There are over 20,000 castles in Germany. 20,000. When most people think of castles, their minds go straight to the big ones, most of which are in Bavaria. But with 20,000 castles, that means there is so much more to explore than just southern Germany. In the Eifel alone, there are over 100 castles. And just next door, along the Mosel, there are over a dozen more. The nice thing about living where we do is that we are just a short drive from all of them. And that means we can drive to them on a whim.
Which is exactly what we did a few weeks ago. It was a lazy Saturday, and we wanted to get out of the house for a while. My husband started looking some things up on the internet, and as he knows I’m a big fan of all things mystery, he found a murder mystery dinner show happening that night, and they still had tickets available. So, three hours before it started, we snagged two seats. And then my husband told me it was in a castle.
We had never been to this particular castle. And as we only had enough time to get ready and hit the road, we didn’t do any kind of research about the castle. But, that’s often the stuff that ends up being the most fun anyways, right?!
This castle sits high above the Mosel River, just beyond Brodenbach. As you can see in the map above, it’s south of Koblenz and about an hour and 15 minutes from Spangdahlem AB. Burg Ehrenburg is really interesting because, unlike most other castles along the Mosel, it doesn’t actually sit on – or overlook – the river. Instead, you drive up this incredibly steep hill, and then drive a few miles back into the forests. You can’t even see the castle from the village below.
Now, if you’re anything like me, you’re constantly making a list of places to take friends and family from back home when they come to visit. (I do the same with restaurants as well. My next visitor is going to do nothing but eat.) Well, the drive up to this castle shot straight to the top of that list.
Have you ever been to California and driven up to the Hollywood sign? There is this one spot (or at least there was the last time I was there about 15 years ago) along the drive where you have to make this incredibly tight 180 degree turn that climbs at a very steep angle. Well, imagine that drive but with one of those curves every 100 feet. The drive up to Burg Ehrenburg is pretty unparalleled.
That’s a two way street, by the way.
We made the drive around 6pm, so the light wasn’t that great for pictures or video. But you can just see the tops of the houses to the left. The road is completely open on one side. You have views of Brodenbach and the river the whole way up. But you really have to pull over to take pictures because the curves are unnervingly tight, and the road is extremely narrow. There are stretches where only one car can fit at a time, and I had to lay my chair back a bit so that my husband could see through my window. The curves are so hard that you kind of have to look behind the car, through the passenger windows, to see where to drive. It was cold and raining; otherwise, we would have stopped. There was a place at the very top to park and take pictures.
Here is where the zig zagging began.
And here you can see five different levels of road. Even if we didn’t take our visitors to the castle, I would bring them here just to experience this drive! I don’t know how it is everywhere else in the States, but we definitely have nothing like this in Texas. It would be a pretty impressive experience for people who have never been to Germany before.
Just a short drive beyond the top of the hill, we came to the entrance of the castle. We knew already that we couldn’t actually park at the castle because that is reserved for guests (it’s also a hotel). So, we parked in a small dirt parking lot just off the main road and started walking down a lovely winding path that led through a small forest.
You’d never know there was a castle back there.
And so very quiet.
The murder mystery dinner started at 7pm, but we got there about 45 minutes early. One thing to keep in mind if you go to one of their events is that the gates to the castle are locked until about 30 minutes before the show. We didn’t know that and expected that we could walk around the castle until it was time. So, we got stuck hanging out in front of the castle. There were signs and stairs leading down below the drawbridge. Apparently, there are some really nice hiking trails that wander their way around the castle, but it was too dark and cold for us that night.
Although they’re not totally sure how old this castle actually is, the first mention of it is in 1161. It’s passed through several different hands and at one time had connections to Eltz, Schöneck, and Pyrmont – any of those names sound familiar? And it was occupied by the Spanish during the Thirty Years War, as well as the French during the late 17th century. However, the French destroyed most of the castle, leaving only the chapel. Since then, the castle has changed hands between different families and is still privately owned today.
We only knew about the murder mystery dinner, but we came to learn that the castle offers much much more. But, we’ll get to that in a minute.
Since we were there in the evening, and technically the castle was closed, we didn’t get to take a tour or anything. But once they opened the gate, we had about 15 minutes to skulk around the castle. You know, every castle has a different feel to it, and this one felt a little dark. I don’t know if it was because of the weather or the time of day, but it didn’t feel like a romantic fairy tale castle. It felt a little like a ghost story kind of castle.
And it didn’t help that we wandered into a room where we saw this –
That translates to “Entrance for Ghosts.”
And it was in this room –
Which was quite secluded from the rest of the castle. It was freezing cold in there, and the walls were so thick that we couldn’t hear the rain anymore. It felt like being underground even though we were actually in an upper part of the castle. Very creepy.
These were the only pictures from our tour of the castle that came out as everywhere else it was just too dark. There were only torches for light, and that just did not work for my little camera.
