Wednesday, August 14, 2013

We slept in a castle!

Sara came here for the weekend and we had just an amazing time.  She landed on Friday morning and I met her at the airport with a bouquet of flowers and a cafe latte after her long flight.  My car had arrived earlier in the week, so I was able to drive out the airport.  After going back to the Siedlung and showing her around my apartment (she liked it more than she expected!), I revealed the big surprise for the weekend - we were spending the night in a romantic medieval castle overlooking the Rhein River.

A co-worker had mentioned that she had done this a few months ago.  This 900 year old castle has been renovated into a hotel.  It's called Castle Liebenstein (which means "love stone" in German) and sits over a bend in the Rhein.  The whole castle was filled with medieval finery.  We stayed in the canopy room, which for some reason was decorated like a chapel - complete with an alter, kneeler, and the vessels for holy water.
Our canopy bed
Our dining table with alter in the background

For the holy water
Medieval sconce

 The drive to the castle was pretty awesome. I entered the address of the hotel into the GPS and blindly followed its directions.  Despite Frankfurt being a pretty big city (at least compared to Belmopan), you can get out to the country pretty quickly.  We soon found ourselves driving on a small highway through beautiful rolling hills, farmland and vineyards.  We passed through a number of small towns, perfect in their German quaintness - exactly as you imagine in your stereotypes.

The only problem was that the closer we got, we still never saw the river.  The directions on the website had us follow the river, but we were in the middle of nowhere.  Suddenly, we came around a corner, saw a sign for the hotel, and climbed up a treacherous switchback that made me dream wistfully about my 4x4 I left behind in Belize and promise myself never to come back in the winter.  At the top of the hill, we were greeted with the most amazing view.
The town across the river

This is the neighboring castle

Somehow this is the only non-selfie photo we have from the weekend.
Bailey checking out the knight

The night in the castle was just amazing, but somehow the breakfast the next day may have been even better.  We then spent the day driving down the Rhein.  We stopped at the (relatively) famous Loreley Cliffs.  Supposedly this part of the river is very difficult to navigate and legend said sirens lived on the cliffs, but we both found the cliffs rather disappointing.  They were pretty, but not any prettier than what we had been seeing for the past hour.  

One of the more interesting aspects of the Rhein River is that there were almost no bridges crossing the river.  Outside the dual cities of Wiesbaden and Mainz, we saw no bridges over the river.  I presume it is some historical and aesthetic decision, but it just seemed odd.  We ended up taking a car ferry across the river, which was neater than a bridge anyway.

We finished our Rhine tour in Wiesbaded for the Rheingau Wine Festival.  Local vineyards bring their new wine to Wiesbaden for thousands of patrons to sample.  Hundreds of vendors were set up, most with several picnic tables available for patrons. Live music was set up on a number of stages.  German grandfathers danced with their blonde granddaughters.  Dozens of food stalls sold everything from pretzels to pizza to wurst.  Oh, and the weather was perfect.

We capped off Saturday night back in Frankfurt with a dinner in Old Sachsenhausen - the lively area across the river.  After choking down some of Frankfurt's famous Apfel Wein (really wasn't very tasty), we made our way across the Eisener Steg (Iron footbridge).  The bridge was covered in padlocks - which Sara explained to me couples had locked on the bridge to signify their love, throwing the key into the river so it can never be unlocked.  I then surprised her by pulling a padlock out of my pocket that I had been carrying around for the last four hours.  Our love is now locked up on the bridge forever (or at least until the city cuts off all of the padlocks).
Our lock

We slept in Sunday and then went out for a long run.  Not sure how we became that couple, but we both set personal records for distance.  When we came back to the Siedlung, we joined some of my co-workers for a BBQ.  Sunday night, we made dinner together and then watched a movie on Netflix (Emma - I wasn't a huge fan).  On Monday, Sara packed up in the morning and then I took her back to the airport.  The trip really hit the spot - a shot of energy that I desperately needed - but it just wasn't long enough.  The good news is that I will be visiting her in less than a month for her birthday.

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