There were two factors that led us to staying in a castle in Oberwesel, Germany.
The first is that I’m a big nerd and the second is that birthdays are a really big deal to Mimi. So, it was probably inevitable that we found ourselves booked at Castle Hotel Auf Schoenburg for my birthday that year. I sat in the back of the car we hired to drive us there from the Frankfurt airport, bouncing up and down like a kid who had eaten six bags of sugar. When it comes to castles, knights, and anything medieval, I am a huge geek. It comes from a lifetime of reading too many science-fiction and fantasy novels mixed with a love of history.
There are records of Auf Schoenburg Castle dating as far back as the year 1149 and it has endured a long tumultuous history since that time.
It’s changed occupants many times and experienced periods of war, disuse, and even a fire that destroyed part of the castle. It was eventually restored and later became a hotel in 1957, only fifty-nine years sooner than we would found ourselves as one of its temporary residents. When Mimi plans a birthday celebration, she goes all out. It was like going to fantasy camp for Dungeons and Dragons nerds, and I was loving every minute of it.
After a scenic drive through the German countryside, we arrived at Auf Schoenburg Castle, eyes wide and with our inner child squealing.
We were stunned into awestruck silence. Most of the castle is composed of its original stonework, complete with parapets and tower. It was everything we hoped for in a castle. We checked in and made dinner reservations for the next nights birthday dinner before dropped our bag off in the room. We couldn’t help but geek out on how awesome the room was, while we drank the chilled bottle of champagne we had waiting. Even our room key was a miniature statue of a knight, and I was in nerd heaven.
The castle was impressive. It’s perched on top of a hill overlooking the town of Oberwesel and a beautiful stretch of the Rhine river.
The gardens that surround the castle are famous to a point that even locals and people not staying there at the hotel will make a special trip just to walk through the expertly manicured grounds. It was the kind of beautiful that you knew Bob Ross would paint because the trees there could only be described as happy. There were ponds, gazebos, statues, and even a giant chess set. I played against myself one morning and inevitably, both won and lost.
We finished our welcome bottle of champagne and walked down the hill into town. We were planning on spending that day wandering around until we discovered a wine festival in full swing.
The festival featured a lot of Riesling wines, which we were only slightly familiar with. So, we had a lot of “research” to do and we sampled as many glasses of wine as we could. We had always thought of Rieslings as sweeter dessert wines but that’s not always the case. We sampled several wineries and found many of them dry and very enjoyable. Then we sampled them again, just to make sure.
There was a parade scheduled that day, so we lined up with our festival favorite wine in hand to cheer them on. You really can’t go wrong with a wine themed parade at a wine festival. It’s a theme that everyone can get behind. We had a great time and the wine was so good that we didn’t even mind the steep climb back up the hill. I wouldn’t call our return back to the hotel “storming the castle,” unless you count the way my overloaded imagination saw it. It would have seemed more like “weaving a drunken path” back to the castle to the casual observer.
The next morning was my birthday, so we asked for coffee and breakfast for two people to be delivered to our room.
What we got was breakfast for five people and some coffee. “There’s too much food” is something I’ve never said. So, we feasted on the balcony with the castle tower to one side of us and the Rhine river below. I was the happiest nerd in Germany that morning. We had woken up early out of habit, so there was plenty of time until we had to catch the boat that would take us exploring the local villages up and down the Rhine. We sat savoring every bite and relaxed in the warm sun before taking a casual stroll to the dock.
Wine on the Rhine
The boat we took that morning was not one of those multi-night cruise lines where each person has their own room. It was more like a ferry boat or water taxi that makes stops at the many towns along the route, dropping off and picking up passengers every 15 minutes or so. We purchased tickets at the KD Line counter at the Oberwesel KD pier. We picked Rüdesheim from the recommendation of the nice lady working the ticket counter there. She assured us emphatically that this was where we wanted to go see. Being that our language barrier kept us from further debate or explanation, we simply took her advice. After all, she was probably right and we didn’t really care where we were going. It was all new to us anyway.
We continued on the Rhine, making our way to Rüdesheim.
Our first stop in Rüdesheim was the famously charming and historic Drosselgasse alley located in the old town. The street is filled with German restaurants, beer gardens and kitschy souvenir shops. We stopped when we came upon something we recognized from Josh Gates’ travel video, baumstriezel, or chimney cakes! They have different names in different countries or regions, but are basically dough, rolled onto a cylinder and baked with different flavored toppings. It comes hot, soft on the inside, and crunchy on the outside. Oh sweet buttery baby goodness!
We bounced around a couple of more times on the boat and wandered through a couple of other small German villages, enjoying the day before we finally decided to head back for the birthday dinner. The boat had a full bar on it, so we decided to enjoy a few glasses of wine as we cruised back. Since the boat dropped us back in Oberwesel right in front of the wine festival, we had a couple of hours to grab a few more glasses of wine before heading back to the room to get ready. While German people can be a lot of fun to drink with, we had a birthday dinner to get to, and we were getting hungry.
Putting on a tie while drunk should be more highly regarded skill. It should probably be one of those life skills that’s taught in school, but apparently math is considered more important. Probably a good decision by a wise educator sometime long ago, but maybe for extra credit?
After successfully defeating my tie, we were seated for dinner at a romantically isolated table overlooking the valley below. We had reserved a five-course meal with wine pairing for the celebration. After drinking wine on the boat, then attending a wine festival for a second day, the wine pairing probably wasn’t a great idea. But it was my birthday, we weren’t driving home, and stairs are much more fun when you’re drunk, so we indulged. The food was incredible and since we weren’t in a hurry, we took our time and made an evening of it. After all, what castle experience would be complete without a feast?
Call it a bucket list item, call in a life goal, hell call it a childhood fantasy come true. Staying at a castle was something that I had always dreamed of doing. That’s what this trip to Oberwesel was about. That’s what the decision to sell everything and travel the world is about. We had just been in Venice two week previously for Mimi’s birthday and the gratitude we felt was overwhelming. We have always been passionate about travel and this was exactly the life we had dreamed of. When you see an opportunity to do something you’ve always only dared imagine, you have to figure out a way to make it a reality. Life has no guarantees. Seize every opportunity and don’t let the fear of unimportant consequences hold you back. You will always have the memory and no one can ever take that from you.