Drachenfels & Schloss Drachenfels
On Saturday, a fellow Language Assistant, Gemma, and I met up for a day out. After some persuasion from my Mum and post-research, we decided to meet in a convenient half-way-point and visit the town of Königswinter on the banks of the Rhine, a little way south from Bonn. After arriving in Bonn and finding one another on the platform, we began our adventure and successfully coordinated catching a bus across to the other side of the river and then another train down to Königswinter. It was not too long before we reached our destination, not a particularly big town in itself but a haven for nature and hiking enthusiasts due to its position in the Siebengebirge (Seven Hills). In contrary to what the name suggests, the area is actually made up of more than forty hills, all of volcanic origin that make up the Naturpark Siebengebirge (Natural park).
From the Bahnhof (station) we walked the short distance to the start of the Drachenfelsbahn, a rack railway line that runs from the town up to the summit of the Drachenfels mountain, if you can call it that, with an altitude of 321m. After buying our tickets, and boarding the small but packed out carriage, we began the ascent..
I think it’s now time to explain the strange titling of my post. The hill or mountain that we were going to ‘climb’ is called Drachenfels, which translates into english as “Dragon’s Rock” . Although there are several legends as to how it received this name, my favourite is the most famous, being that Siegfried, the hero of the Nibelungenlied (a poem that tells the story of a dragon slayer), killed the dragon Fafnir who lived within a cave in the hill, then subsequently bathed in it’s blood to become invulnerable.
And back to our outing. The journey, although not too long, took us through some beautiful landscape and once at the top, we were able to see for miles and enjoy some magnificent views.
On the one side, you could look out at the hills and the forests and in the other direction, was the River Rhine in all its glory. It was really amazing at how much and how far you could see.
In the other direction, it was even possible to see the faint Köln Cathedral on the horizon and given that that would be roughly forty kilometres away, I would say that is rather impressive!
Despite being at the end of the railway line, we had still had a little further to climb until we could say we conquered the mountain. It was quite a steep climb up to the very top where the ruins of the old castle stands.
Something interesting that I found out about these old ruins was that the castle was originally meant to act as protection of Köln from the south and originally consisted of a bergfried (typical medieval tall tower) with a court, chapel and living quarters for servants. However the castle, once damaged in the 1600s was never rebuilt and left to fall to ruins. The rock on which it stands, like the rest of the Siebengebirge, delivered the building materials for the enormous Köln Cathedral up the river, due to the ease of transporting the rocks via barge.
After our trip up to the ruins, and back down, we stopped for a spot of lunch at the Drachenfels restaurant. I have to say that the views were lovely but the service didn’t quite match up as we had quite a wait and soon the well-known ‘british patience’ began wearing off.. this is definitely an effect of spending so much time here in Germany! However, we enjoyed a delicious meal of Flammkuchen, kind of like a pizza but made from very thin bread dough, covered in creme fraiche and most commonly onion and lardons. Typically an Alsation dish, but very popular here in Germany too..
After our meal, we caught the ‘train’ halfway down the hill and called in at Schloss Drachenburg (www.schloss-drachenburg.de/). Both Gemma and I agreed it was very Disney-esque although it did also have somewhat of a Hogwarts-feel too. The castle is a private villa built in a palace style which was built in the late 19th century and impressively took only two years to complete.
The Schloss itself and it’s grounds were really beautiful and very grandeur. Definitely worth a visit, should you ever be in the area!
After a good wander around and plenty of pictures we decided it was about time to descend back down to the town. We had just enough time to walk through the town’s small streets and a stroll along the river before spontaneously decided to change our route back from train to ferry. We were just in time and caught the ferry across to Bonn Mehlem, where we could then connect with another train back to the Hbf (main station). Once safely back in Bonn and with some time to spare before our trains home, we popped into MacDonalds for a hot chocolate. Soon the time came to part our separate ways and we both agreed it had been a lovely day out 🙂
The castled crag of Drachenfels
Frowns o’er the wide and winding Rhine.
Whose breast of waters broadly swells
Between the banks which bear the vine,
And hills all rich with blossomed trees,
And fields which promise corn and wine,
And scattered cities crowning these,
Whose far white walls along them shine,
Have strewed a scene, which I should see
With double joy wert thou with me!
– Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage