The Rhineland is our most popular coach destination in Germany. And it’s not hard to see why – the landscape is like something out of one of the Brothers Grimm’s folk tales.
This is an area famous for its castles. In fact, in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, there is a castle every 2.5km on average, with 40 remaining more or less intact.
That’s why, on a school trip to this area, visiting one of the area’s castles is an absolute must.
And one of the most popular among our groups is Marksburg. This is the only castle along the Rhine that was never captured and so it offers the incredible opportunity to explore the castle as it was during the medieval period. Many of the other remaining castles are actually reconstructions dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries.
Marksburg is fantastically well preserved, with most of the buildings dating back to the 13th and 15th centuries. It consists of a keep, bailey and bastions, as well as a typically German Palas.
Marksburg sits above the small, romantic town of Braubach. Offering views both up and down river, it was strategically placed to control this section of the river. In the Great Battery you’ll see that large cannons are trained at the river itself and can reach up to 1000m, allowing the castle’s soldiers to secure the entire width of the Rhine.
The castle was built by the Lords of Eppstein, who were an influential noble family that produced archbishops and electors of both Mainz and Trier.
To enter the castle, you must pass through four gates – the first being a large drawbridge gate. As you pass through the vaulted tunnel beyond, keep your eyes peeled for the antique bookshop on the right-hand side – 500 years ago this was used as the gate keeper’s room.
If you’re a keen gardener or interested in the history of medicine, you must make a stop at the medieval herb garden which is home to around 150 plants that were known to Europeans during the Middle Ages. Most are herbs and spices with real medicinal properties, others used by ‘witches’ and some, such as deadly nightshade and hemlock, are actually very poisonous.
Other interesting sights in the castle include the 15th century kitchen and the 14th century chapel, with its beautifully painted walls and ceilings.
And in the armoury is an interesting exhibition showcasing the changes to armour and weaponry throughout the ages.
Another interesting exhibition is housed in the former stables, which are in the basement of the oldest part of the castle, the Palas. The exhibition focuses on torture and punishment during the medieval and early modern period.
One word of warning with regards to this visit – this is a medieval fortress and so built on top of a steep hill. This combined with the fact that the floors are uneven and sometimes steep within the castle itself make this visit unsuitable for those with mobility issues.