In spite of heavy overcast skies today, the drive was lovely. A leisurely winding road dotted with postcard towns with their signature castles and/or churches. It was fun to spot our Tuesday stops from across the river.
Lunch was in beautiful Braubach...also the site of our afternoon castle. We stumbled upon a tiny hotel, tucked away in a picturesque courtyard of old buildings. The Hotel Schwanen with its charming Brasserie Brentano served up authentic German fare...a medium rare Rumpsteak for me, a rich Schweinenschnitzel Zigeuner topped with bright-red tomatoes and peppers for Jeff, and a meat-and-potatoes sampler Mühlenpfännchen for Julie. All exceptionally prepared in an intimate, old-world setting. Quite a lucky find.
After lunch, we drove up the hill to the Marksburg Castle...lived in continuously for over 700 years. The castle is built into a rocky hill, with buildings and courtyards interconnected by rough stone walkways. Waiting for the guided tour to begin, we were entertained by a pair of curious mountain goats. Our tour was in German, so we hung to the back with our English leaflet...nodding in agreement and wonder whenever the guide spoke in our direction. The castle's claim to fame is that it is "the only hill castle on the Rhine that has never been destroyed"...so it is chock full of authentic detail. Keegan lit up when the tourguide placed a real knight's helmet over his head...visibly heavy on his tiny frame. (Earlier, Keegan had confused the tourguide by asking for "the ratholes"...the comical name Jeff and Keegan had given to dark castle tunnels.) Before leaving, we couldn't resist buying a children's knight helmet and matching shield. Keegan was extremely pleased with his gift and modeled for several pictures.
We continued down the Rhine, through a few more towns, and then crossed to the western side of the river near Koblenz for our return drive south. Stopped in the town of Boppard for a quiet stroll along the river...snapping a whimsical photo of Hotel Gunther...and along a few shop-lined streets. Germans don't seem to enjoy knick-knack shops like the French or Italians...or the Americans, but Jeff was able to find a nice print shop where he picked up an 1840 print of St. Goar and the castles above. Just before 6pm, a trumpeter played from a balcony in the town square, followed by the adjoining church bells.
We drove on to St. Goar for dinner. We found the Hotel am Makt, where I tried my first German sausage and sauerkraut (Pfälzer Saumagen)...Jeff kept up our string of schnitzels. Illuminated castles seemed to hover in the dark sky as we left the restaurant and drove home along the Rhine.
Once home, Keegan and Jeff channelled memories of the day to build a castle from Legos...they named it Castle Keegenstein.
[Note: The observant reader might wonder where young Mia is during all of these adventures. Well, rest assured, she is in nearly every scene...in a car seat, stroller, or pouch. Normally a quiet participant...her role is not the most blog-worthy. At any given moment, simply picture her sleeping, staring, eating, or pooping...but rarely crying.]