Caves and Castles

9 Nov

Well, I think this weekend was the first since we got here that we did zero work! No unpacking, no rearranging, no organizing, no donating…That’s got to be a great sign, right?! And y’all, it was so nice. We were finally able to take a little day trip and we had such a fun time. Icing on the cake was that the weather couldn’t have been any better- sunny and warmish and a light breeze blowing around the few remaining neon-colored leaves that have made the most beautiful fall.

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Did you guys know that there are roughly 20,000 castles in Germany? Nope, I didn’t put too many zeroes- there are seriously that many! It’s the neatest thing to be driving down the road and just stumble upon a fortress ahead in the distance. Ha! This weekend, we opted to visit Germany’s smallest castle, Lichtenstein, which is about an hour and 15 minutes south of us near Bavaria. Nearby, we happened to find Fog Cave, one of southern Germany’s oldest and largest show caves. Our little explorer was in adventure Heaven, let me tell you!

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Fog Cave, first mentioned in literature in 1486, is roughly half a kilometer long and is known for its impressive drip rock formations, which look alot like marble. Just like all caves, its temperature stays around a steady 55F, but because of its location, there tends to be a constant meeting of cool with warm air, causing it to produce its own fog, thus its name. Cool, huh? The cave is home to several species of bats, including the endangered white-bellied, ‘Mouse Eared Bats.’ In an effort the help preserve their population, the cave is only open during the warmer months so that they can safely hibernate (and not have to search for food) all winter. Neve was fascinated by these cute little guys hanging from the ceilings in the cave- even insisted we stay quiet so as not to disturb their slumber!

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We happened to be the first visitors that morning, so we had the cave entirely to ourselves for over an hour. Talk about feeling miniscule! And let me just do a quick aside for those of you who may not know this- I lived in a cave for a few weeks during my junior year of high school. Yep, I went with a group of probably 12 people through an Outward Bound program where we hiked several miles through the West Virginia snow to the mouth of a giant cave system where we descended underground and didn’t see the daylight again for several weeks. We took with us only what we could carry (which meant that, yes, my backpack was practically bigger than me!), lived only by nature (no electricity, no batteries (that meant actual fire lamps worn on our helmets, lit with flint strike lighters), no watches, no radios), took no showers, carried our waste with us (yes, all waste)…We hiked for miles within the caves every day, setting up ‘camp’ each night beneath the bats sleeping overhead…We crossed rivers (yes, that meant we got wet, along with our stuff), we completed challenges, we played games…There were definite rough patches along the way that we won’t get into here, but all in all, it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life and one that I’m so thankful I fought to be a part of (I was the youngest of the group). Needless to say, any time I’ve visited a cave in all these years since, I can’t help but be taken aback…But enough with the digression!

Another mind-blowing tidbit is that stalagmites and stalagtites grow at an average of 1 cubic centimeter every 80 years…Yeah, wrap your mind around that one as you think of how many millions of years old these caves are. And look at this visual for perspective:

This stalagmite was damaged during WWII, so it was cut and polished so that its interior could be studied. The lines and different colors show what the soil and rain water was comprised of during different centuries...

Nope, not a tree trunk! This stalagmite was damaged during WWII, so it was cut and polished so that its interior could be studied. The lines and different colors show what the soil and rain water was comprised of during different centuries…

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Driving between the two places couldn’t have been any more gorgeous. Here’s the random view from the parking lot.

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That's where we're headed! The castle on the mountain in the distance...

That’s where we’re headed! The castle on the mountain in the distance…

Schloss (Castle) Lichtenstein is a Gothic Revival castle built on a cliff in the Swabian Alps. Although the original castle was built here in the 12th century, it was destroyed during battle. The new castle was built in 1390 and was considered one of the best Medieval fortresses of all time as it withstood every single attack, but when it lost its role as a Lordly ducal seat in 1567, it fell into disrepair. In 1840, Count Wilhelm purchased the property from the King, removed the top half of the castle and rebuilt it as a premier hunting lodge for himself, his friends, and distinguished guests from around the country. The castle was inaugurated in 1842 with the King present. An interesting fact: the Count personally designed the plans for the rebuilding, as well as furnished and decorated the entire property himself as he had a flair for style. Today, the property is still owned by the Dukes of Urach, Count Wilhelm’s descendants, but is open to the public for a few months each year.

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City of Honau in the valley in the distance…

This was one of our favorite castles we’ve ever visited. For starters, it’s just beautiful- the castle, the grounds surrounding it, the miles and miles of beauty that can be seen in any given direction from its walls…But more than that, it just has the best ‘cozy’ feel going on inside. I know that’s a funny word to use in relation to a castle, but it’s really true. Its rooms are small, warm and inviting. The furnishings are soft and rich and detailed. The stain glass windows cast the most beautiful colored sunlight all across the wooden floors…You leave there thinking to yourself, ‘I totally would’ve loved a weekend there with friends spent hunting (OK, so I wouldn’t do this part, but I know some would!), fellowshipping, eating, drinking and being merry!’ Unfortunately, they don’t allow pictures inside, so you’ll just have to take my word for it!

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Look at that view!

Look at that view!

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Main entrance over the drawbridge...

Main entrance over the drawbridge…

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Painted Bark Tree

Painted Bark Tree (Hi, Mom!)

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Wasn’t that the most fun for a Saturday?! We even made it home in time to try out a new burrito place for dinner! And I’m happy to report that it was pretty darn tasty! Similar to Moe’s if I had to compare. We’ve been on the hunt for decent Mexican since we got here- just like we were in Wiesbaden in the spring and five years ago when we were here- and were just about ready to throw in the towel , but Burreatos hit the spot! BAZINGA! No, it’s not amazing and not an exact match, but it was chips and salsa and burritos in an actual tortilla so we’ll take it! 😉

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Hope everyone has a great week!

6 Responses to “Caves and Castles”

  1. Marilyn Deatley November 10, 2015 at 3:43 AM #

    Enjoyed reading about your castle adventure as i do all you write about. PIctures were great too.

  2. Kathi Williams November 10, 2015 at 2:10 AM #

    Best pictures ever – miss you all!

  3. Robin November 9, 2015 at 11:22 PM #

    Beautiful pictures of the castle and surroundings but I especially love the ones of you and John and Neve. You all look so happy. Sounds like a great weekend.

  4. Eleanor November 9, 2015 at 8:26 PM #

    Love this! I feel I was with you on this day. I can just imagine Neve loving the cave and the castle. Thanks for sharing a fun day! Lived in a cave??? I do not think I knew that! Would love to hear all about that adventure one day!

  5. Anne Lambert November 9, 2015 at 4:25 PM #

    Love the castle, beautiful. But the cave you can keep, ha. I HATE caves. Can’t believe you lived in a cave for 3 weeks Erin, you are nuts! Ha! Neve truly seems to be enjoying her adventures!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Happy Easter, Y’all! | Thomas Wanderings... - April 20, 2017

    […] and I also did a little daytrip over to Burg Lichtenstein, which is another of our favorites. It’s small and quaint, yet so charming and regal the way […]

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