I guess.

So we took a cab to the castle! Stolzenfels. Originally built in 1259, it had several different occupants until the French destroyed much of it during a war in 1689. The city of Koblenz made a gift of it to Frederick William IV of Prussia in 1815. He fully restored it to reflect medieval times. Some of his furnishings are still in it.

 

 

 

I don’t know why I’ve always had a fascination with castles. I remember drawing them as a kid for reasons I know longer remember, but when I did I even used the same “rook in chess” motif that this one had. Maybe it’s the legend we grew up with about Oma being the illegitimate daughter of an Austrian prince. (Did that ever get confirmed or denied?) Maybe it’s the – embarrassing admission approaching – ridiculous number of Victoria Holt novels I read as a tween. One of them was even titled “The King of the Castle”! Whatever is behind the fascination, this castle, This Castle, was extremely satisfying.

 

 

While the moat was largely gone it was easy to imagine. There was the first entrance beyond the moat at the castle wall, which is now where you pay for admission and use the toilet. This lead to a front walled yard and the front door, which today might be described as a built in garage when you remember horse and carriage went through that, and then finally to the main courtyard, where residents and guests would get out of their carriages and off their horses and into the residence.

There was something about this courtyard that I just loved. I could envision a horse pulled carriage pulling in and letting people out to get into the fortified residence…
This was a gardened courtyard within the walls of the castle. The little open room behind the fountain was chapel-like, with windows that peered out onto the Rhine River. I could imagine this being a great place to start your morning over a nice coffee!

 

Anyway, I loved this castle. It even had a little church on the grounds, which is classic  if Victoria Holt is a reliable resource: nobility doesn’t worship with commoners. So there. And it is still being used – the mass schedule is posted, there are burials in the cemetery as recent as 2010.

 

 

 

There was a ton of scaffolding up in several parts of the castle, including the big tower, so we didn’t take a picture of that. We did get a postcard though; here’s a nice shot of the whole thing (although it’s not this color anymore).

 

We were there about 2 hours and walked the 4 miles back to town along the river. You can see from some of the pictures how cold it was from my red face. We were tired and hungry by the time we made it back into the heart of Koblenz, and had lunch at a great Spanish place. Tapas of course, a sampling of 8 served in these small bowls wedged in two rows on a long wooden platter. A mixture of fish, sausage, meatballs, and cheese, it was smart, tasty and just what we needed.

 

 

We had dessert in two courses continuing our walk around town: German ice cream – Wow! – and German pastries. Which is a good time to segue to general observations:

  • In addition to bakeries, covered yesterday, there’s also an abundance of coffee shops, ice cream/gelato places, and pharmacies, or “apotheke” as they are called here.
  • You can take your dog with you most anywhere. There was a big one sitting on the floor at the table next to us at the tapas place. We saw another being pushed in a cart by his owner in a kitchen store we were perusing.
  • Restaurants will not bring you water unless you ask for it, and then expect to pay for it after answering this question: gas or no gas? (Referring to carbonation if you’re new 🙂 It’s considered tacky to ask for tap water.
  • We saw a middle-aged gay male couple walking down a residential street unapologetically holding hands. It was surprising and sweet.
And a PS from yesterday’s deal on pork fat: after all that late lunch grazing, we went down to the hotel restaurant again for a light dinner. When they brought the bread basket and left the pork fat with it, Dan asked Claus “could we have butter instead?” Claus of course was accommodating. Dan then looks at me and says “I can’t believe I said that.” If you know Dan well – Jon in particular – you’ll get how amusing that is. And then he took a picture of it before Claus took it away 🙂

 

Tomorrow we’re off to Cologne.

Additional castle and Koblenz pictures:

The armor room.

Some big, heavy furniture!

This cool other building you passed walking up to the castle. Since the tour was in German, we never did find out what it was for; we assumed servants quarters.

The Rhine from the castle. Nice view, huh?

Stained glass in one of the rooms.

 

 

The Electoral Palace – view from the Rhine, inside, fountain in back by the river.

 

 

Government administration building, as seen from the river. This was taken the day before which is why the sky is blue!

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