Thursday, September 13, 2012

Burg Rheinfels

On Tuesday, Kyle and I had our first adventure post move-to-Heidelberg.  (Two weeks left in Germany, and counting!)  With a friend in tow, we drove just over an hour to St. Goar, Germany, a little touristy town on the west bank of the Rhine River, to visit its massive set of castle ruins: Burg Rheinfels.  Rheinfels absolutely dominates the mountaintop behind St. Goar.  In its heyday it was the largest castle on the Rhine, and though its mostly rubble today, it's still impressive.  There are countless nooks and crannies for an avid castle-goer to explore, granted you bring a flashlight (or two).

Side view of Burg Rheinfels, from St. Goar below.
Sketch of what Burg Rheinfels looked like before it was destroyed.
My Rick Steves' guidebook offers a brief history of Rheinfels:  The castle was built in 1245, and proved its might in 1692 when it withstood a siege of 28,000 French troops.  But just over a century later, in 1797, the French Revolutionary Army destroyed it.  What was left was used as a quarry until someone decided it would make a fabulous tourist attraction, and today parts of the castle have been turned into a hotel, restaurant, and museum.  Visitors can roam the ruins freely after paying a small (4 euro) entrance fee.

What really sets Burg Rheinfels apart from other ruins (besides its size) is the complex system of tunnels that branch out beneath the grounds.  This underground maze was built in the 1600s as a defense against would-be invaders.  When attacked, the castle's inhabitants would detonate mines in the tunnels underneath the enemy, brutally kicking unsuspecting troops off the castle lawn.  We intended to explore some of the smaller tunnels (some of them literally have to be crawled through), but a few unexpected residents made us change our minds...

The walls to the small tunnels were covered with these not-so-little guys.  
We did not "follow the spiders."  Sorry, Hagrid.
From the walls of Burg Rheinfels, you can see two other popular Rhein River castles.  Burg Katz and Burg Maus adorn hills on the east bank, looking minuscule in comparison to Rheinfels' shell (though they are much more intact).

Burg Maus, as viewed from Rheinfels.
Burg Katz, as viewed from Rheinfels.


  1. Wow! It looks amazing! I am going to miss your adventures in Germany.

    1. Me too! I did find a castle in the states about four hours away from where we'll be living, though, so there's hope!

  2. this looks like a fun one with all of the tunnels! i've decided that if and when i make it to germany i will be spending at least one night in one of these castles turned hotels. these are great pictures. the one of kyle jumping looks like he's right over the wall and is slightly terrifying. good decision on not following the spiders. last time anyone did that, they were almost eaten. sometimes when looking at your pictures i wonder what life must have been like in that castle during its glory days. this comment is really disjointed.

    1. You definitely should! And then you should take lots of pictures of the room, and blog about it, because I've always wondered what the accommodations are like... ;)

      Oh, and Kyle was aiming for actually took a couple tries to get the timing/placement right.

    2. It really nice pic.. I think this place is also really beautiful.

      BURG Watch Phone

  3. Thanks for sharing these pictures! I am planning to go with my son to Rheinfels Castle next month. Been trying to read as much as I can about it. Feel a little intimidated by all lthe tunnels. I read a few times where people got lost and one time it even took the workers at the castle hours to find some tourists that got lost in the tunnels. Sure hope his navigation is better than mine!lol I am really excited about going there. I am not stationed here, but an American living and working in Germany. The Rhein has alot of beautiful pictures, yours were very nice!


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