Marksburg

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On July 18, the Embla stopped at Andernach and decanted several busloads of passengers to drive to Marksburg; the ship then continued on to Koblenz where we met it later in the day.  

Boarding the bus for Marksburg

This leapfrogging was common (and didn't always work as well as it did this time!). Boats are one of humanity's oldest transportation methods, and even with modern engines, they just don't move very fast.

I was extremely interested in Marksburg.  The middle ages have been my hobby for most of my life.  Every time we've gone to Great Britain, we've toured all the castles we could find, most of them in some state of ruination.  Now, in Marksburg, I saw the only castle in Germany (possibly the only one in continental Europe) which was never taken by assault, and therefore the walls were never breached.  Here is the link to my photo gallery on Marksburg, some of which is displayed here.

Marksburg was never taken by assault because it was (and is) extremely hard to get to, perched on the top of a high and steep little crag above the Rhine.  

Marksburg castle, from the bus

Even riding there in a bus, to a parking lot half way up the hill, we still had a total climb of something like 270 steps, plus several switchback paths.  But the keep which was first raised in the 12th century is still intact.  Defensive fortifications, expanded in later centuries after gunpowder became common, include three sets of gates, all approached by steep, rocky, and quite narrow paths, between high stone walls. Mounted knights would have had to ride in pairs at best, probably in single file.  The central keep or Bergfried rises approximately 40 meters over its base and is located in one of the smallest courtyards in Germany.  I strongly recommend you visit the Marksburg web site, which is available in English, and read the descriptions in the Circuit – you may want to turn off the loud music they play!

The castle interior, of course, has been restored, and is maintained by the German Castles Association (DBV or Deutsche Burgenvereinigung), headquartered at Marksburg.  I was fascinated by the filled-in arches over the main entry doors – they were originally several feet higher, to allow mounted knights to ride into the castle.

The Fuchstor or Fox Gate at Marksburg

This is the Fuchstor or Fox Gate, the second of the three gates.  Each new gate is higher up the hill than the last.  When you finally got you and your horse inside the walls, you mounted the Riders' Stairs, which the site says was "hewn into the bedrock for use by horsemen."  I hope the horses appreciated it. It was without a doubt the worst walking surface I've ever tried to cross!

The Riders' Stairs

As you might expect, the view of the Rhine from the walls of Marksburg is superb:

The Rhine, from Marksburg walls

I don't think the long boat in the foreground is the Embla; but it's very like the Embla. Viking River Cruises had 4 or 5 ships on the Rhine-Main-Danube route while we were there, plus there were other cruise lines, and the size and shape of the boats is constrained by the size and shape of the locks they have to pass through, and the bridges they have to go under.

If you've ever actually thought about daily living in a castle, you must have wondered about what we call "going to the bathroom."  People in the Middle Ages didn't bathe much, for one thing – they thought it was bad for them.  So there were no "bathrooms."  But they had to eliminate.  Marksburg had the best example I've seen of an upper-class medieval toilet (which was called a garderobe), and here are external and internal views of the garderobe off the Great Hall:

External view of garderobe

Inside view of garderobe

Yes, the bottom was open. This garderobe emptied into an herb garden along a walkway, inside the defensive walls but along the outside wall of the inner keep.  The servants, of course, didn't use it.

There are photos of the castle kitchen, with the great hearth.  It was basically a big open area with a stone floor, where you built a wood fire to cook over.  The item I found most interesting in the kitchen area was this:

Salt safe

Any idea what it is?  It's a salt safe.  Salt was an expensive luxury, and you took extremely good care of it.  Be grateful for your little round box of Morton's.  

Here's a look at the Great Hall or Rittersaal (Knight's Hall).  Yes, the opening at the left is the garderobe.

Great Hall

We also toured the ladies' chamber; I have several photos there, but I want to share this one because of the musical instruments.  Remember, lighting mainly came through the windows, so they had two deep window embrasures, with benches where they could play, read (if they could read), or work – the other embrasure contains a spinning wheel.  But a lady was expected to be able to make music.

Ladies' chamber, window area with music instruments

I also have some photos of the castle chapel, with beautiful and somewhat faded painted ceilings. But for the last images, I want to share a couple of pictures of probably the best display of ancient and medieval armor that I will ever see. Here is the comment about the Armory from the Marksburg web site:

The next room, the Rüstkammer (armoury) contains a remarkable collection of personal armour illustrating the historical development of armour from c.a. 600 BC to 1500 AC. This is a very rare and noteworthy collection, only equalled by similar displays in Paris and in the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds (formerly in the Tower of London).

Early armor, German continental

Early armor including Roman

Be sure to go to my photo gallery and see all the armor photos, if this interests you.  I tried to get everything.  The photo on the Marksburg site isn't nearly as complete as mine.  The collection also included an actual chastity belt, which looks like this:

Chastity belt

I'm not sure I believed that they actually used those, but here one is. I also took photos of the instruments of torture (in the former stables), but I don't feel I need to include them here.  I hope you've enjoyed the castle tour.

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