Tuesday 11th April
Another day, another castle. This is Haut Koenigsbourg, first built in the 12th century by Frederick von Hohenstaufen on the top of a mountain with views to Germany and the Alps in Switzerland.
Over the years it has gradually been strengthened as a defensive position and weapon technology progressed. The defences were very impressive, with killing zones and drawbridges within the walls, I really can’t see how it fell but the Swedes managed during the thirty years war to overcome the defenders after which the castle lay in ruins for 250 years.
In 1865 it came into the possession of the town of Selestat who gave it to William II of Hohenzollern (Kaiser Bill to you and me). William entrusted the rebuilding to Bodo Ebhardt who worked from 1900 to 1908.
After the treaty of Versailles in 1919 Alsace became French territory again.
Bodo Erbardt made many reparations to the castle, but somewhat uniquely, he studied what was there, remains of what he found, and made scholarly decisions about how the repairs should proceed. He also made it clear to following generations exactly what had been repaired so that if future knowledge proved that something different should have been in place it could more easily be altered.
To my humble eye, I thought the repairs had been carried out very sympathetically (unlike some places I could name – Carcassonne, for example).
We are 800m above the Alsace plains, the views were incredible.
A great deal of furniture has been bought in to give an impression of how the rooms would have looked whilst in use.
One of the villages along the Alsace wine route far below us. The Black Forest in Germany is on the horizon.
We’ve seen these in previous castles, this is a reconstruction based on the fragments found here. The black door to the botton right (almost out of sight) is where a fire would have been lit, the rest of the structure is ceramic which would radiate heat.
Dating from 1594, there were a few of this style wardrobe. Originally the castle dwellers would have had chests (easily transportable). Then they need to store more stuff so one chest would have been placed on top of another. This wardrobe is the next step in the evolution of bedroom furniture.
A stone lion, Lucy liked it, we have no idea what it was doing there.
More defences, the the left is an inner courtyard garden, to the right are two bastions to cover some high ground to the north.
More incredible views.
After the castle, and gingerly making our way down the steep roads and tight hairpins we stopped at Bergheim. Wisteria is typical for many of the buildings.
As are the gatehouses. We were looking for a bakers but wouldn’t you just know it, Monday so we moved on to the next big town Ribeauville, I didn’t bother taking my camera in, the buildings are all lovely but after a while just a little same.
Luckily I had my phone with me and took this photo for you, a little bug hut in the towns heraldic arms, we’ve seen a few of these on our travels.
And because we couldn’t find a bakers here, I was tricked into buying lunch although it did come with beer and wine of the day. Gewurtztraminer for me and l’amber for the missus. Obviously being tiny glasses we had to have more than one.
Lunch was potato gratin (sliced potato, cheese, wine, cream and a great big herby German sausage) and was very nice indeed.
On the way back to Frankie some bottles were calling my name – it would be rude not to!!
We were parked in a dusty cramped car park which was meant to be €5 but no one came calling for money. So far we haven’t spent a penny on site fees. We had to buy water once (€2), so the small extravaganza of lunch is acceptable.
Next morning, we continued our travels south. We have a map with hundreds of villages marked on it, some of them are right next door to each other, touching, others could be a mile apart. They really are great, I love it here (except for the cost of beer).
This set of photos are from Kayserberg, another oldie world type of place. Every time the town was invaded it was rebuilt, prettier each time (so they say).
I think they are right.
We stumbled into a glass blowers workshop and watched while he made a little bird…
…and then into the shop where we concentrated very hard on not touching anything. Luckily I managed to drag Lucy out by the scruff of her neck before she bought another “Where the hell are we going to put that”?
Back at the aire we settled down for lunch as another Brit couple turned up. We’ve not seen any British vans for over a week so it was nice to have a chat with Stuart (Stewart?) and Cynthia, but Lucy, knowing me as well as she knows me insisted that we move on before I drink all of Stuarts wine and feel a little delicate in the morning.
I’ve decided to drink all my wine as a protest. We are now parked in Trois Epis, the site of a miraculous vision, we think. It’s at the top of another mountain, we’ve seen no views, had a nice long walk in the forest and returned to Frankie. The town itself is very non descriptive and home to one of the most ugly churches we have ever seen. There is a also a very large medical centre here but anyone being transported up the steep mountain roads and hairpins would probably have wished that they had stayed at home.