|Burghotel Auf Schönburg, Oberwesel, Germany|
At the airport, as we were lined up to check in for our flight to Ireland , conversations buzzed around the travelers in queue and their anticipation of their castle tours . We were also embarking on a castle tour, but in Germany instead of Ireland or England. It seems that to stay in European castles is all the rage nowadays. I must have somehow absorbed the vibe when I was planning another European road trip for a couple of my high school classmates and my husband and I. We were originally planning on staying at castles for the entire trip but we decided to stay in just two, opting for a more convenient smack-right-in-the-middle-of-the-sights accommodations in Cologne and Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
The castle I was most excited about was the Burghotel auf Schönburg located above the town of Oberwesel in the midst of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. As we were driving along the banks of the Rhine River, we had no difficulty spotting it towering atop a rocky bluff. We parked in the parking lot before a wood bridge. We could have crossed the bridge to park closer to the castle but we were afraid that the bridge would not hold up the weight of the car and passengers (it actually does). The castle was an imposing sight from up close, a typical fortified medieval stronghold with thick walls, battlements and stone towers.
|Climbing up to the summit with my walking stick|
So goes our trek from the car, crossing the narrow wooden bridge, up a steep winding hill paved with smooth cobblestones, through the gates and to the top where the entrance to the hotel was located. Good thing I purchased a walking stick at Boppard to help me with the climb. We were huffing and puffing by the time we got to the main door of the burghotel and we were not even carrying our luggage which we wisely left in the car.
|Map of the castle and gardens at the back of the scroll|
When we checked in, we were given a scroll as a certificate of our stay and keys attached to chains with a heavy pewter knight ornament - it was not a set of keys that you could easily lose. We gave our car keys to the reception who phoned to have our luggage brought up to our rooms. On our way to our rooms, we were given a little tour of the castle. There was a very cozy library that invited you to sit and read, a keeping room with a huge fireplace and a number of lovely dining areas including terraces with a panoramic view of the Rhine. The scroll included a map of the castle and the grounds which we could explore at leisure.
|One of the many nooks and crannies|
|Some of the public rooms|
|View from the terrace|
We were told that each room is different in size and configuration since they conformed to the unusual shape of the castle. The rooms were accessible through a maze of narrow corridors and winding staircases. Mercifully, this castle has an elevator - something out of place in a medieval castle but very welcome for those of us who dreaded climbing up the narrow winding staircase of the castle.
|View from the lead paned windows in our room|
|Complimentary Sherry and fresh fruits|
|The Curtain Wall|
|The Gobelin Hall|
My favorite dish was the cocktail of shrimps and avocado with green herb sauce. We accompanied our meal with the local Riesling and beer. A sumptuous breakfast was served in the cozy breakfast room (Gobelin Room named for the Gobelin tapestry theme). Our seating by the window seemed fit for royalty as it was set higher than the rest of the tables.
|Our seats at breakfast|
As a souvenir, I bought a book about Schönburg Castle and learned more about the history of the place . It was first mentioned in history as early as 911AD. Emperor Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Empire granted the castle to a member of the Schönburg family who ruled it from the 12th century until their line eventually died out with the death of the last heir. The castle was burned down in 1689 by the French army during the Palatinate Wars. It remained in ruins until it was purchased and restored by German -American banker Rhinelander in the 19th century. In 1957, the Huettl family was granted a long term lease on the property and today they operate the castle hotel and restaurant. There were many famous guests at the castle including many heads of states, members of royal families from Europe and Asia, as well as captains of industries such as Aristotle Onassis and his family and celebrities such as Ella Fitzgerald and First Lady Nancy Reagan.
|Old etching of Schonburg Castle, the town of Oberwesel and the Rhine|
I wrote this little poem as an homage of our perfect castle stay experience:
Castles in the Air
by jojo sabalvaro tan
No longer Castles in the Air
Our dreams of staying in a castle fair
Where do the knights and maidens keep
The secret loves of their hearts so deep
The castle walls whisper still
Just listen as the church bells peal.
Screams of torture, squeals of delight
You'll hear before the morning light.
The ghosts of the past fear not, my dear
For I'll hold your hand and always be near
For more information on Medieval Castles please visit: http://medieval-castles.net/
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