Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My new favorite game: "Find a Castle"

Hi folks!

In some ways riding around Marburg reminds me of riding around Colgate.  Sadly, I haven't found such a nice group to ride with, but the terrain is hilly, there are tons of awesome dirt roads, and the pavement is generally really good.  The major difference being, instead of playing my "favorite" bike riding games from Colgate (1. how many cows in that field will look at me? 2. Is the farm Amish or not Amish, with the old-order Mennonites adding some confusion now and again, and 3. Is that scary dog going to chase me?), my favorite game here is "find a castle". 

This is how you play "find a castle".  Step one: look on your trusty "Marburg + Umgebung" map and locate a close-ish castle symbol.  This area is dotted with them, which makes the game a bit easier.  Step 2: Plot out a bike route there. Step 3: kit up and put your plan into action.

Sometimes step 2 bears repeating mid-ride.

Now, you may think that this game should be easy, I mean, you'd think castles are hard to overlook.  Alas, castles are so ho hum here that they've let tons of them fall into ruin.  I mean, if you were a medieval peasant and there was an old pile of hewn stones near you that wasn't being used for anything, you'd take a few for your house, too, I suppose.  Plus, the towns are full of steep hills and narrow streets and tall houses (relatively speaking) so, for instance, when I picked Fronhausen for a destination (which has not just 1 but three castle symbols near it on the map) I lost the game.  I did not see any castles near Fronhausen.  In my defense, it was rainy, so I wanted to minimize map viewing, but still...I came home cold and soaking wet and only saw "our" Marburg castle on the way home.

Other days, I luck out and just happen upon signs pointing to a Schloss.  That approach led me to discovering this one in Rauisch Holzhausen (or as Sasha has taken to calling it, Rauisch Hotzenplotzhausen, after a character in our favorite German kids book).

It's owned by the University of Giessen and used for retreats and such, I think.  Too bad Harvard didn't own a castle.
Sometimes the castles are more ruins than castles, and involve more poking around in the woods to find.  Since my road bike STILL isn't here, poking around in the woods makes me feel justified in leaving the Mud2 tires on my cross bike, so that's still cool.    This past Sunday was a 3 "castle" day, or I guess more accurately, 1 castle and two VERY old ruins of fortified settlement/dwelling places.

First off, I went a town called Nordeck, which was a cute little town to begin with, and then it had a nicely maintained castle to boot.
It is clear that this one is still inhabited; some of the windows had cute curtains and, you will note, around the back there was a fire exit.  You may rest easy, the folks living right under the roof will still be able to get out safely in an emergency.
I loved the horns over the door.  If a jackalope is antlers on a rabbit skull, what is this, a castlelope?
The next two stops took a bit more careful navigating, and weren't nearly so picturesque. Although I will say that even the most ruiny-est ruin is still pretty satisfying to me.  The next stop was an unlabelled "ruined castle" symbol on my map, just outside of Dreihausen. It took some wandering through the muddy woods to find, but the signboards were quite helpful.  There were excavated stone foundations of a few buildings, and some wall remnants, but not much else from this 800 AD ruin.  Still, given the German climate, even that seems good.

The signs said this was a church.  I remain unconvinced.

Outer?? fortifications and my bicycle. 

The third and final stop of the day was a presumably even older fortification, and one that (although it gets a symbol on my map and on the town map) doesn't even get a nifty explanatory sign.  I visited it shortly after getting to Marburg, but didn't have my camera.  At first glance, it just looks like a hill or mound, but then I realized that the mound was almost perfectly circular, and had a big depression in the center with a raised mound inside it.  At one end, the inside mound connects to the outside.  Either it's so old that any stonework is buried, or there were only wood buildings that have long since rotted away.  I swear that I made very similar sand castles...
It's too odd of a thing to be photogenic, but hopefully this gives you some idea.
That ended this past weekend's round of find a castle.  3 castles in a 3ish hour ride (on cross tires with a smattering of dirt roads, even) which is a pretty good castle per hour rate.

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