Amsterdam to Budapest - part 3

Words and photography by Peter Thorpe

The Namedy Castle in Andernach, Germany, built in 1355

We are now still in Germany but we have cruised a little further down the Rhine and we are now in the town of Andernach. Tonight, we are having dinner in a 14th-century castle with a real live Princess! Princess Heide von Hohenzollern at the Namedy Castle.

The princess grew up in a typical, middle-class German family in Munich, as Heide Hansen. Then, in 1970 she married Prince Godehard von Hohenzollern and that turned her into a princess. Her husband inherited the Namedy Castle in 1988 and the couple decided to leave Munich for a life living in an ancient castle beside the Rhine. Back then, the building was in a very poor state and they immediately set about renovating it.

The rich red walls are covered in birds of prey and stuffed deer heads

Both Heide and her husband were classical music lovers so, to help fund the renovations, they decided to hold concerts and other cultural events and turn the place into a tourist attraction. This worked well, then in 2001, Prince Godehard died and Heide was left to look after the building and the business by herself. It was a huge challenge, with running costs of around $15,000 a month, plus staff wages. Despite this, she has dedicated herself to keeping the castle going by organising money-raising events and, that’s how we come to be here tonight.
We are allowed to roam freely around the castle – which was built in 1355. The rich red walls are covered in birds of prey and stuffed deer heads and two knight statues in full body armour, guard the stone fireplace. The place is magnificent but a bit spooky and I don’t think I’d like to stay there on my own on a dark and stormy night!

My wife Patsy, immediately falls in love with the rose garden

We enjoy cocktails in the beautiful rose garden, which is in full bloom, while the Princess tells us about the history of the place. After dinner, we are entertained by an absolutely brilliant classical concert pianist, who is really quite amazing. A young Chinese girl who has been playing since she was 3 years old and is now world famous. Truly, a night to remember.
The following day, we are cruising down the Rhine again, in one of the prettiest parts of the river. Seems like every hill has a castle on top of it.

Seems like every hill has a castle on top of it!

Seems like every hill has a castle on top of it. Also, beautiful vineyards which are mainly built on the side of very steep hills. Not sure how they pick the grapes but you would need a rope around you for sure. We get a great view of the local area on a cable car ride across the vineyards.

The ride across the vineyards in a cable car

The cable car takes us to the top of a peak, where we have spectacular views across the Rhine valley. We discover a huge monument called the Niederwalddenkmal which was built in the 1870s to commemorate the unification of the German Empire, after the end of the Franco-Prussian War. It stands 38 metres tall and cost around one million gold marks, which would have been a lot of money back then.

The Niederwalddenkmal monument, which was built in the 1870s

We also visit the local town of Rüdesheim. My wife goes off to enjoy some retail therapy in the local shops, while I go on the Mechanical Musical Instruments Museum tour. This is truly amazing. They have over 300 working pieces going back over 300 years. These fascinating musical instruments were created in the days before television and jukeboxes and were used to entertain the people of the time. All of the exhibits are in working order and they are only too happy to demonstrate them for you.

Typical working display at the Mechanical Musical Instruments Museum

Tomorrow we are going on a winery tour and sampling the local schnapps. Sounds like it could be dangerous…

Click here to join us on the rest of our journey