Three Castles of Germany: Marksburg, Burg Eltz, and Burg Stahleck

By Irina.

We were going to one of the most famous tourist regions of Germany. In the stretch from Worms to Koblenz, the navigable Rhine winds back and forth, and there are dozens of medieval castles and towers which rise on its high, often rocky banks.

Castles of Germany Marksburg 1

We preferred the road of castles to the road of wine, but the banks of the Rhine and Moselle are densely planted with the vineyards, and the Riesling was perfect in every place we stopped.

View of the castle Thurant on the Moselle River, Germany.
View of the castle Thurant on the Moselle River

We chose three castles for viewing—Marksburg, Burg Eltz, and Burg Stahleck—because, unfortunately, we did not have time for more. The first castle on our way (and nearest to the airport) was Marksburg.

It seemed that it was destiny!

We had seen this castle in a guide-book. This big, picturesque tower half-hidden in the mist looked mysterious and utterly attractive. But, beware! 🙂 The picture taken from a chopper was wonderful; a marked contrast to the one we managed to take ourselves.

We left the car at the foot of the hill and started to climb a path through the woods in the direction of ancient Marksburg. It was still. We were walking along the remains of moss-covered walls.

Castles of Germany Marksburg

The climb was not very long—approximately 15 minutes.

Here is the gate, but, unfortunately, it looks like a moulage.

Castles of Germany Marksburg

Fake castle—it is a blunder!

Marksburg dates from the 12th century. The castle tower is situated on a high hill and it was considered to be impenetrable for centuries.

Castles of Germany Marksburg

We are here on behalf of these stones. They are the only things that survive of the stairs, and they are so authentic.

Castles of Germany Marksburg

Castles of Germany Marksburg

The clash of heavy armour and knightly warhorses is felt here everywhere. The walls are covered with coats-of-arms of former owners.

Castles of Germany Marksburg

Unfortunately, the fortress was almost completely destroyed by American artillery in March, 1945. After recovering from the war, Germany began to restore what could and needed to be restored. By the middle of the 1950s, Marskburg was rebuilt and became the property of the state. It is a museum today. The museum’s collection is modest, but its small arms hall is quite impressive.

Castles of Germany Marksburg

Castles of Germany Marksburg

At the same time the view to the bend of the Rhine is very attractive. Tomorrow, Burg Eltz is waiting for us.

Castles of Germany Marksburg

Castles of Germany Marksburg

After an overnight stay in Koblenz our Mercedes headed directly from the Rhine bank towards Moselle. It was only 30 km to our destination.

It is remarkably that within such a short distance the landscape changed several times. Wheat fields alternated with forest, and at last we saw the hills which sheltered Burg Eltz castle from invaders.

Castles of Germany Burg Eltz

Here, almost a thousand years ago, the Eltz family built their castle on a tiny patch of the rock surrounded by a narrowing of the river on three sides.

Castles of Germany. Burg Eltz

Despite the great number of wars that swept over this region for a millennium, the castle survived undamaged. The Counts of Eltz turned out to be thrifty managers.

It’s time to come in. Oh, it is a genuine dreamboat!

Castles of Germany Burg Eltz

Castles of Germany Burg Eltz

Castles of Germany Burg Eltz

33 generations of Eltzes owned and continue to own this miracle!

Castles of Germany Burg Eltz

Castles of Germany Burg Eltz

As long as Burg Eltz is private property, only a part of the courtyard, treasury, and eight rooms of the castle are available for viewing. Taking photos in rooms is not allowed by order of the Count of Eltz, but it is permitted in the treasury.

Castles of Germany Burg Eltz

Castles of Germany Burg Eltz

Castles of Germany Burg Eltz

Castles of Germany Burg Eltz

Castles of Germany Burg Eltz

Castles of Germany Burg Eltz

Castles of Germany Burg Eltz

“Come on, stop fooling around! Are you really in need of these treasures?!”

Castles of Germany Burg Eltz

We would be kicked out, definitely! 🙂

Castles of Germany Burg Eltz

Castles of Germany Burg Eltz

Castles of Germany Burg Eltz

Now we should hurry up to the Count’s apartments. Well, what should we say (as we have no photos to show)? The place has a romantic atmosphere, which gained popularity in the middle ages. On the walls are the originals of arms, paintings, and tapestries dating from the 13th century. The fireplaces are masterpieces of art! Almost all surviving furniture is original from the 15th century.

