Big Bockedra and the Mediaeval Hamster Wheel

Hi guys! New city, new team, new adventure! This year Ken and I are located in Großbockedra, Germany. Don’t ask me how to pronounce it, I haven’t really gotten a straight answer on that… I do know that groß means … Continue reading

Sümela Monastery is in Middle Earth

Last weekend, prior to the discovery of our fabulous new dog-friendly digs, Kenny and I were feeling pretty blue so we decided to get the hell outta dodge and explore a new area. We drove about two hours down the eastern … Continue reading

A castle? Yoshi can’t go in those.

The winds and bends of the roads and the surrounding fields of wildflowers and orchards made for a lovely drive from Hechingen Village to Burg Hohenzollem. As we were nearing the castle and snaking up the mountain I was so excited I kept having Kenny stop the car so I could take a picture of the nearing castle at every bend… I will spare you the majority of these photos, as they are very much alike. However, here is my favorite! The seemingly endless coiling road came to an end about ¾’s of the way up the mountain. We were met with the neon vest and open hand of a parking attendant. We paid 2 euro to park and wait for the next shuttle up the remainder of the mountain. Meanwhile they had a little pub and a shop of some of the most random castle paraphernalia you can imagine. Here are a few examples…

There were also ridiculously sharp swords and battle-axes labeled unconvincingly as fake, as well as dragon figurines and the usual wall of alcohol that has become a commonplace of sorts in the German shops we have happened across. After dress-up we headed towards the shuttle. We got on the bus and sat down in the teeny seats. Poor Kenny barely fit… but we were so excited!

…and then a wonderfully ridiculous human being sat down right in front of us. You haven’t seen a bowl-cut until you have seen this guy. It was incredible…

I have never seen it’s equal.

Anyway! We finally made our ascent. The shuttle arrived at the castle grounds and we bought a ticket for the “tour grandeur”. We were informed we won’t be able to understand a word of it (obviously), but they gave us a castle guide in English! Which was all we needed:) The way up the castle was really cool; consisting of a drawbridge, another winding path made of stone, and a charming garden courtyard.

I knew the view was going to be amazing, but there are not words to describe the feeling I got when I looked over that edge. Kenny and I, both being from Midwest America, will always appreciate such things. You could see for miles and miles all the way around the castle. We sat on a bench in silence for nearly five minutes just taking it all in. I was freaking out during this picture… He wanted to lay down!? I said nooooo way!

Also, Kenny downloaded this really cool app (he was obsessed with it) that allows you to take panoramic photos! Though, as you can see it’s a little on the squiggly side and it couldn’t exactly figure out where I was every time… Side note: Above I am imagining those little stone hobbles along the wall to be where Legolas would stand and just murk people.

Here, a nice (and fluent: low levels of awkwardness) German couple took our picture too! Surrounding the castle were several statues representing kings that have ruled here in the past dating back to the 16 hundreds. Kenny was bound and determined to take a picture of every last one. However, (for the sake of my sanity in trying to read the crumbling inscriptions) I am only going to post the first and the last out of the ten. It was rather interesting to see how the different fashions have changed over the centuries. Why would people ever stop wearing capes?

1640-1688

1861-1888

Since the castle was at the very peak of a mountain it was difficult to get a decent picture… not for lack of trying of course…

So incredibly beautiful. Moving right along, as you can see Kenny is headed into the building. Unbeknownst to us, the internal guided tour was to begin at 6:00. There is no such thing as “Mayers” time in Germany… I mean, this thing started at 6:00 sharp. Naturally, Kenny and I moseyed in around 6:06. I’m pretty sure it was uncomfortable for everyone involved. The door was locked so we had to knock. The kindly old man that was to be our tour guide let us in, and was most likely reassuring us that it was alright to be late… although of that we can never really be sure. We just kept shrugging our shoulders and saying “English, sorry,” then pointing at our English guide book… total idiots. Also, to make matters worse we were just snapping photos in every direction only to discover this sign when the crowd dispersed to head into the next room…

Oops…

So that is our excuse for the poor quality of photographs you are about to see. We had to be in stealth mode.

