I love living in a land where there are castles, visiting ruins once inhabited by royalty and aristocrats, who thought themselves the epitome of civilization. Once guarded and majestic, now standing empty, cold and lonely. Even in it’s lonely ruins, it still holds power and an undeniable beauty, we wandered in great anticipation to stand in this place, behold it’s awe and be one with its history. Standing there was humbling and exciting. Knowing that on this very path treaded knights ready to lay down their lives for what is now ruins makes most things seem insignificant. Looking at the very same view that folks woke up to, gives me a sense of being connected to them.
I have a feeling there are many ancient secrets hidden in this old ruins. Leaning on one of the walls I could almost hear whispers, of an old lady retelling glorious days of her youth. A dainty princess she was, all prim and proper waiting to be wed off to a proper gentleman. Only she fell deeply in love with a country lad! Stealing away in the cover of the dark to meet him. Dancing under the moonlight, laughing at her own mischief as she frolics with her lover, Sleeping under the stars wrapped in each other. He offered to rescue her from her dull world. Well, she lives in a great castle and he, nobody knows where he lives, he claims earth is his home, the sky his blanket! He has been seen trotting upon his brown mare headed deep into the forest, looking like an adventure while leaving behind a trail of broken hearts. Princesses and their handmaids fall for his charm, damsels and housewives alike! Torn between family obligation and her true hearts desire, I can almost hear the old lady weep, as she tells on, on the only time she was ever truly alive. She loved and enjoyed the earthly comforts she was born into, but the sacrifice they demanded were her undoing.
These old trees here stood witness to it all. The rise, the fall and now to little insignificant us, with the same thoughts on being the epitome of human civilization. If only they could talk. May be they would remind us that, this are fleeting days. Many civilizations have come and gone. Some have left us enchanting castle ruins to peek into their history and imagine their secrets, what will we in return leave the others to come?
A little bit about the castle
The ruin of Dürnstein is located on the Wachau World Heritage Trail. It took us about an hour to get there from the village. The trail was easy enough, our 3 year old brought all the fun, pretending we were hiking through a water body and all our steps had to be meticulously calculated lest the water carried us away! we were rewarded with magnificent view all throughout the trail.
The castle was built between 1140-1145 by the family Kuenring (Hadmar I) In 1645 it was demolished by a blast carried out by the Swedes under General Torstenson. The castle became famous through the legend of Richard the Lionheart. It has it that upon returning from the Crusades, the English King tore up the Austrian flag and refused to share his spoils of war with Leopold V. Consequently, Leopold V held the English King prisoner in the castle from 1192 – 1193. Legend has it that the King’s faithful minnesinger travelled from castle to castle until he found him in Dürnstein by singing a refrain, which the prisoner sang back. Richard the Lionheart was released after the payment of a ransom of 150,000 silver marks. You can find more info here.