Time and fashion have changed a lot since then. You will feel all these changes while you visit Burg Eltz inside and out.

Castles of Germany Burg Eltz

Castles of Germany Burg Eltz

Burg Eltz. Germany.

Two hours passed quickly. There it went, so fast! We’d rather not go, but we had to. We were on our way, after a last passing glance at the view from the castle walls, and a coffee for the road (several cafes, restaurant, restrooms—all these facilities are kept scrupulously clean in the German manner for the benefit of the tourists).

The feeling of being in a time machine! Looking back, I’d like to say, that Burg Eltz appeared to be the best of our castles! This is its website burg-eltz.de

We left, together with the tinny Teutonic knight as a memento. 🙂

Teutonic knight from Burg Eltz

It was approximately 80 kilometres to our next destination, Bacharach, a place that seemed like a toy town. The road trip was scenic and the town met our expectations as well—sparkling and bright as a Christmas decoration.

Castles of Germany Burg Stahleck

The town of Bacharach. Germany.

Burg Stahleck was a logical choice.

After an overnight stay in Bacharach and presumed viewing of local castle—as we say “all good things come in threes”—the team at Mercedes planned to move to ancient Trier to see Porta Nigra with our own eyes.

We liked Bacharach greatly, as well as other tiny towns on the Rhine: an excellent diversion for one night.

Bacharach town. Germany.

Germany Bacharach

And wine… What a wonderful white wine is here. We have replenished our supplies!

Germany white wine in Bacharach

We’d like that this night would passed quickly—the castle was waiting for us the next day.

We climbed to Burg Stahleck early in the morning. It was a three-ring circus, with teenagers hurling pillows at each other, the fuss in the eatery, the smell of coffee from a coffee vending machine…. Golly, there was a hostel in the castle. Though none of this interrupted our sightseeing, we left Burg Stahleck after only a quarter of an hour.

Castles of Germany Burg Stahleck

Castles of Germany Burg Stahleck

The historical atmosphere of this place is lost permanently, and the legend which brought us here is so meltingly sad… The real dark Middle Ages…

A long time ago there were two castles in close vicinity (the second one is almost completely ruined today). The terribly green-eyed owner of Castle Stahleck decided to capture his stronger, braver and more glorious neighbour, the First Shooter! Well, let’s see how you will grovel at my feet and beg for mercy. The command was given to servants; the neighbour was spied out, captured, and taken to a black hole.

The prisoner was completely distressed, but he did not beg for mercy and did not ransom. This First Shooter is a stubborn beggar. As a punishment “put out his eyes!”

I don’t know what the baron-captor was guided by, but one day while feasting, he decided to boast of his victory to his friends. It seemed that he was not afraid of revenge. It was a gloomy time. The prisoner was brought in and nobody took him for a brilliant knight.

The captor had already become obsessed. “Well, First Shooter, I will reward and release you if you hit the cup I throw into the air.”

The crossbow was carried out. A silver cup was thrown into the air. “Shoot!” The First Shooter’s arrow ripped right into the throat of the man who cried “Shoot,” and not into the cup. In several minutes everything was over.

When this story reached the King, the castle of the criminal Baron was confiscated. A hundred years of silence and desertion were waiting for Burg Stahleck and later the castle was seriously ruined during Napoleonic wars. Only now it seems that history has left this place forever.

We left the romantic Rhine. Three castles in two days. We wished to see more! Choose carefully. In this land of legends, there are many places to see. Every rock is crowned here.

More about Germany:

The Emerald River of Lech in Fuessen, Bavaria
History of One Picture: Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle – Decoration for Life

75 thoughts on “Three Castles of Germany: Marksburg, Burg Eltz, and Burg Stahleck

  1. I sure would enjoy the Eltz castle. Knowing it’s my heritage. It’s nice to be able view it since I may never make it to Germany to see it in person. Thank you.

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  2. So, the Mosel was my #1 destination the whole time I lived in Germany, and my favorite places were Beilstein (the most beautiful alleys and stairs and doors of any medieval place I saw the whole time I was in Europe, and a glass of Reisling wine while viewing across the river valley at the monastic church at the top is worth more than the price!!).

