I took the long weekend and went to visit my first German castle. It’s actually not that far away, and overlooks the town of Landstuhl. Upon further study of the map, I discovered something else exciting; it’s in walking distance! A healthy, steep walk, because it involves going down the hill my base is located on, and up the hill the castle is on, and the reverse when coming home, but walking distance nonetheless.
Another nice thing about this country? Nordic walking trails; they snake all over in the area, which is heavily-forested hill country.
And, at a certain turn of the road, I could see the castle off in the hazy distance.
I made my way down into town, and was pretty proud of myself. I was able to successfully navigate myself around with the map they gave me. And I retained enough of my college German class to be able to accurately read the street names and signs to keep track of where I was, and which way to the castle.
The path up to the ruins reinforced the “old world” feel. Tree trunks along the path are carved into the faces of… things.
The little hillock that the Castle Nanstein is located on has been a religious site for centuries; it used to called “Heidenfels”, or “Heathen Rock.”
The castle itself was pretty neat. It is most prominent, historically, for its period under a knight named Franz von Sickingen. His sigil was a black shield with five circles on it, and it was emblazoned everywhere in the ruins.
The story of where it came from is pretty uninspiring. Basically, it was that they needed something to identify themselves and couldn’t come up with anything better, so they painted a number of large dots on their shield.
Franz was a pretty interesting guy, though. It appears he had a penchant for taking money from a lord and promising his soldiers to serve the army, and then betraying them and fighting for the other side. In 1523, he bit off more than he could chew, and garnered far too much attention after plundering the local town Kaiserslautern. Imperial forces attacked the castle, and used cannons to level parts of the castle. Franz himself was wounded, and died of his wounds on May 7, 1523. A memorial is set up in the room he died in, which is still in its original condition, and on the grounds.
The ruins themselves, though, were great. It looked neat, and used, and real, and very distinctive, because the whole things was built on the large sandstone outcropping (the aforementioned “heathen rock”) and the add ons were all built with the areas distinctive red sandstone.
Some very small parts of the castle have been restored, but by and large it’s still a ruin. One neat aspect, to me at least, were some of the details that survived.
Like trees, castles grow in concentric circles. First is a fortified house, then a wall is built, expanded upon and thickened, then other walls. The center of the castle, the house built on the rock, is the oldest part of the castle.
View down from the top:
The flag was flying von Sickingen’s colors.
As you can see, a storm was moving in.
I was taking pictures and the storm was moving in, a large raven lighted on the flagpole.
Ravens? Dark clouds? Is this an ill omen? Black magic? Feeling alarmed, I sought refuge in the adjacent beer garden.
They poured me a half liter of pilsner, and as you can see, the sky cleared and sun began to shine.
Beer beats dark magic every time.
The beer garden was also friendly to pets.
Looking forward to seeing lots more German castles! Check back and I’ll show them off as I tour them.