Sunday, 27 April 2008

Two castles and one dragon

As my folks have been here for a visit we decided to do some sightseeing. We took a little car trip out to the neighbouring Rhineland town of Königswinter. The town is overlooked by a very steep, 1053 foot high hill known as Drachenfels (meaning 'Dragon's Hill').

The hill earned its name from a legend - it is said that the last dragon lived in a cave on the mountain until it was slain by the hero Siegfried. Apparently, after taking a bath in the slain dragon's blood Siegfried became invincible.

DrachensfelbahnWe travelled up the hill courtesy of the Drachenfels railway - said to be Germany's oldest railway track. View from Drachensfel

The journey upwards was a little scary at times because the gradient is so steep (22% in some places). However, it is well worth the worry as the view from the top is spectacular. Below, the Rhine snakes out in all its beauty. The view is meant to have inspired the opening lines to Lord Byron's work, Childe Harold.

Drachensfel ruined castleThe hill is topped by the ruins of a 12th century castle (see in the middle of this photo).

It was built by Archbishop Arnold of Cologne around 1140, to protect his property. Sadly, it was destroyed in 1634, during the 30 Years War.

Drachenburg CastleStill, that's not the only castle you'll find here - for halfway up the hill is the 19th century Castle Drachenburg. This is all you could ask for from a German castle. It has the trademark turreted towers you'd expect and seems to be a mad confection of lots of different architectural styles. Drachenburg was built by Baron Stephan von Sarter (1833–1902), a successful stockbroker, between 1882-4. It is said that the Baron hardly spent any time in his castle, as he preferred to live it up in Paris. Tough call isn't it? Relax in one's castle, or enjoy high society à Paris...?

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