Today was really a highlight of the whole adventure and reminded us of the reason we embark on these crazy adventures on our own. You would never have a day like this on a tour. The fortress castle of Burg Wildenstein is a world class adventure all its own.
We can say "We took our bikes up to Burg Wildenstein" - and it's true - we did take our bikes
(in a wimpy way - securely lashed in the back of our cargo van). It's technically possible to ride up the half-mile vertical rise to the 11th century fortress perched on top of a pinnacle, but probably not for us and anyway not our idea of the best way to spend the day.
After a quick visit to the Roman Museum in Mengen (interesting but nothing was in English so most of the exhibits were lost on us) we drove to Burg Wildenstein. This is a fabulous 11th century fortress castle perched on top of a crag high above the Danube gorge. It has been converted to a hostel. You actually get to stay right in the ancient castle and almost the entire castle is open for exploration. The rooms are simple but the setting is spectacular.
We had a perfect day for it - bright and clear - and needless to say the views of the valley were captivating and we had the place to ourselves. Being engineers by trade and romanticists at heart, we had a glorious time investigating and imagining the life history of the castle over the last 1000 years. We spent the afternoon exploring the entire castle and its environs, and then hiking down the almost impossibly steep trail that meets up with the DonauRadweg at the bottom of the chasm. The trail is so steep it drops right below the castle but there is so much foliage it's impossible to get good photos.
The castle is fascinating with lots of huge rooms (surely the knights' hall), exposed timbers, hidden passages, secret rooms and blind alleys that end in tiny balconies overlooking the courtyard. And since the place was practically deserted, we were free to let our imaginations run wild. Above the chapel there is a room built on top of the roof with no apparent way to get to it... the only way, we found, was through a secret round portal in the roof of the private chapel... we didn't learn the purpose of the room (there was really no one around to ask!) but were sure there was a romantic story behind it.
The evening was eerily beautiful and another opportunity for flights of fancy over the turret tops. Plenty of ghosts - you could feel their presence clanking around with heavy feet echoing like Lightfoot through the ancient passageways...
"'... a ghost from a wishin' well
In a castle dark or a fortress strong
With chains upon my feet
You know that ghost is me
And I will never be set free
As long as I'm a ghost that you can't see "