Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Travel Log #4 Castle in the Clouds

So after a busy day of wedding activities, we spent the next morning eating a leisurely breakfast and milling around the hotel room. In the afternoon, our friends had plans to take us on a tour of a local castle, so we made a train of cars that wound through one beautiful village and town after another. I have to admit that driving on the narrow, winding roads in the rural areas was giving me a heart attack, but it was worth the view.

As we approached our destination, I saw a stunning castle up ahead and assumed that was where we were heading. Then we turned and went down a different road toward a large lake with a smaller, but equally pretty castle nestled above it. After some exciting four-wheeling through the mud, we parked and walked down to the ferry that goes across the river. “That’s the castle?” I asked our friends, pointing. “No, that’s it there,” they answered, pointing to a large rock formation looming high above the smaller castle.

Smaller castle from the ferry.
Rathen, a village at the base of the mountain.

It turned out this was Neurathen Castle, the remnants of a structure built into the natural protection of the rocks sometime during the 13th century. It was a 45-minute hike to the top through a lush forest, so of course the other kids ran ahead while ours dragged their feet and whined. The kids were really pulling out all the stops in the misbehaving department this trip, but I couldn’t be too mad at them for whining about hiking since it’s probably genetic. Growing up in Utah, I spent many a 6-hour hike whining my way up and down the mountain. In fact, the one and only home movie we own is of me whining on a hike in Southern Utah while the rest of my family harasses me. I really should make that gem “disappear” one of these days.

Anyway, I eventually grew out of it, so hopefully they will too. I promised Fionn that he could tell his friends at school that he climbed the biggest mountain in the world and was taller than anyone, which seemed to get him through the last bit with a smile on his face.

Baby Ella does not want her picture taken. :)
The view from the various lookouts cannot be accurately captured by our inadequate camera (or maybe its inadequate operators). It was hard to wrap my mind around the fact that people built and lived and fought and died in the carved out rooms centuries ago. It also made my head spin and my stomach turn to walk across the sturdy metal bridges strung between the rocks, so I couldn’t imagine how the original people had the nerve to build a castle in such a precarious place!

View from one of the many lookouts.

Remnants of the inside of the castle.
The sun sets as we take the ferry back across the river.
After we had snapped enough pictures to fill an entire album, we clamored down the mountain and drove back to our friends’ house for dinner. I should say that our friends and their extended family were so lovely to us the entire time. Despite our repeated attempts to help, they took care of all the sightseeing, cooking, cleaning and helped in a million ways with the kids. They also always had chocolate cookies or a bag of sausages ready for hungry, whining children. If there's one thing we've done a lot of in Germany, it's eat chocolate, pastries and meat. I've passed on the meat part, obviously, but at the rate I've been eating, someone will have to roll me to Copenhagen....

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