Have you ever imagined what it would be like to live in a castle? (I certainly have! But if you’ve read Castle of the Wolf that can’t come as much of a surprise. 🙂 )
And now you actually can live in a castle: the Upper Middle Rhine Valley is looking for somebody to live in Castle Sooneck (link leads to a German site) and blog about the area, the people, and the whole experience of living and working in a castle.
The Upper Middle Rhine Valley, that stretch of the Rhine between Koblenz and Bingen, is one of the most beautiful areas in Germany and one that is rich in history and legend. Indeed, it is an area where you cannot throw a stone without hitting a castle, a ruin, or some other kind of historic building — or a tourist.
British tourists discovered their love for the Rhine in the late eighteenth century. For a few years, the Napoleonic Wars put a stop to traveling, but as soon as soon as Napoleon had been banished to his little island, the tourists were back and descended in droves on the banks of Father Rhine. In 1840, the writer Thomas Hood remarked somewhat acerbically,
“It is a statistical fact that since 1814 an unknown number of persons have been more or less abroad, and of all the Countries in Christendom, never was there such a run as on the Banks of the Rhine. It was impossible to go into Society without meeting units, tens, hundreds, thousands of Rhenish tourists. What a donkey they deemed him who had not been to Assmannshausen!”
Many tourists from Britain would drag a copy of Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage along on their travels to marvel – like Childe Harold – at the sights that greeted them:
. . . Maternal Nature! . . . who teems like thee,
Thus on the banks of thy majestic Rhine?
There Harold gazes on a work divine
A blending of all beauties; streams and dells,
Fruit, foliage, crag, wood, cornfield, mountain, vine,
And chiefless castles breathing stern farewells
From gray but leafy walls, where Ruin greenly dwells.
The Rhine continued to be a popular tourist destination, and so it is not surprising to find the most iconic Victorian tourists, Richard Doyle’s Brown, Jones, and Robinson, the trio he created for a series in Punch, enjoying the sights along the banks of the Rhine as well – or at least, they try to.
And tourists still pour into the Upper Middle Rhine Valley to admire the beautiful scenery of green hills and vineyards, to gaze in wonder at the many castles and ruins (not all of them medieval, btw), and to get shoved about by other tourists in the famous Drosselgasse in Rüdesheim.
But if you look closer, if you look beyond the pretty scenery and nice castles, you’ll soon find that the ravages of time haven’t spared this valley: It’s part of one of Europe’s major transport routes, and hundreds of trains rattle through the valley each day – with the noise being amplified by the hills on either side of the river. Indeed, the noise and the shaking and rattling has become so bad that cracks have appeared in some of the houses in the valley and people have started to move away. And it’s not just the trains: there are also surface quarries which have changed the face of the valley forever.
To explore this area, with all its history, its legends (Remember that story from Castle of the Wolf, about the Mouse Tower of Bingen and the bishop who got eaten up by mice? – Yeah, we’re talking about that kind of legend *g*), and all its problems will certainly be a fascinating project for whoever gets to move into Castle Sooneck (and yes, of course, I’m going to apply for the job!)