All four walls of the first room were adorned with an elaborately painted family tree. Naturally, it reminded me of the Black family tree in the fifth Harry Potter film… R.I.P. Sirius. 

The room below featured beautiful paintings: depictions of both actual historical events and fables from centuries past. Unfortunately, due to the big and bright windows, they were overexposed.

However, the next hallway had a couple of fancy mirrors…

Also, there we found the weirdest stained glass window in existence… Seriously though, quadruple high-five for anyone that can tell me what this thing is.

Every room we entered was more aesthetically pleasing than the next.

The last stop of the tour was an armory and a room full of display cases. Each with various artifacts from the different time periods of the castle’s existence.

(Ignore the panoramic squiggles.)

Although we did not understand a single word from anyone throughout the tour, it was still an amazing experience. The inside of the castle was just as magnificent as the outside promised. Kenny and I had another unforgettable day together:) Plus, we finally quenched our thirst!!

Cheers!

Goin’ to the chapel and we’re… Wait what…?

After feasting on grapes we made our winding way up the mountain towards Grabkapelle Rotenberg. Kenny did some truly impressive parallel parking on a steep incline and we made the remainder of the trek up the mountain on foot. Luckily there were bathrooms just a couple yards up and they were impeccably clean. I mean, we are talking cleaner than the cleanest gas station/fast food bathroom you have ever been in… Anyway, once we turned the corner to the steepest valley we were floored. The view was absolutely breathtaking…

We continued our hike and were greeted by none other than the ice cream man! We (mainly Kenny) were too anxious to stop and decided (I was assured) we would get it on the trek down… Anyway, the structure that we met when we got there was beautiful. Granted, I am no castle expert but I am quite certain they are usually larger than this…

We were curious enough to pay 4 euros to tour the inside. The inside was gorgeously crafted…

Even the floor was beautiful, a rod iron grate that gave a glimpse of a downstairs that we didn’t realize existed!

We finished touring the upper level and headed for the stairs. Then, before we went down, the woman manning the desk handed us a pamphlet in English! Everything made sense… and the story is beautiful. The building (built in the early 1820’s) used to belong to the dukes of Wurttemberg, and it was significantly larger…

(Side note: evidently “grabkapelle” means grave chapel…) Apparently, King Wilhelm I had it torn down and then erected in memory of his beloved wife Catharina, who died at a young age. The location was symbolic as it was one of his queen’s favorite places. This chapel on the hill is now the monument of eternal love and is considered the most romantic spot in Baden-Wurttemberg! In fact, the inscription above the entrance to the chapel is interpreted as King Wilhelm’s promise to his Russian bride: “Love never dies.”

Is that not the sweetest thing you have ever heard?! Moving on… we finally descended down the steps…

(A picture of the really cool see-through grate that is now on the ceiling!!)

…and entered into a beautiful mausoleum. The tombs and effigies were striking white marble.

The best part about that room was the echo-factor… The acoustics were ridiculous and Kenny and I had some completely mature fun with it. Although I will say, if you ever find yourself in the lower level of Grabkapelle Rotenberg do not try and whisper into opposite walls with anyone because it does not work and you cannot hear them.

Kenny and I both loved that old grave chapel; the story behind it was really moving. However, our empty stomachs eventually forced us to begin our descent down the mountain, but NOT without my ice cream!!

Finally, we got back in the car and headed for Stuttgart to have dinner… We were both craving sushi and were both bitterly disappointed when the restaurant we map-quested didn’t exist (except that really it did exist…but was just closed on Sundays and really difficult to find) …So we went to a mongolian buffet (a lot like Flattop Grill) which, while it could never take the place of sushi because nothing can, sufficed because I was famished and Kenny will eat anything. Finally on our way home we stopped at the place with the incredible views just off the highway and took this little beauty with the setting sun illuminating the valley below…

Kenny and I truly had the most amazing day and I am looking forward to our next adventure! Until then! Cheers!