If you are ever in Hessen with kids then you must visit Rheinfels Castle on the Rhine River. This stretch of the Rhine is thick with castles and many of them are open for tourists, or have been reinvented as hotels, but few of them are as kid friendly as Rheinfels. In ruins since the late 1700's the castle has no fancy exhibits or delicate art work for the kids to destroy. Instead it is full of dark tunnels, crossbow slits, and impressive views of the surrounding countryside.
The boys had tons of fun climbing up and down and all around pretending to be medieval knights or Indiana Jones. It used up some of their never ending supply of energy.
David didn't let go of the camera for a minute, so no pictures of him this time, but bunches of cute pictures of the boys and few of me. Some places are blocked off for safety's sake but otherwise this was a wonderland for kids. We more or less followed the self guided tour and map (In English!!) we received with our entry fee. You can check out Rick Steves' self guided tour on the web if you want to know what there is to see. Next time I think we will try to follow his tour as I am sure there were things we totally missed today and a lot of things we saw but didn't understand. This isn't the fault of the map but more a function of letting the kids run and following them. David and I have been in a few castles now but this was a first for the kids. It was their day to explore.
Rheinfels has lots of dark unlit passageways and even underground tunnels so make sure to take a flashlight, or if you are braver than me you can buy candles and matches in the gift shop.I wasn't about to wander around in the dark with four boys (five if you count my husband) all of whom would think it hilariously funny to blow out the candle leaving me in total darkness. Of course that would leave them in the dark too, but who thinks that far ahead? Also when you are in a dark tunnel and your husband calls your name DO NOT turn around to see what he wants. Fool that I am I turned when Dave called my name and got a face full of flash. For the next few minutes all I could see was spots and a dim halo of light from my flashlight. Glad he did this on a flat stretch and not on the stairs. We stuck to the larger tunnels but there are smaller tunnels that are only about 3 feet high. Braver souls (or more foolish) can explore those as well.
The only problem I had was the guard rails in the higher spots. They seem to be of the "suggest you don't fall here" variety rather than the more useful "I will catch you if you fall" type. I just don't see how those two tiny rails are going to save me if I trip. I was very, very, careful not to trip. I have seen these types of rails at every castle we have visited and some were much higher up than this. In this picture I am about 3 stories up, but it seemed like more to me. We took all our kids up those stairs without accident but since I have no head for heights David had to hold tight to Grayson who can fit right under that bottom rail. I was too busy hyperventilating and holding on for dear life. Colin figured out just how scared I was when we were up at the highest look out point. He stood next to me then suddenly yelled while lunging at me. He was rewarded with his mother giving a little scream and abruptly sitting down. Anything to get closer to solid ground. Of course some of the other tourists, not to mention the rest of my family thought it was hilarious. Some day one of them is going to give me heart attack! Of course I could avoid this by not climbing up high but then I am sure I would get teased for being a chicken. I am not sure which is worse.
I have no I dea what purpose these arches might have served back in the day but they make a nice back drop for a picture!