While many of the dramatic castles on the Rhine are rebuilt versions of the originals, Marksburg has retained nearly all its construction and stands today as the best-preserved castle on the river. The reason behind the fortress's survival of 800 years of change and turmoil without being significantly blemished is its location. It sits atop a steep, isolated hill on a bend in the river. In the past, this formidable terrain so discouraged enemies that the castle was never attacked during the continuous wars that raged around it through the centuries.
The Middle Rhine
Straight out of a picture book, the romantic Middle Rhine is a river valley with precipitous cliffs, a castle perched on virtually every hilltop and quaint villages lining the river banks. Myths and legends abound in this area, such as the story of the Lorelei, the beautiful siren of the rocks who lured sailors to their doom.
This river valley extends from the old Roman town of Koblenz, via the Lorelei Rock, to Bingen and Rudesheim - and includes the steep vineyards that produce the famous Rhine wines. In the Romantic era, the Rhine not only carried goods and people from many different countries, but was also a channel for a wealth of cultural influences and ideas; the religious buildings along the river are elegant testimony to this.
In recognition of its status as one of the world's oldest and most magnificent cultural landscapes, UNESCO declared the Upper Middle Rhine a World Heritage Site in 2002, one of "outstanding universal value."
Personal Notes, Wednesday, June 5
We have had to bid farewell to our lovely crew on the Viking Tor, and have been "cruising" on land today to arrive at the Viking Skadi at her berth in Bamberg. In making this accommodation to the previous weather patterns that brought the high waters to the Rhine, we are missing the cities of Miltenberg and Wurzburg; I hope you will still want to explore the history and culture of these two missing ports of call at their very complete Wikipedia articles.
There was quite a steep climb to the Marksburg Castle, but it was fabulously well worth the effort. Markburg dates back to the 13th century, and is an architectural hodge-podge of original and additional portions, all of which comprise one of only two river castles to survive intact through the centuries.
Our guide, Ermele, a wizened little lady who had to be in her 70s, takes tours through the castle 5-7 times a day. To accomplish this one has to navigate ageworn cobblestones, narrow circular staircases with only a rope for a railing and similar constraints that we in America don't normally have to contend with unless we are visiting the kivas of Mesa Verde or the like. Not only does Ermele do this without making use of any of the climbing aids (up or down), but she also is able to conduct the tour in German, English, French or Japanese!
I will devote the next blog entry to the scenario that has evolved because of the change in the trip format necessitated by the 500-year flood that is still engulfing much of Central Europe. Auf wiedersehen!