Headless Knight, Sleepy Night
Want to take a wine tasting tour of German Rhine wines, a bargain romantic honeymoon hideaway, or darn it, you just like castles where headless apparitions clank down the halls in the dead of night. The Middle Rhine which snakes like a wide ribbon of inland sea lane between Mainz and Cologne (or Köln) is where they keep some of Germany’s best kept medieval keeps. There are some 20 of them, some ruins, some preserved, and quaint medieval towns as the river winds lazily toward the North Sea. Around every bend another stone edifice stands watch over the freight barges which motor, day and night, up and down the river past the famous mighty rock called The Loreley (see Boppard on the Rhine) where the long golden-haired siren’s song of legend drew love sick lusty wayward sailors crashing into the rocky shallows.
Each castle has its own story in the long history of Germany’s medieval past and Castle Reichenstein which has been featured on an episode of the television series "Ghost Hunters" has one of the most interesting. Burg Reichenstein is one of the oldest, originally built in the 12th Century, and has perhaps the most curious history. From the mid 1200's a family of robber knights would prey on errant merchants carrying goods along the river, then retreat to their fortress on the steep hill above. Eventually defeated in 1282 by their annoyed neighbors and the Hapsburg Prince Rudolf from the next castle down the river, Burg Rheinstein, (See Castle Rheinstein) the father of the clan asked that his 10 sons be spared. Rudolf generously offered that he would spare all of the sons the father could walk past, AFTER his head was cut off. According to legend the robber knight’s will was so strong that as he took his first step and his head was lopped off, his headless body’s powerful legs strode past nine of his sons before finally toppling to the ground. This legend is also apparently accorded to a 17th Century pirate, but what's a legend if it doesn't get passed around?
REICHENSTEIN HOTEL AND RESTAURANT
Burg Reichenstein is well preserved, with the interior reconstructed in the 1800's in a gothic style and has a nice collection of medieval armor on display throughout its many floors. The castle also has a small hotel and restaurant within its walls, situated in a former hunter’s lodge. The hotel is only open on weekends or when a reservation has been made in advance. The restaurant now only serves events, like weddings for which the location is quite popular, understandable with the romance lore and view of the Rhine valley and there is a beer garden in the summer (for another Rhine castle hotel see Auf Schonburg Castle Oberwesel).
The middle Rhine is reachable from Mainz by car in about 40 minutes through Bingen if you want to drive along its winding cliffs and visit a handful of castles. (see Mainz Cathedral) Or take a 40 minute train ride from Frankfurt to Trechtingshausen. The station is across from the drive entrance to Burg Reichenstein’s gate. Take a Rhine boat cruise to view the fortresses from the bargeman’s point-of-view (see River Cruises-KD). © Bargain Travel Europe
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