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The Story of Castle Drachenfels

  • Thread starter _Morgoth_
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It is not the history of the Ultima Online Drachenfels shard that I want to tell you about, but instead the history of the real castle Drachenfels in Germany. Drachenfels originally is the name of a small mountain (some might say hill) alongside the Rhein river in Germany, not very far from the cities Cologne and Bonn. The Drachenfels mountain became famous for being the place where the hero Sigfried from the Nibelungen Saga killed the dragon. On top of mountain Drachenfels a castle was build that today remains only as a set of ruins.

The history of castle Drachenfels began long before the year 0 of our time reconing, when the Romans started mining for stone in the Drachenfels mountain. After the Romans left around the year 456 the mountain dropped out of knowledge for several hundred years. In or about the year 1100 it was the Archbishop Friedrich of Cologne (German: "Köln") that discovered how well suited the Drachenfels peak was for placing a watch tower. He had a small stone castle build, dominated by a central tower, that overlooked (and thus controlled) an important and narrow bend in the Rhein river.

50 years later (1149) the new Archbishop Arnold decided to extend the castle and build a small surrounding stone wall, with supportive buildings inside the encircling wall. In the year 1167 the hitherto small castle tower was upgraded to a large castle tower. Nevertheless the castle remained to be of minor importance and value right until the year 1248. At this time the city of cologne decided to build a large gothic cathedral (which is a fascinating story in its own right) and needed lots of good stone. After 800 years of disuse the almost forgotten mines of Drachenfels were rediscovered and once again stone was mined. The nobel family that owned castle Drachenfels at he time suddenly became very rich and important by selling the stones. But the newfound riches led to fights wihtin the family, that finally led to the assasination of Count Clas of Drachenfels by his own nephew in the year 1526.

The castle came to its end in the "30 year war" in 1633. A Swedish army conquered castle Drachenfels and used it as a military base for rampaging the countryside. And so, in the year 1634, the Archbishop of Cologn ordered the castle to be blown up, with large amounts of explosives placed secretely at crucial points. All that remained was a useless ruin. Well, almost useless, because the stones of the ruin were claimed and used for buildings in Cologne.

Mining activity below the castle ruins in the following years caused some remaining parts of the castle, like the tower, to collapse. Therefore all mining activity was stopped, by royal eddict, in the year 1836. At around this time the historical value of the remaining castle parts was recognized and efforts began to preserve what was left. Most of the conservation work was done in between 1855 and 1900. Castle Drachenfels was made secure to visit and slowly became a tourist attraction. Today it is one of the most heavily visited tourist sights in Germany, with over 2 million visitors per year

That was the history of the old castle Drachenfels. But as the moutain was a very prominent spot alongside the Rhein, there is another "castle" on Drachenfels, which is alot newer and in excellect condition. In the year 1884 the replica of a beautiful medieval castle was built halfway up Drachenfels mountain. I say replica, because despite being in size and appearance a fully grown castle, it was the private "house" of a very rich tradesman. It is today in excellent condition and well worth visting for its great collection of historical furniture and paintings.

And last but not least there is the story of the Drachenfels dragon. It is rumored and said that the hero Siegfried from German mythology has slain a huge dragon right there on Drachenfels. About halfway up the mountain there is a large cave and in this cave, so rumor and mythology have it, the dragon lived. There is a big stone statue of a dragon in front of the cave and inside of the cave they show the original dragon skeleton (or so they say).

Thats it /php-bin/shared/images/icons/smile.gif I hope you liked it. This story is based on a German website with tourist information for those wishing to visit castle Drachenfels. For those interested, the website is here: http://www.drachenfels-gastronomie.de (but its all in German).
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