Anna and myself came to Germany with the intention of staying for three months and now only two weeks remain. Tonight we are going back to Utrecht, Netherlands, because last time we went was a public holiday weekend and nothing was open, we are spending next weekend in Berlin and the following weekend we will be going to Köln to see Primus play on Saturday night and then we’ll fly back to Singapore early Sunday morning for a week before our big move to New York on June 30.
Bonn and the neighbouring areas are in a valley surrounded by castles and ruins that we’ve wanted to check out for a long time and yesterday was the sixth and final public holiday while we’re here so we took the opportunity to do it.
The conditions were perfect for a trek up a mountain; It was 26ºC (79ºF) with clear skies and no rain expected so we caught a tram to Königswinter, grabbed some lunch and looked around the shops. In Bonn, and most German cities for that matter, nothing is open on a Sunday or public holiday except bars and restaurants, you can’t even buy groceries. This wasn’t the case with Königswinter, all the shops were open, because a lot of other tourists were in the area for same reason we were: To hike up the Drachenfels to Schloss Drachenburg, “The dream castle with the unforgettable Rhine panorama”, and then higher up to the ruins of Burg Drachenfels. A little background information from Wikipedia:
The Drachenfels (“Dragon’s Rock”) is a hill (321 metres (1,053 ft)) in the Siebengebirge uplands between Königswinter and Bad Honnef in Germany.
The ruined castle, on the summit of the hill, was built between 1138 and 1167 by Archbishop Arnold I of Cologne and bears the same name. It was originally intended for the protection of the Cologne region from any assault from the south. Originally it consisted of a bergfried with court, chapel and living quarters for servants. The castle was slighted in 1634, during the Thirty Years’ War, by the Protestant Swedes and never rebuilt. As a strategic asset it had outlived its usefulness. Erosion due to the continued quarrying undermined much of the remains and only a small part is left today.
Several legends surround the Drachenfels, most famously that Siegfried – the hero of the Nibelungenlied – killed the dragon Fafnir, who lived in a cave in the hill, then bathed in its blood to become invulnerable. Hence, the hill is named the “Dragon’s Rock”.
Another legend tells of prisoners being sacrificed to a dragon. One of these was a Christian virgin, who, in her fear, held up a little cross. In fear of this holy symbol, the dragon jumped into the Rhine and was never heard from again.
A third, less pious, story has it the dragon one day attacked a boat laden with gunpowder, causing an explosion which destroyed the ship and killed the dragon.
Cool, we might get to see a dragon! Even though the hill itself is only 321m, the hike to the summit 1.1km (0.68 miles) due to the winding roads and trails, 500m (547 yards) to Schloss Drachenburg and a further 600m (656 yards) up to Burg Drachenfels. There was the option of taking a donkey, but we were adamant that we really need the exercise. Plus, my feet would probably drag along the ground, anyway.
Now, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not as good as I once was, I am not fit by any stretch of the imagination. I guess it was to cater to people like myself that someone decided to open a bar halfway to the first stop. Yup, 300m into a 1.1km we were panting and sweating and decided to stop off for a beer.
After a couple of drinks we were ready to try to tackle the next 200m of our climb with our sights set on Schloss Drachenburg:
Schloss Drachenburg is a private villa in palace style constructed in the late 19th century. It was completed in only two years (1882–84) on the Drachenfels hill in Königswinter, a German town on the Rhine near the city of Bonn. Baron Stephan von Sarter (1833–1902), a broker and banker, planned to live there, but never did.
Today the Palace is in the possession of the State Foundation of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Eventually, we made it to the finely manicured lawns of Schloss Drachenburg and this place was pretty awesome. What type of lunatic would build a place like this and never live in it? I love my man-cave in our apartment in Singapore and feel a little guilty that I don’t really utilise that enough. Imagine a whole freaking castle! Here are some pictures we took, but if you want to see more you can do a virtual tour here on the official website:
After our stroll around the castle and the gardens we were exhausted! Should we continue our odyssey to the summit? Were we physically able to do it? Well, soon we would realise we had no reason not to make it.
Coming out of the castle and walking back up the donkey shit-covered path to the top we got the wake-up call we needed; we were overtaken by two men with motor-neurone disease, one of whom was on crutches and a woman who had to be at least 80, looked like Betty White and hadn’t even broken a sweat. In fact, she was wearing a crisp, white pant-suit and you could tell that she hadn’t even sat down! If an octogenarian and a couple of guys with serious physical disabilities can do it then so can we. Time to drag our fat asses up that hill.
We were now stubborn about our expedition to the top. We didn’t care if there were children running up the mountain past us or cyclists flying up that incline, we were going to make it, too, just at our own pace. We might’ve needed a nice little sit down on the way, but we were going to make it to the top, damn it.
And we did. We made it, but was it worth it? You couldn’t access Burg Drachenfels and, to be honest, it was a bit of a letdown, it looked like the remaining chimney after a house fire, but there was a giant cafe and restaurant there. We had burnt off a ton of calories to make it to the apex, so what was the sensible thing to do? That’s right, we ordered a plate of chicken wings with fries and a strawberry tart, plus some beers for me and wine for Anna. Anna’s wine was pretty badass, too, it was called “drachenblut”, which translates into “Dragon Blood”.
We had a party to go to for one of Anna’s colleagues in Bonn so we had to make our way home. For some reason we took a different route back down, a quieter way, one without the crying children or the elderly and physically handicapped there to make Anna and myself appear completely inferior. Anna spent the entire descent rephrasing the same question, “Are you sure this is the right way?”, but we finally made it to the bottom, bought some beers and a pizza and caught a bus to Boris’ place for his party.
At the end of the day we had walked roughly 18km (11 miles) and climbed the equivalent of 65 floors. Plus, Anna got to drink Dragon’s Blood.