So: my latest big adventure!
Friday (October 3) was a free day in Germany – German Reunification Day. Kinda like the Fourth of July except basically nothing happens. :D Everyone is off work…which means everything is closed. Everyone is free, but there’s nothing to do.
I, however, am quite self sufficient. And adventurous. And maybe just a smidge stupid. So I decided I was going to visit Kronberg, a small town on the outskirts of Frankfurt with a medieval district. My ticket only took me from Frankfurt to Eschborn – erm… Here. Have a map.
Ok, so Frankfurt is down in the bottom right, and Eschborn is just right of the center. I was aiming for Kronberg, which is up in the top left corner. Now that you know the terrain…
So I got off the train at Eschborn and hiked the rest of the way to Kronberg. It’s about 7 miles from Eschborn to Kronberg, at a gentle incline – that dark green on the left edge of the map is some low mountains. Kronberg sits just in the foothills.
Anyway, it was a nice hike. I was pretty proud of myself for walking that far – the weather was lovely, the landscape interesting and pretty… And over the course of the day I saw about twelve of my namesake birds (magpies) in the fields and trees. Made me quite happy. :D
I got to Kronberg at about noon or so, and made my way through the suburbs to the Altstadt – a medieval village with some very stereotypical German architecture.
But it was still early in the day (ish) so I decided to keep going and see what was on the other side of town. I had seen what looked like a castle or a church as I was coming into Kronberg, and thought it surely couldn’t be too much further.
Well, technically the Kronberg “castle” (more like a medieval manor with a wall, not the stone-walled fairy-tale Lord of the Rings thing you’re picturing) wasn’t too far. But I walked right past it thinking I’d come back after I’d seen what was “just over the next hill”. Which turned into “the next hill”. Which turned into “this freaking big hill that I’m going to get to the top of if it kills me.”
And then, when I had reached the top of said freakishly big hill, I saw it: a ruined tower. (this picture is actually from when I was nearly there -- not when I first saw it off in the distance.)
Now we’re talking Lord of the Rings stuff. I couldn’t leave it unexplored, now could I? No – but I underestimated the three-mile hike up the mountain that would get me there. I had to stop frequently – the road was pretty much a 30-45 degree angle the whole way, and my heart was pounding so hard I thought my jugular might burst right out of my neck. I probably should have slowed down, or turned around and gone back, but I’m stubborn like a mule sometimes, and I wanted to see the castle.
Well, after what seemed like an eternity (though it was really just another hour and a half or thereabouts) of agony, I made it. The road went from a city street to a suburban lane to a mountain road to a dirt trail, but at long last I arrived:
Falkenstein literally means “Falcon Stone”. I can’t find just a whole lot about it on the Internet other than a basic Wikipedia article (and I haven’t yet gotten around to translating the placards I took pictures of) but I gather that it’s an early medieval fortress. (Such deducing. Much wow.)
Early 14th century, apparently. But it has been abandoned for long enough (since the 1800s, I think) for the walls to all fall in, and the castle itself is filled up with earth. The arrow slots that would have at one point been at eye level are now half-buried in the ground. I ate my lunch inside what once would have been the castle’s chapel – now open to the air and with very little to say that it was once “inside” at all.
The hike up the mountain to the castle was tough, but once I was there – the view made it all worth it. And yeah – I ate my cheese sandwich in the ruins of a medieval fortress in the German mountains. No biggie. :D
I also happened to be there on a very fortuitous day – Friday and Saturday only, the tower was open to the public. I was a little surprised at first that it wasn’t normally open to the public – after all, I had to pay two Euro to get in, it’s not like it was just an open park – but once I started climbing up, I understood why.
There was a little room about halfway up that I stopped in. To a 21st century viewer, the ~eight-by-four-foot space looked too small for anything other than a storage closet, but I suppose at the time of its construction it could have been a guard chamber, an armory – or even a bedroom!
I explored the ruins a bit more, climbing around in fallen towers and taking a peek at the outside – trying to imagine what it must have looked like in its prime. It’s hard, but there’s a handy artist’s representation that helps a bit.
Around three, I reluctantly decided I needed to leave. The sun is already setting pretty early here, and I knew that even if I managed the same pace on the way back as I did the way there, I wouldn’t make it back before eight. And by this point, I was extremely tired. My legs – especially after the mountain and the tower stairs – felt like cheap plastic straws, and I had a headache the size of...well, the size of a medieval castle ruin. :D
Fortunately, the trip back was all downhill – sometimes quite steeply downhill, but it’s still a bit easier than up.
The trip home was every bit as arduous as I’d anticipated. The title of this blog comes from a line in an Andrew Peterson song that says “Now and then these feet just take to wandering / now and then I prop them up at home / Sometimes I think about the consequences / sometimes I don’t.” This was one of those “sometimes I don’t” times. Though I’m glad I didn’t – if I had known how sore and tired I’d be by the time I got home, I think I may have chickened out. :D
I was also really hungry. I’d taken a lunch, sure – but that was four hours and a bunch of mountain miles ago. I passed a house that had a box of apples from a tree ‘round back, and a sign bidding me to take what I wanted. I helped myself to one – and let me tell you, that was the best apple I have ever eaten in my life. Perfectly crisp, sour and sweet in perfect balance, and so juicy it dripped down my arm. Mmmm.
But two miles later I was still hungry – I’ve gotten used to eating smaller meals here, and I rarely eat much anymore. But I hadn’t anticipated all this fresh air and exercise playing up my appetite! All I had was a little bit of water – and I was sooooo thirsty. So it was with great joy that I topped a hill to see the Glowing Golden Arches of Hope in the distance – McDonalds: the haven of the weary traveler worldwide. :D
I don’t think I’ve ever been so thrilled to taste a chicken sandwich.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so thrilled to taste a chicken sandwich.
From the McDonalds, it was only another half hour or so to the train station, where I exhaustedly boarded the train heading back into Frankfurt. I nearly fell asleep on the way, but it was totally worth it. I doubt I’ll make it back to Falkenstein again – or at least not in the near future! – but now that I know I can make it 14+ miles in a day, I’m going to be doing this sort of thing more often. (Actually, since Friday, I’ve racked up about 23 miles of walking. Pretty darn good for this erstwhile couch potato!) In fact, I hear the castle that may have inspired Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein isn’t too far off…something like an eight hour hike…
More adventures to come soon, so keep checking back!