Exploring: Burg Eltz
Burg Eltz was a castle I randomly saw a photo of online and fell in love with the way it looked, so when we were planning the Eurotrip I made sure it was a castle we had to visit. Luckily, it was on the way. If we were to travel from Bern to Amsterdam, a stop in Germany would not only be welcome, but convenient as well.
On the morning of October 12th, Gab and I boarded a train from Cochem's main train station towards the sleepy town of Moselkern, with only one plan in mind: Follow the signs to Burg Eltz and hike our way to it.Taken on our train ride towards Moselkern. I loved this view because of the two swans swimming along the misty Mosel River.
Walking through Moselkern
Right outside Moselkern's train station were signs to help us tourists get to several destinations. Castle Eltz's hiking trail was 90 minutes away. Gab and I braced ourselves for a very long walk, with him doubting I'll last more than halfway. I generally hate walking, but I told him it's only unbearable to do so back home in the Philippines where the weather is perpetually hot and sweat embraces your body within 15 minutes. But in Europe? In autumn weather? I can walk anywhere for hours and not mind at all.
The town cemetery. I love Europe's graveyards. They're creepy yet beautiful at the same time.
This side of Germany is known for their wines. Gab and I stumbled upon this grape vine that crawled on walls and across houses. I probably stopped for a good five minutes to have a look at them. I was just so impressed by the wild grapes growing. I mean, in my side of the world, this isn't a normal occurrence. I wonder if locals ever walk out of their house in the morning and just pick grapes and have them for breakfast? If not, I'd probably be that local if I lived there.
The Rathaus is the Moselkern's town hall, aka the place where the local government meets. The history on the wall is written in German, so I had no idea what happened there. Everywhere we went in Cochem and Moselkern, doors were marked with 20*C+M+B*15, such as the one in the photo above. After Googling, this is what I found:
The custom in Germany is that of the childrens' festival between January 1-6 (Three Kings Day). After a service at the churches the children go from house to house to gather offerings for poor children in poor countries. They are dressed as the three kings and carry sticks with stars on the top. At the homes they sing songs and recite messages of Christmas. At each house they paint the letters "20+C+M+B+14" which are for the Latin Christus Mansionem Benedicat (Christ bless this house). At the same time the letters are the first letters of the names of the wise men: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. — Christmas Stories from German Culture.
Three Kings Day happens on the first week of January, so I guess it's safe to assume that these markings are left all year round. It's interesting to note, though, that when I visited Germany in June 2013, I never saw markings like this anywhere.
Another sign indicating we were walking in the right direction and not yet lost...
About halfway through the town
Someone's apple tree in their backyard. I was so tempted to grab and apple to eat but feared the owner will suddenly burst out their back door and scold me for stealing an apple.
Finally! The trail begins here!
The hike was an easy one, a little tiring, but I didn't mind.
Beautiful tall trees surrounded us.
...Okay. I love mushrooms. Some people find them gross. I think they're beautiful. Just dont call them fungi, even if that's what they are, because that word does sound disgusting. The long walk through the forest was made much more fun when I kept an eye out for different kinds of mushrooms. Every time I saw a cluster of mushrooms, I'd gasp and yell, "Mushroom town!!!" as I skipped my way to it to take photos.
After what felt like ages walking through the forest and not knowing when it'll end, the castle slowly started coming into view. A blog I read said seeing the castle would make you feel giddy, and I found this to be true and inevitable. It comes out of no where, no signs or indications that you've made it to the end of the trail except for the castle just jumping into sight, slowly and then into plain view. I felt like I was in a storybook fairytale, like I was a lost girl making her way through a forest and then discovering a beautiful medieval castle. The only thing missing was woodland creatures and me singing every 10 minutes.
The Beautiful Burg Eltz
Burg Eltz has been owned by the same family that lived there in the 12th century, over 33 generations ago. It's never been attacked nor destroyed, only renovated to fit three different families of the Eltz clan. Parts of the castle are open to the public from April - October, while other parts are permanently closed as they're currently living quarters for the family.
It's interesting to note that the reason Burg Eltz was never attacked nor destroyed was because the man who owned the castle was quite powerful and had means of having the name of Burg Eltz erased out of official documents/lists of castles in the area, which was quite useful when needed. They were more or less left alone.
We waited in the courtyard for our english tour to start. Unfortunately, photos of the castle's interiors and strictly prohibited. We were able to tour the armoury, living quarters, bedrooms, dressing rooms, meeting halls, the kitchen. But my favorite room in the castle was the Knights Hall, where three branches of the family would occasionally meet to discuss and work out issues, or gather for celebrations. On the wall was a carved jester's mask that symbolized freedom of speech, and a huge rose above the door stood for the "rose of silence" which meant everything shared and discussed within the four walls of the Knights Hall were never to leave the room -- I wish I were noble and lived in a castle too just so I could have a room like this and no one will think I'm weird.
The entrance to the armory room, which is also the start of the tour.
I took a very sneaky photo inside the castle, while Gab tutted and shook his head behind me. Somehow we ended ahead of the tour group and the tour guide trusted us enough to move to the next room alone. Anyway, one of my favorite things about the castle were the wall tapestries such as the one in the photo above, unfortunately it's not one of the larger tapestries you'll find in the castle. There was one tapestry that depicted a story about men going on long journeys and encountering different kinds of animals. These journeys would last for months or a year, and they'd come home to talk about the beasts they encountered. The tapestry had all sorts of animals on it, most of which looked deformed or nonexistent. I asked the tour guide why there were mutant dogs and swans, and he told me that the men were on journeys for so long that by the time they came home to tell stories of their experiences and what they saw, it was most often exaggerated or they ended up mixing two to three animals together instead. I found this tidbit hilarious. There were swans with sharp teeth and three legged animals, you guys.
The Eltz family tree. It badly needs updating.
Of course, a mandatory photo with the castle after the tour.
Burg Eltz, what a beauty you are. You'll always be my favorite, and one day I hope we'll meet again.