Today was a highlight of our trip. 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 not our idea of the best way to spend the day. Burg Wildenstein is a legendary 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 breathtaking and with few people around it's like being lords of your own castle.
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 the desne foliage makes it difficult to get good photos.
The castle is fascinating with lots of huge rooms like the knights' hall with 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 echoing like Lightfoot through the dark ancient passageways ...
"'... like 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 "