    Zell (Schloss Zell is a beautiful, quaint, small palace-like hotel–highly recommended!), Bernkastel-Kues (especially the Bernkastel side with it’s medieval Doctor Weinstube and needle-like cantilevered Spitzhäuschen, but don’t miss the monastery hostel of Nicholas Cusanus [Nicholas of Kues], one of the best-spoken of the medieval philosophers), Cochem (Reichsburg’s woodcarved paneling is worth the entire tour price!) and Kobern-Gondorf (the Weinstrasse actually passed THROUGH a castle and there are two more uphill [Niederburg and Oberburg], there is a beautiful stone chapel near the Weinstrasse, and a great volksmarch goes through there every year).

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  3. Marksburg Castle is most definitely not fake, I’m flabbergasted that you would claim it was. It was NOT almost completely destroyed in WWII, only a very small part of it was hit and could be rebuilt with most of the original material. The reason the castle isn’t all brown and rough and romantic as you imagined is because the walls used to be plastered in the Middle Ages, too, to protect the slate against the weather and to show off by letting the walls reflect the sunlight, and that was re-done just a few years ago to demonstrate that. The idea of brown castles is what the fairy-tales came up with in the 19th century, hundreds of years after the Middle Ages. And the reason for why the museum doesn’t have all too many pieces is pretty simple: most castles that were minor residences, like Marksburg Castle, simply didn’t have all that much stored up there. The castle museum aims to present a good idea of what a castle of its size and position looked like in the late Middle Ages. The collection of armour is unique and includes original pieces of the Middle Ages.
    It wasn’t rebuilt in the 50s and it’s definitely not owned by the state – it belongs to a private association called the German Castles Association (they bought it in 1900) which is made up of historians, researchers, architects, archeologists, castle owners and anyone interested in castles.

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    1. Thank you, Vera. Such comments are very helpful.

      I take the historical information from Internet and sometimes it can be not very correct. If you will give me the link on the correct information about the history of Marksburg Castle, I will link back with pleasure.

      But in all my blog posts the impressions are mine and only mine. Excuse me if they are not like yours.

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  4. Great pictures – a lot of history happened there. You need weeks to see all castles in the middle rhine-region. My favorite is Burg Eltz, by the way…

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  5. oh, this post is a feast for the eyes! And for history buffs. I can see that it is not enough to cruise down the Rhine, you need to go and explore these places on foot. Perhaps one day I will go to Eltz…. your pictures have me salivating and amazed that they can use a beautiful old castle for backpackers! What a waste. Thanks so much for posting.

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  6. Lovely photographs and comments that accompany them, well done! Thank you for liking my new unfinished blog. Your photos in France depict medieval places similar to Ficulle, where I am staying in Italy/Umbria and where you may consider taking a future photography spree one day!! Your German shots make me want to travel again! Thank you! If you are interested in seeing and reading more about what I am doing feel free to contact me by email as I do also have a website that’s complete now, thank you. All the best! Marina C

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  7. Charles J. Fickey June 27, 2011
    I attended the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2011, with my son Fred, since I had an award winning novel on display there, entitled “Sworn to Secrecy-for Life, a Young American Spy’s Odyssey through War-torn Germany and Russia. Afterward, we drove from Frankfurt to Paris, stopping at Trier and BURG ELTZ. We were most impressed with the castle. I spent two years in occupied Germany after the war, but my duties kept me from traveling much so I never saw or even heard of BURG ELTZ. It was a very impressive experience for both my son and me to see what is known as one of the most authentic and well preserved castles in Germany. I only wish that my German wife of 50 years, who passed away 10 years ago had been there I hope I can return, but age is catching up with me. It has a way of doing that..

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  8. you truley make these castles come alive. I am jealous but will be visiting many of them again very soon. Just to be there is truly a historical experiance to your soul

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  9. Your photos and text brought back nice memories for me. I visited Marksburg Castle and some other stops along the Rhine a few years ago, and you took me back there! Getting photos of the armor and artifacts in glass cases is not easy, because the light sources can be tricky and cause unwanted reflections. It is obvious that you know what you are doing with a camera — good job!

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  10. Great post Victor! 🙂 Even tho I am German, I have never been there. Maybe in the future. My country has a lot to offer & you captured the castles & impressions you got very well. Thanks for this post! 😀

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  11. I lived in Germany for over ten years in my early life…traveled to much of what you show here…fell in love with Burg Eltz as a child. I think this land is in my heart. Beautiful photos…thank you for awakening the memories. 🙂

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      1. Half of my family is German, so it was rich living there for so long…and I absolutely love the ancient buildings and culture. And I understand about maybe being a knight in your last life. 🙂

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