The interesting thing about this castle is that you have to walk up this spiral hallway that circles round and round and round. And you just have various hallways and staircases that shoot off of it. You could very easily get lost in there.
Once we were spooked out enough, though, we went back down to the front gate area where they were staging us for the show.
They had a very nice fire for us to warm ourselves with, and they were already taking drink orders. Their mead (honey wine) is to die for. Order it warm – you will not be disappointed!
When it was finally time to go inside, they led us into a nearby hallway where we passed through into a medieval dining hall. The tables were just three long rows, and they sat you according to your reservation. We ended up sitting between a couple from Kiel (north Germany) and a family from Bavaria (south Germany). I couldn’t tell where either of them were from. But, I listened to both sides for a few minutes and then said to my husband, “I can’t understand hardly anything this family says. But, man, I can understand this couple to my left perfectly!” That’s when he told me where they were from (based on their accents). We ended up talking to the Kiel couple for the entire evening – we were even the last people left in the hall after everything was over. They were so nice, and it was so lovely to understand their German. The couple laughed when I told them that, and they said it’s because they’re from the north – where people speak a VERY clean high German.
So, that’s a little tip for you right there. If you’re learning German and want to feel like you’ve made progress, go to northern Germany. You will feel like you’ve become fluent overnight. It was so effortless to understand them. I had never experienced anything like that.
The Bavarians might as well have been speaking Flemish or Russian. I couldn’t understand them to save my life.
The dining hall had these beautiful wooden ceilings that sloped down and murals on all of the walls. It was freezing outside but so insanely hot in here. Between all of the body heat and the alcohol (I may or may not have had several cups of mead), it was like a sauna in there.
We didn’t know exactly when the show would start, so everyone was just drinking and talking and laughing. And then all of a sudden, we heard this chanting. And four monks with their faces covered came into the room. I won’t give the story away, but I will say that it was so entertaining. The actors really got into character and interacted with the guests at the tables. I couldn’t understand most of it, but I didn’t know why that was until the Kiel couple explained to me that the actors were speaking in a very old German. So, maybe think Shakespeare as an English equivalent, sort of. But, that really didn’t matter. Just by watching them, you could understand most everything.
And throughout the show, the characters would stop to call in the next course.
With the show, you get a four course dinner. But, I have to say, the food is actually really bad. I mean really really bad. It started with a soup, then a salad, then a meal of chicken, dumplings, and vegetables, and then a dessert plate with cheeses and mustard. These are all pretty basic things that by themselves would be fine. But in addition to the meal being kind of boring, it also just didn’t taste that great. So, know that, if you go, the food will be a disappointment. We read some reviews the next day, and basically everyone complained about the food. But the show was so entertaining that the icky food is still worth it. Plus the mead. Don’t forget the mead.
At the end of the show, before they revealed who the killer was, they asked us all to write down our guess for who did it and why. They collected them and then read out some of the funnier ones. I didn’t get much of that either, but I know somebody threw a Trump reference in there somewhere. And the reactions of everybody to the different guesses was pretty fun to watch. The person who ended up guessing everything correctly was then presented with a gift card for another castle event.
We had a blast – even though the food was awful and I couldn’t understand a lot of the dialogue. It’s definitely something worth checking out. And like I said earlier, the castle is also a hotel and has hiking trails around it.
It’s really a shame that it was so late in the day when we went. We are definitely planning on going back so that we can film (or at least try to film) that drive up to the castle. And I really want to explore the castle again, as well as the hiking trails.
But they have all kinds of events that sound really cool, too.
Lebendige Burg (Living Castle)
On Sundays and holidays between Easter and All Saints Day, they have a “Living Castle.” Actors dress up in costumes, and they have all kinds of mini-shows and workshops. Apparently, it’s also a popular event for kids’ birthday parties.
Feste im Frühjahr und Herbst (Spring and Fall Festivals)
In the Spring, the festivals are all about fairy tales, witches, knights, and adventure. They have music ensembles, dances, and story time. And in the Fall, they have acrobats, jugglers, and a Halloween event. It seems like these festivals are more for children than adults. So, these would all be super family friendly events to try out.
Klassiktage (Classic Days – Romantic Opera)
Now, this is one that I really want to go to. A romantic opera in a real-life castle. And with your ticket, you get a glass of champagne and a buffet.
I’m not completely sure what Kulturekleinodien translates to (the best I can do is Little Cultural Things), but the description of this event sounds so fun! They have a man who plays celtic music on the harp, a dramatic skit, and a cabaret show. But the coolest part is that they have some kind of Edgar Allen Poe reading by candlelight in the wine cellar. That might be the creepy room where I saw the ghost entrance.
And that’s just a taste of their events. There are all kinds of other events and lunch buffets and celebrations. You can see their list for the year here.
If you want to read up on the castle a bit more, there is an English page on Wikipedia. You can access their website here, but it’s only in German. Or you can read reviews of the castle on TripAdvisor.
And in this video, you can see a really nice overview of the castle and surrounding forests.