STUDY ABROAD: GERMANY
If you were asked to spend a year living in a different location, where would you choose and why?
If I could go anywhere in the world for a study abroad I would spend a month (probably more) touring Germany. I have been in love with the provocative time period of Medieval Knights and the Slaying Dragons since birth. To actually walk through the halls that grand knights would have walked, to eat at tables that might have served their food-stuffs, this would be a dream of a lifetime. (AN ADDED PLUS: I also have a mentored son who lives there with his wife and two children. It would be great to spend some free time circling their table and being blessed by a renewed relationship with his family.)
The places that I would want to begin seeing would be mostly the historic castles! I would have to spend at least two days at each castle. The first day world be to merely sight-see and to be held in awe of the surroundings. The second day would be to study the archaeological, architectural, and the historical relevance of each place. I would then conclude the trip with the more normal sight-seeing excursions. But for me, the medieval castles would the life!
Places I would want to visit:
The Reichsburg Castle in Cochem
This castle was built around 1000. As you can see, it sits high upon a hill … very near the bank of the Moselle River. What a gorgeous view of the countryside! One humongous edifice surrounded by the necessaries of accumulated buildings. It was once owned by a palatinate count as well as an emperor. The castle features Neo-Gothic architecture and houses a grand collection of Renaissance and Baroque furniture. Staying the night here, sleeping in one of those refurbished rooms: a memory of a lifetime! Touring the immaculate halls and hiking the splendid countryside from the Moselle River upward would be a mind-blowing way to start my trip.
The Mespelbrunn Castle near Frankfurt
Here, history says, a simple farmer’s hut continued to grow and mature as the owners of the properties grew and matured in wealth and power: soon it became the Mespelbrunn Castle. This castle is still owned by a private family. (Wow! What a family legacy!) I would hope to be able to visit here for a weekend enjoying the hospitably and living the life of a true (present day) “King of a Castle”. At this castle, guests can ‘fish from the doorways’! (At least I hope I would be able to do so?) Pulling a yacht up to the walkway to enter the bold double-doored foyer of a solarium would be magnificent.
The Wartburg Castle in Eisenach
On first appearance, the Wartburg Castle looks like a pre-American Civil War munitions foundry. What a history is associated with this multi-architectural edifice. Martin Luther completed his translated manuscripts of the Bible while in hiding here. (To sleep in a chamber where he slept!) Paradoxically, Adolf Hitler wanted the removal of the cross displayed at the castle to have it replaced by a swastika. What a glorious history to allow oneself to immerse for a weekend. What a grand place for a spiritual retreat!
The Lichtenstein Castle near Hanau
The Lichtenstein Castle is “new” for a true castle. It was built in the 19th century to honor the medieval knights of Lichtenstein. An earlier castle had stood where this one now resides, but the former one had fallen in such a state of disrepair it could not be salvaged. Resting atop a lone hill, it can be accessed by only a stone bridge. (I cannot wait to cross that bridge!) This castle is in the Swabian Alps near Honau. My heart is aflutter (Yes, I said that.) to imagine walking through the renowned collections historic weapons and armor that are now housed at this location.
The Schwerin Castle on the Islands at Mecklenberg
The Schwerin Castle was built on an island in the middle of a lake at Schwerin. It has been a home to “Grand Dukes” as well as “many a commoner”. One tidbit of interest for me was that this was once a college for teachers- kindergarten teachers. (Interesting to me since I am a teacher!) Today it is a government building for the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state parliament. There is a life-long resident, supposedly, that continues to reside at this castle: Petermännchen, a ghost from the 17th century walks the halls in his exquisite garb. (There’s a man I would like to meet!) The castle has the historic storybook towers and turrets upon towers and turrets. (One could begin looking for fair-maidens and damsels in distress up every staircase!)
The Heidelberg Castle at Heidelberg
The Heidelbeg Castle looks like a quintessential home for a monastery of monks. It has had the misfortune to be attacked relentlessly my both man and nature for centuries. The Church of the Holy Spirit resides here (Hence my premonitions of a monastery?) The town is a local tourist heaven for all the trappings a good tourist would want to embellish his German encounter: beer steins and cuckoo clocks and sausages! (I have always been entranced by cuckoo clocks!)
Hohenschwangua Castle near the Village of Hohenschwangau
What an unorthodox history this castle possesses! Maximillian II, the father of Ludwig II, discovered this castle in ruins while he was still a Prince. He fell in love with its location and began building what is now Hohenschwangau Castle. It was used as a hunting lodge, a summer palace get-away, and a residence for Ludwig II’s mother. The storybook coloring of this castle makes it a unique castle on my tour!
The Burg Eltz Castle near Koblenz
The Burg Eltz Castle appears to have grown from the bedrock of the countryside as if magically cast by a spell for an emperor or a king. If a castle could be camouflaged in a countryside, except for the pure immenseness of the castle, this one is a chameleon. This castle was the home of many ‘knightly’ families, therefore it still houses much of its original furnishings. What an auspicious find for an archaeological enthusiast. (One does not have to dig to experience the past- just open a hallway door!) Another unique characteristic of this castle- it has NEVER seen war! The artifacts housed in this oasis of history are the finest found anywhere.
The Hohenzollern Castle on Mount Hohenzollern
This castle, on first glance, is the rich man’s castle of rich men. Layers upon layers of castle-dom begin mid-hill and continue up the mountaintop and into the sky! This castle is privately owned. (Hopefully, befriending these owners would allow some “kingly” experiences on a quick visit?) It has been the birth place of many kings and emperors throughout the ages. Housed inside its walls are the crown jewels of Prussian kings and a uniform worn by Fredrick the Great. What a great weekend visit this would be!
The Neuschwanstein Castle:The Castle of Sleeping Beauty.
This is the most photographed castle of all Germany. This fairy-tale castle IS THE CASTLE of Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. This castle was not a wartime edifice. From its origins, this castle was constructed to be the playground fantasy of the rich and famous- the retreat for Ludwig II of Bavaria. From its breathtaking furnishings to its exquisite paintings, this is the castle of all wonderland castles. (Even though tourist guides proclaim this to the castle to visit –par excellence- I would be far more interested in the historical significance of this castle than its Walt Disney charms.)
These ten castles would be my initial archaeological tourist-y reason for visiting Germany. To see my former mentor-son would be my heart-felt reason to visit. The two reasons combined would make for a great way to spend two months away from the States.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE: This is all totally imaginary! I have never been out of the United States. Maybe sometime?
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Study Abroad.”