January 5, 2012
Between the towns of Koblenz and Mainz, the Rhine Valley is rotten with castles — gothic ruin after gothic ruin, crumbling romantically on forested crags, looming from dramatic outcrops of rock, so many I almost stopped seeing them. Late December was unseasonally mild, so I ended up sleeping in two abandoned castles perched above the river.
My first stay was in Burg Rheinfels, above the town of St. Goar. The main part of the castle was impregnable — impregnability, of course, being a castle’s primary function — but its makers luckily saw fit to constructing a dry, discreet tunnel in the lower wall. Above this section was a four-star hotel, so I had a glass of Riesling with the other guests and retired after dark to my hole. I had a lovely view over the town and the ferries shuttling over the river.
The next night I slept in Burg Gutenfels, perched above the town of Kaub. It’s the very image of a haunted castle and was a little intimidating as I approached it through the vineyards, its walls lit up by a strangely greenish moonlight. But I had a very comfortable sleep in this sheltered archway, curtained with vines. If there were ghosts — and of course there were ghosts — they seemed happy to put me up.