Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Storming the Castle

Something triggered memories of our last European trip, probably pictures posted by friends. It was 1976, a milestone in several ways. It was the Bicentennial, it was the year before CJ's stroke, but is best remembered as the year we stormed the castle.

We took Doug and June, who were about 12 and 16 at the time, to see Europe by train. We carried only hand luggage so we could be spontaneous, sleeping by night and jumping off in the morning when we saw an interesting place. No reservations, just a vague plan to visit friends in the Netherlands, mosey up to Copenhagen, then down through Germany. The only Must Do was to spend the night in a castle on the Rhine, selected and booked ahead because it looked like a true castle, turrets and all.

The Netherlands trip included a bike ride in the Haag up to the North Sea beach to see the German bunkers, which were accessible by hiking through a nude beach. It also included a day trip to Gouda for the cheese festival, with music, dancing, and lots of cheese. We picked out a lovely ball of Gouda, sealed in wax, as a snackable souvenir.

Traveling by train in the summer sometimes included open cars, sometimes shared with livestock in the rear seats, and sometimes quite warm. After a night sleeping head to toe in our compartment, just the four of us and the cheese, we began to regret the cheese  We checked into a hotel in Copenhagen, all took showers, and ditched the cheese. However,  as we toured Tivoli Gardens, we still reeked of Gouda. We could part a crowd, which was a good thing.

At our next stop we found a laundromat, where we washed and dried the clothes in our satchels, put them on, and then washed and dried the clothes we had been wearing. No more Gouda cloud around us! {We told CJ we thought it was his socks anyway.}

We changed from train to bus to boat as we neared the Rhine, courtesy of Eurailpass. In less than an hour we spotted the turrets on top of a hill, and told the pilot to let us off at the castle. Sure enough, there was a dock with the right name on it, so we hopped off with our satchels and headed up the mountain.

After a hundred feet or so, the path gave out, and we stashed out satchels and began to climb.  Even as we are parting vines and helping one another over boulders and ravines, it never occurred to us to turn back. We finally reached a wall about ten feet tall. It had some slits, probably for pouring hot oil on the enemy, that gave  us a bit of a toe hold. Looking over the top, we saw a large courtyard with several tables of well-dressed people having tea and cookies. They looked at us with astonishment.

The waiters, however, brought over chairs to help our descent, led us to a table, and took our orders, oblivious to the fact that we were sweaty and trailing vines. Soon a manager arrived, confirmed our reservations, and asked about our luggage. He said he would send a car for it, and that is when we noticed a parking lot around the corner. Yes, there was a paved road that most people used, a few yards south of the dock. We used it the next day, after a lovely night at the castle.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I definitely laughed out loud at this story! :) What fun memories. Thanks for sharing!