Remember that cathedral in Cologne that I didn't like? We went to visit the place where the building material came from, Drachenfels in the Siebengebirge. That probably doesn't mean much to you. But let me translate that for you and let your imagination take you there. Drachenfels means Dragon's Rock and Siebengebirge would translate to Seven Hills. So somewhere in Germany, close to Cologne, there are seven hills, and among them is a rock that links to dragons...
Castle ruins of Burg Drachenfels
The Dragon's Rock has a magical attractiveness over itself. Many legends surround this area. One of the most famous is that of Siegfried killing a dragon that lived in a cave here. Bathing himself in the blood of the dead dragon made him almost invulnerable, except for one tiny spot on his back (I have this vivid image of a leaf on his skin causing that, but can't remember what movie that was). More about this in the Nibelungenlied. #spoileralert: that one spot will be how he eventually gets killed.
Dragons are famous for guarding treasures and so was this one. After killing the dragon, Siegfried took this treasure but I didn't really know what happened to it after Siegfried got killed. A perfect start for an adventure!
Taking the train
There are hard ways and easy ways to explore Drachenfels. I wasn't feeling very sporty, so we picked the cheesiest touristy thing ever: The Drachenfelsbahn. This tiny and slow train from the 19th century drives up the hill on a track only 1,5 kilometres long. There are three stops, the valley one, an intermediate one and one at the top. We decided to go all the way to the top to check out the ruins.
For 15 euro per person, we bought a return ticket (just in case we couldn't walk down) for the train and entrance to the castle that is located near the intermediate stop. The train was soon filled with tourists. We left.. and arrived. I was slightly disappointed by the speedy arrival at the top.
The terrace overlooking the Rhine river
First: time for a quick lunch! The coffee-bar on the terrace looked promising, but at the counter, we discovered that they were cash only (WHYYYYY!!). So we moved to the restaurant where thankfully, they were able to deal with this magical thing called a bank-card. Relieved we weren't going to die of dehydration on this "mountain" we had a quick lunch and started our walk to the very top of the hill.
It looks easier than it was
From the terrace, we could see the castle ruins. It didn't look too far away and it was just a normal path that would lead us there. But we weren't mentally prepared for the steepness of the path. Like 2 old ladies, we regularly stopped to catch our breath and bitch about everything in life (that's what you do in situations like this...).
Lebensgefahr means "Danger of life" #justsaying
We managed to get to the top where the ruins are. Here there was a gathering of people enjoying the views over the Rhine. There wasn't much more to do except taking some pictures of the Rhine and watching people scratch their initials in a fence.
It was hard to believe that from the 12th to the 17th century, this was a castle to protect the Cologne region from southern attacks. Originally it had a tower, a chapel and living areas. Now, due to destruction during a war and the following erosion from the quarrying (for the Cathedral etc.) underneath, there isn't much more left than some walls.
We turned around and walked back down the steep path, enjoying the view of the struggling people still on their way to the top ("Almost there...you can do it!").
The other castle!
We decided that we would survive walking to the intermediate station instead of taking the train down. This way we would have a little fun walk in the forest with the opportunity to take some photos of the trains passing by. It was a pretty easy walk from the top to Schloss Drachenburg.
I can see the castle!!
The Drachenburg castle was built late 19th century by a broker that became super rich and wanted to show off his wealth. He had the castle build but actually never lived in it. After his death, the castle was used in many different ways, but it was mostly used as some sort of school. It was heavily damaged during the second world war, was renovated, and became abandoned with plundering and decay as a result. Thankfully it was saved and completely renovated again. And now it is open for the public to enjoy.
Walking around the castle, you notice that it actually looks a lot larger than it is. One of the terraces was used for a wedding. I absolutely loved the idea! The views are amazing and the castle is gorgeous for it. If only these bloody tourists wouldn't photobomb your wedding pics 😉.
After walking around the castle a couple of times it was time to check out the interior. It was a mixture of antiques and kitsch. Nothing really special and we were back outside in no time. I loved the stained glass windows with their slightly modern images (do you see the dragon?). But most of all I adored one specific room. It was so cheesy, it was fun again. The white furniture combined with the orange/salmon curtains and wallpaper was refreshingly bright and cheerful. But if I'd live there, I would probably get rid of the polar bear 😉. #creepymuch?
Fear of heights kicking in!
We were almost ready to leave the castle when I realised we didn't walk a flight of stairs that we saw people walk on from one room. And so we walked around a little and found the entrance to the north tower.
My friend didn't feel like joining and told me to go alone. I thought it would just be 2 floors and that was then it. But every time I thought it would be the last bit, you turned a corner and more stair showed up.
I got excited. It became slightly creepy but if there was going to be a view at some point, it was going to be amazing. I turned another corner and this tower started reminding me of some of my dreams where you are in a house with so many hidden spaces.
Then, daylight became visible through a hole. The final bit! On top of the tower, the view was amazing. And the cold wind was a delight! I saw my waiting friend all the way at the bottom of the tower and I yelled down that she should come up too. She looked so confused when she saw me all the way at the top!
I walked around to take a few photos with one hand on the barrier and trembling legs. My fear of heights isn't as bad as it used to be, but somehow on this tower, it kicked in again. When my friend arrived I was ready to leave again. Going down isn't always the easier route, though...
And that was pretty narrow too
The view was worth it
Back to the car
I was done with this place... my legs didn't want to calm down anymore and we both wanted to get back to Cologne to have some dinner. We knew there were still a few nice buildings to be seen if we would walk the final bit and so we resisted the temptation of the train and walked. The fact that we overheard a woman who just arrived saying "Oh, we're here already", was super encouraging though.
I am happy that we walked. This way we were able to see the odd-looking Nibelungenhalle with it's beautiful garden and also a few typical German houses.
The Dragon's Rock turned out to be a weird mix of old and new, with nothing being related but the story of Siegfried and the Dragon running through it anyway. I was lucky to not have seen any dragons during our trip. But maybe we should have gotten a ticket for the Nibelungenhalle for that. The treasure appeared to have been moved ans sanked a bit further up the river. For another time!
Also in this series:
- Somewhere in Europe #1: San Pedro del Pinatar, Spain
- Somewhere in Europe #2: Bilbao, Spain
- Somewhere in Europe #3: Algarve, Portugal
- Somewhere in Europe #4: Alghero, Sardinia, Italy
- Somewhere in Europe #5: Dresden, Germany
- Somewhere in Europe #6: Genoa, Italy
- Somewhere in Europe #7: El Puerto de Santa Maria, Spain
- Somewhere in Europe #8: Lisbon, Portugal
- Somewhere in Europe #9: Helsinki, Finland
- Somewhere in Europe #10: Málaga, Spain
- Somewhere in Europe #11: Malta
- Somewhere in Europe #12: Chania, Crete, Greece
- Somewhere in Europe #13: Rethymno, Crete, Greece
- Somewhere in Europe #14: Menorca, Spain
- Somewhere in Europe #15: The area of Nafplio, Greece
- Somewhere in Europe #16: Madrid, Spain (It's what's inside that counts)
- Somewhere in Europe #17: Cologne, Germany (ugly for a reason)