On a recent work trip to Heidelberg, I was idly looking out the window when I saw the ruins of a castle up on a hilltop. At the next train stop, I saw the sign for the station and town. It was Frankenstein.
I had just passed by Frankenstein’s Castle. Like all other Americans, my first mental image at thinking of that phrase is:
How could it not be? Anyway, this was a place I mentally noted, and vowed to investigate more closely.
My first free day, I made good on the promise, and took the train back the same way. It’s not very far from the main station in Kaiserslautern, so I made sure to pay attention as I traveled, so I wouldn’t miss my stop.
My diligence paid off, as I watched the Frankenstein train stop fly by at 60 mph. I was on a train that didn’t stop there, and the train flew on to the next town. On impulse, I jumped off the train, figuring I could figure out a way back to Frankenstein. I was in a town called Weidenthal.
A close examination of a map showed the Frankenstein was only about 3 km away; that’s about 1.5 miles or so. I figured I could hoof it, and started off… but not before stopping off at a small restaurant and fortifying myself with a half liter of pilsner.
Soon enough, I left the village and was on the open road. Those Germans have excellent infrastructure, and there was a nice sidewalk/bike path the whole way. And I stumbled upon a historic marker.
As near as I can tell, it says that Maximilian Joseph, the King of Bavaria, opened the road here in 1824.
Anyway, after a nice walk through pretty Rhineland-Palatinate countryside, I came to the town.
And then I got my first glance of the castle this trip.
Admittedly, I was expecting something a little more… I don’t know… maybe, a little more:
Ok, that’ s a dramatic interpretation, but still, I was still hoping for a little more:
Except without the comic overtones from that movie.
But, there it was, and so there I must go. I walked the town, looking for a sign or a road or something. There weren’t many; it was a row of houses with lawns that butted up against steep terrain, and they were all fenced, so there was no way through. I took the first left towards the castle I could find, and saw a path.
That was it. In America, if there was a path to a castle, it would be marked by approximately 37 sign. Most with blinking lights, too.
Disappointingly, there was no booth to purchase torches and/or pitchforks.
The path looked like the path to other castles: steep and wooded.
It is my professional opinion as a soldier that it would be a real pain in the ass to lug all your weapons, armor and other gear up that hill, all the while dodging arrows and sling bullets. Why did they have to put them on hilltops anyway? Oh, right; defense.
I climbed the hill, and once again found those crafty medieval Germans used natural red sandstone formations as a starting point for their castle.
It was very pretty. Kind of desolate up there, above everything, and quiet and… ghostly, almost.
It doesn’t quite have an Anne Rice and/or True Blood sense of ruined grandeur to it, but it was close.
The surrounding views were nice.
Another difference from America: for safety, they’ll put minimum safeties in place. Beyond that, you’re on your own. I guess the Germans have more common sense than we do. Example: the trail up to the castle was bordered on one side for much of the distance by a strange-looking fence. It was wires, and not the barbed kind, either. After following this fence for approximately 500 feet, I saw a sign indicating it was an electric fence. It would be pretty easy for tourist to accidentally brush up against it or put a hand on it. I avoided that, but was curious about why an electric fence was around a castle? Of course: it’s to keep the monster from marauding through the town. If he’s scared of fire, he must fear electricity too, right?
Or maybe it was just the goats.
After solving that little mystery, I climbed the walls to have a look about.
Part of the fun of this castle is the level of ruination. It’s so ruined, it’s hard to imagine what different rooms were used for. It’s a tough puzzle, but a fun mental exercise. Trying to figure out the rooms based on position, and the few features visible was fun, but ultimately fruitless. I never really got a feel for the way the place was laid out during its height in the 1200’s.
Also, I think the last lord of the castle left a potted plant on the balcony when he moved out.
“Arwen, did you remember to grab the White Tree of Gondor?”
Not as cool as Burg Nanstein. But it’s cool to see, nonetheless. Plus, the woods surrounding the castle provided fuzzy cherries!
Castle Cherries taste… mysterious. And the slight fuzziness has nothing to do with improper focusing of the camera. Honest.
Next week: a genuine medieval market at yet another local castle!