It is the epitome of a German knight's castle: stately towering, surrounded by a moat, equipped with numerous towers and unconquered to this day. For more than 800 years, Eltz Castle has been enthroned on a rock in a side valley of the Moselle and enchants hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. You too?
In the 15th century there lived in the castle Eltz a count with his beautiful daughter Agnes. She was promised to the knight of Braunsberg. But while she was good-natured, modest and gentle, the young knight was hard-hearted and rough. So it happened that Agnes refused to kiss him on the day of the engagement. This angered the knight so much that he declared war on the family. A few months later, he used a ruse to lure the count and his comrades-in-arms out of the castle. Only the beautiful Agnes and some servants remained behind - just as the knight had planned. With many soldiers he attacked the castle and wanted to take Agnes home by force. But he had not counted on the courage of the count's daughter. She put on her brother's armor and fought side by side with her servants until an arrow from the knight hit her. She died immediately. This enraged her servants so much that they first killed the knight and then defeated his retinue.
Today castle guides tell this story gladly in the Comtesse room of the castle. There, Agnes' breastplate hangs on the wall, in which the bullet hole of the arrow can still be seen. In the meantime, Agnes has come to symbolize the steadfastness of the castle's lords: in its 800-year history, Burg Eltz has not once been taken by opponents. Anyone who follows the road into the side valley of the Moselle between Koblenz and Cochem and catches sight of the castle on its rocky outcrop, where the Elzbach flows around it on three sides, will immediately understand why it is too difficult to conquer. Only a bridge leads to the unique ensemble of various buildings and eight high residential towers.
In 1157 the castle was first mentioned in a document and later survived all the turmoil of the centuries unscathed. Thus, it is one of the few castles in Europe never destroyed. Since the 13th century, the three main lines of the Eltz family - Eltz-Kempenich, Eltz-Rodendorf and Eltz-Rübenach - inhabited different buildings of the castle. The three lines were also named after their coats of arms as Eltz of the Golden Lion (Kempenich), Eltz of the Silver Lion (Rübenach) and Eltz of the Buffalo Horns (Rodendorf). The respective residential areas and households were separated, but the unity of the family was preserved by the common name and the coat of arms. This residential and hereditary community lasted for many centuries. For 34 generations now, Burg Eltz has been in the possession of the noble lords and counts von und zu Eltz. The current lord of the castle is Dr. Karl Graf und Edler Herr von und zu Eltz-Kempenich called Faust von Stromberg. In 1997 he took over the administration of the castle from his father.
However, the medieval walls are no longer inhabited. That would be too uncomfortable today. Nevertheless, there is a lot going on here, because between April and November the castle is open to visitors. Then thousands of guests from all over the world flock here every day to marvel at this quintessential German knight's castle. The guided tour of Eltz Castle takes you on a journey through eight centuries, reflected in the architecture of the rooms and their furnishings. The armory displays historical and oriental weapons, the hunting room numerous hunting trophies, and the kitchen with a large fireplace, sink and all kinds of kitchen utensils looks as if a maid would come in at any moment and put the kettle on. The bedroom of the Eltz-Rübenacher family is particularly impressive. The walls are painted all over with fertility symbols and floral elements, and on the canopy of the wooden four-poster bed is engraved the "Rose of Silence". It symbolized confidentiality and the promise that the spoken word should not leave the room. If you look closely, you will also discover the rose above the door of the knight's hall. This is where the heads of the families would confer. On the walls around the long wooden table are carved jester's heads as a sign that here everyone could speak freely, because the jester of the Middle Ages was allowed to say anything without fear of negative consequences. In the cellar vaults of the castle a real highlight awaits you, the treasure chamber. It contains a private collection of over 500 exhibits, including gold and silversmith's work, jewelry, porcelain, weapons and armor. Much of it also comes from abroad, as the castle has been visited time and again by foreign painters, poets or authors who were inspired by its sight. One of the most famous was William Turner, English painter prince and discoverer of Rhine Romanticism. He came several times and painted Eltz Castle in many views. To the English author Katherine Macquoid, in turn, it appeared with its oriels, spires and towers like a "truly enchanted place, a fairy tale of stone". Between 1961 and 1995, Eltz Castle even graced the 500-Mark bill.
If you were so fascinated by the first sight of the castle, that you have not taken any notice of the lush green surroundings, you should definitely take time for this natural landscape after your tour of the castle. Because it is no less fascinating. Over 300 hectares of the Eltzer Forest are certified as a flora-fauna habitat and a Natura 2000 nature reserve. The forest is considered an "arboretum", a forest with a particularly large number of rare native and foreign tree species. And this is mainly due to the many different biotopes that meet here: Water, water edge, coppice and high forest biotopes. You can explore the region's biodiversity on numerous hiking trails - and keep your eyes and ears open, because according to legend, the spirit of the beautiful Agnes still blows through the castle and the surrounding area.
By train and bus comfortably to the castle Eltz: Plan arrival.
Cover photo: You can reach Burg Eltz either via Burgstraße from Wierschem or via the Moselsteig hiking trail © Rheinland-Pfalz Tourismus
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