Castles Along the Rhine: The Upper Middle Rhine Valley

The Rhine flows south to north through the middle of Germany. It is over 1300 kilometers long; 65 kilometer of the Upper Middle portion is inscribed on the World Heritage List. The town of Rüdesheim is the starting point for downstream cruises. Not a single bridge connects both banks of the river along the World Heritage designated part of the River. The Rhine has served as a major transportation route for ferrying people, culture and goods for centuries.

This is the so-called mouse tower built in the 13th century for collecting taxes from passing ships. The advantages of being able to levy tolls and regulate the river traffic lead feudal overlords to fight between themselves for influence in the region. By the 14th century the number of toll gates in the area had reached 60.

Pfalzgrafenstein Castle is built on a sandbar. 20 customs officers once lived within its walls. The medieval castles conjure romantic notions, but were in fact built with practical purposes in mind: one of which was to levy taxes.

Marksburg Castle was built in the 13th century and retains much of its medieval character. It has never been destroyed. The castles cannons fired on vessels that did not have permission to go by. Knights who pledged their services to the master of the castle made it their home. The dining room windows were small and the thick walls broadened out into the room in a triangular shape to insure maximum protection.

This is Reichenstein Castle, once a den for a band of knight thieves who preyed on passing ships. Not all knights were chivalrous and some took advantage of their position. The castle was attacked in the 13th century to expel corrupt knights.

World Heritage status has ushered in a new phase for the Upper Middle Rhine. This landscape today fuels the imagination. It is a source of historical fascination.

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