In order for you to fully appreciate my travel report today I must provide a wee bit of a background: I am meant to live in a castle. No really. My 15th great grandfather was Edward Plantagenet, better known as King Edward III. The royal blood doesn’t end there. I am sure you’re aware of the common practice among royals of marrying not-so-distant relatives. This leaves me with great grandfathers, great grandmothers, great aunts and great uncles who, as Kings and Queens, ruled their people and lands. I never knew anything about my family history until recently. When I learned of these deep royal roots it all made so much sense. No wonder I am a royal pain in the ass! It’s actually in the genes. There are probably a bunch of other weird genetic mutations to consider, but who has time for that with all of this ground to cover.
Many of my travels have given me the chance to walk my, errr, my ancestor’s grounds. I’ve visited many of their tombs as well. There is something really powerful about this. It changes you in ways that cannot be sensibly explained. It also makes me wonder how it all went awry. I mean, what happened to my crown? This question burns within me each time I climb the cockeyed steps of a crumbling castle, which I did this late May day in Braubach, Germany. Nonetheless, this castle sits high atop a hill hovering over a quaint medieval village filled with original half-timbered houses. Much to my chagrin, I cannot claim Marksburg Castle as it was never inhabited by royal families. Its earliest structures were erected in the 13th century and served as a fortress of sorts. It was expanded and refashioned periodically over the next several hundred years and eventually became a makeshift prison. The winding narrow staircases and cold stone floors harken back to times of triumph and torture. The kitchen stands out as a place of great warmth with its lovely open fireplace and large workspace. Two other jewels in the Marksburg crown (in terms of sheer morbid curiosity) are the toilet room and the torture chamber. In all honesty, the ventless and stifling toilet room should have been included along with the many other effective means of torture that were employed in this space so many years ago.
Thankfully, this castle is not alone along the lovely middle Rhine. Departing Braubach, we sailed along slowly for hours and passed no less than nine additional castles including Lahneck, Maus, Katz, Schönburg, Gurenfels, Sooneck, Reichenstein, Rheinstein, and Klopp, and one lone fortess, Ehrenbreitstein, all while sipping local wines and a regional delight referred to as Rüdesheimer Kaffee, a sweet and strong flambé of brandy, sugar and coffee. A few sips in as I was struggling to balance my invisible crown, I realized that Professor Plantagenet had a very nice ring.