Castles, fairytales & legends

The well-known and much loved story of The Pied Piper luring rats away from the city with his sweet song has darker origins than the classic tale – a tale that can be traced way back to the Middle Ages. According to legend, in the small town of Hamelin in Lower Saxony, masses of children disappeared at the same time without trace. No one knows where they went, but suspicions are with a rat catcher who bewitched the kids away after The Town Mayor refused to pay him for a job.

When, lo! as they reached the mountain-side, 
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast.

Robert Browning, The Pied Piper of Hamelin: A Child’s Story
This castle is real but the image is borrowed

Heading south from our over night in Esslingen, we found a great stellplatz (car park) in Bad Urach, complete with hook up, next to a pool a bar and a short walk to the town. There is also some good walks and cycle trails nearby.

Once again with the aid of Komoot we were able to plot a good route to have a zoom about on the ebikes. Although, we had to leave to make the steep climb up to see this water feature, which was billed as a waterfall. It was worth the yomp up, but it featured too much water re-routing by man for my taste.

Oh dear….. But it’s only flat at the bottom….

Admittedly we aren’t experienced bikers, but we do carry a tools, a repair kit and a quality pump. So getting a puncture shouldn’t be a problem? Or should it? The one thing we/I overlooked was that the pump was only suitable for….. our old bikes with Schraeder valves!

I only had to push 2 kms back to the van. So with the horse well and truly bolted, all that was left was to find a nearby bike shop with Presta to Schaeder adaptor and another spare tube.

Bad Urach

Whilst enjoying our two days in Bad Urach we heard there was a good castle not too far away. We made an early start and after stopping off en-route to visit the Washerie in Tübingen to ‘do our smalls’ we easily found Hohenzollern castle, sitting on a solitary bump amidst a flat plane south of Hechingen.

You don’t have to a military historian to work out why most castles are built on a hill. a) Few armies would be eager to attack up a steep sided hill, b) It’s got to be easier to defend by throwing rocks burning oil down on any foolish uninvited guests c) Lookouts could spot trouble coming a mile off, allowing plenty of time to stock up at Lidl, in case of a seige.

Hohenzollern Castle

Search for sights led us to the parking for the castle with spaces for three motorhomes. The walk up through the forest up to the castle is steep but the views from the walls of the castle are stunning.

BTW "Dracula has moved out of his castle for a few weeks. He's getting it revamped"
if only they’d cut back the trees a bit

The Hohenzollern Castle is the third of three hilltop castles built on the site. The first castle on the mountain was constructed in the early 11th century. However although it was constructed in gothic revival style the current castle was built in 1850… so it’s Victorian then!

We joined a guided group for a tour of the interior, unfortunately the guide was all given in German so we missed almost all the detail. But we picked up a few snippets. And we got to wear some very comfy over-slippers to protect the library floor from our hobnail boots.

Access once you reach the top of the asphalt switchbacks, is through an internal cobbled road that spirals up inside like a medieval carpark, complete with portcullis and draw-bridge. Designed to be suitable for horse, carriage or Daimler, me thinks

You can learn lots of useless facts coming to a place like this. For example, as it couldn’t be properly heated it was too cold to live there in winter. Partly because of that, Burg Hohenzollern has never been a royal residence.

The castle belongs to the Prussian royal family and does contain some interesting artefacts including the Prussian royal Crown. Amongst the displays’ is King Frederik William IV snuff box collection. Amassed after it’s said he was shot in battle but was saved when the shot hit a snuff box in his breast pocket.

We liked the route from Bad Ulrach so much we decided to go back that way to get to Blautopf Blaubeuren. So named because of the unique spring feed blue pool. The water’s peculiarly blue colour, varying in intensity due to weather and flow, is the result of physical properties of the limestone in the rock.

Blautopf (Blue Pot)

Next the Blautopf is a Hammer mill fed by the water from the spring

Numerous legends and folk tales refer to the Blautopf. Its characteristic colour was explained by the account that every day someone would pour a vat of ink into the Blautopf. 

The fish must like the colour of the water as the river flowing from it was teaming with sizeable looking specimens

Although we may never know the true events that fuelled the Piped Piper story, there are still lessons to be learned from fairy-tales, myths and legends.

I wonder if you can recognise what story the advice below is related to? – Throw all caution to the wind and have a grand adventure! Follow the white rabbit, drink from that mysterious bottle and go to tea parties with strangers. You’ve already made so many other inadvisable decisions in your life – what’s the worst that can happen?

Toodle Pip


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