The “Middle Rhine” is one of four sections (High Rhine, Upper Rhine, Middle Rhine, Lower Rhine) of the river between Lake Constance and the North Sea. The upper half of the Middle Rhine (Rhine Gorge) from Bingen (Rhine-kilometer 526) to Koblenz (Rhine-kilometer 593) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (designated in 2002) with more than 40 castles and fortresses from the Middle Ages along its banks along with many picturesque wine villages. The lower half from Koblenz (Rhine-kilometer 593) to Bonn (Rhine-kilometer 655) is also known as “the romantic Rhine”.
Probably the best way to see the historic Middle Rhine with its vineyards and castles is by spending a day on a river cruise. You will find a good selection of available cruises HERE.
At Rhine-kilometer 655 the river takes a sharp bend around a rocky promontory with flags flying from its summit and a large statue at river level commemorating the legend of Loreley . Parts of the legend date back to the middle ages and involve the dangerous waters and the sound the river makes flowing past the rock. Lorelei, Lore Lay or Loreley, refers to a large rock on the bank at a narrows of the Rhine River near Sankt Goarshausen, Germany. The rock is associated with a legend of a beautiful maiden who threw herself into the Rhine in despair over a faithless lover and was transformed into a siren who sang an irresistible song attracting boatmen to their destruction in the rivers currents and rocks.
A good map showing the castles along the Rhine in this area can be found HERE.
The highlight of the day was a visit to Marksburg Castle. The original name was Burg Braubach, the Marksburg Castle sits atop a high hill overlooking the Rhine River. Marksburg Castle is most famous as the only castle on the Middle Rhine to avoid destruction or serious damage thru its over eight hundred year history. The Marksburg Castle came under serious attack in 1945, when it received artillery fire from American forces attempting to dislodge Nazi forces inside the castle. Damage even then was minor.
The castle came under attack and seige a number of times but was never captured or destroyed.
In 1135 the castle and half the town of Braubach were the property of the Archbishop of Mainz, a member of the house of Eppstein. His family owned the castle until 1283. The last Eppstein to have claim to the castle married Eberhard von Katzenelnbogen and when she died the castle became the property of the Counts of Katzenelnbogen until 1479.
With the death of Count Philipp the Elder in 1479, the county of Katzenelnbogen passed to the Landgraves of Hesse through a benefactress, the daughter, who was married to the Landgrave Phillip II. The Marksburg Castle was attacked a number of times during the 30 years war and during Louis XIV’s campaigns again in the 17th century.
Another interesting aspect of this castle is that it was used as part of the foundation for the early video game Castle Wolfenstein where players hunted Nazi’s inside an old castle.
Since 1900, The Marksburg has been home to the Association for the Preservation of German Castles (Deutsche Burgenvereiningung) and along with tours offers exhibits of armor, a dungeon with implements of torture and rooms furnished with typical period pieces.