First stop on our magical castle tour was the region of Westphalia. Home to Roman ruins, Medieval ruins and chocolate, Cologne was a fabulous place to start heading back to the future. Although our first stop in Cologne should have been the chocolate factory, we went first to the Cologne Cathedral to check the cultural and architectural box off the itinerary for the day. After a long walk through old Cologne, including a Roman excavation site in the middle of the city, we made our way to the Lindt chocolate museum and factory. Yum. Just for the record Danny attempted to eat his 5 euro entrance fee in free samples, as you can imagine he succeeded without a problem!
We arrived at Schlossburg castle, a medieval complex situated in the hills overlooking the Wupper River. With it’s dungeon still in tact (complete with some plastic skeletons!) and lots of armor, helmets and swords, the only thing missing from completing the perfect medieval castle look were a few knights. None were to be found, but we did find some criminals, who of course had to be locked up.
Schlossburg castle has been renovated and repaired, but many in the surrounding countryside haven’t been as lucky. The view over the Rhine at Schloss Drachenfels outside of Bonn, was spectacular. A long, steep uphill hike to the top, we couldn’t believe how dense the forests were despite being so close to a major city. From the hilltop and castle remains you can see the cathedral in Cologne nearly 30 kilometer’s away. Hiking through the woods back to the car, we seemed to be deep in an enchanted wood, that was until we saw the beer garden.
Perhaps the most famous castle in all of Germany is Neuschwanstein outside of Munich. Doesn’t sound familiar? You may know it better as Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disney Land. (Danny’s Note: Not to be confused with Cinderella of Disney World fame.) Yes, that’s right, the King of Bavaria copied Walt Disney, or maybe it was the other way around. I wish I could continue the fairy tale and tell you how beautiful the castle was from the outside, how its an ancient site on a hill top, but only the hill top part would be true. Yes, the castle is beautiful, but it was raining the day we went and alas there were no Disney-worthy views to be had. And unfortunately for all you medieval history buffs, the castle was actually built in the late 19th Century by King Ludwig II, who by all accounts was rather eccentric. Upset that the medieval ages were over and he didn’t have the absolute power his forefathers had, King Ludwig II built himself a palace that can only be called…errr rather kitsch? The over the top Romanesque style reminds you of every fairy tale castle you’ve ever seen in a movie and while indeed it is beautiful, it was never really used as a castle nor is it old. Frankly its no different than if I had decided to build a castle in my hometown. Hmmmm… now there’s an option. The inside is beautifully decorated though, and the tour guides are rather dry, but amusing (imagine a hunchback named lurch from Transylvania and you’ll get the picture) which makes the castle interior tour well worth it.