We spent day 152 of the Nowhere To Be Project in the charming seaside town of Dover, England. Our first stop upon arrival was to Dover Castle which was rebuilt by my 20th Great Grandfather, King Henry II, during his reign. Henry is widely regarded as one of the most successful rulers in England’s history and the sprawling castle is surely evidence of this. Walking in the actual footsteps of my ancestors is one of the reasons why travel is so important to me. The view I enjoyed from a window in the tower of the castle today probably wasn’t all that different from the one my grandparents, Henry and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, had in the 12th century (well, except for the fact that mine included my current home away from home, the Viking Sky). It just proves that we all leave a legacy for those who follow us whether we intend to or not. I’d like mine to include the importance of wanderlust.
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.