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Burg Katz

St. Goarshausen, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany (August 1999)

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St. Goarshausen

Burg Katz

St. Goarshausen

Burg Katz clung to a rocky ledge high above the town of St. Goarshausen along the eastern bank of the Rhine River, where joined by the Hasenbach Valley. The full name of this citadel is actually "Neukatzenelnbogen" in deference to the Count von Katzenelnbogen who built the castle at this spot in the later half of the 14th Century. The English translation equates roughly to the "new castle of Katzenelnbogen." Whether English or German this is a mouthful. Local residents shortened the name more reasonably to Burg Katz. This translates to Castle Cat so it's indelibly tied another local castele, Burg Maus, which means Castle Mouse.

Burg Katz originally served both economic and military purposes. Then as now, the Rhine provided a transportation corridor through the German countryside. This was an ideal spot to extract fees from merchants moving along the river or tolls from passengers wanting to cross between St. Goarshausen on the eastern bank and St. Goar on the west. Militarily, this was a commanding location on a well-protected niche upon a steep rock wall. It also contributed to a key defensive perimeter when combined with other nearby fortifications.

Burg Katz

Burg Katz from Below

Well protected or not, this was an attractive target. Spaniards conducted a siege in 1626, and the French tried to capture it in 1684 and again in 1692. In 1795 the castle passed from the house of Hesse-Nassau to Hesse-Kassel, and then to the French in 1801. Napoleon chose to blow it up in 1806 and it remained in disrepair well into the late 19th Century when popular interest in castles grew among members of the upper class. It is obvious from these photographs that the "restoration" was intended to meet an idealized definition of how a castle should appear rather than an accurate rendition of the original 14th Century structure.

Burg Katz Close-up

Hiking a Trail up to Burg Katz

A hiking trail led up from the back of St. Goarshausen, a hamlet occupying a narrow plain between the Rhine and the valley wall it carved from solid stone over eons. The steep, shaded path climbed hillsides and curled through switchbacks, eventually terminating on a flatter plateau above the Rhine River valley. Burg Katz had been built into the same steep hillside. We found increasingly closer views of the castle as we climbed upward. At one point we crossed the driveway that led into the castle but we continued towards the summit.

Burg Katz on Rhine

Burg Katz Perched Above the Rhine River

We were rewarded with incredible views of the Rhine upon arriving at the hilltop. Burg Katz appeared in the foreground, perched on its precarious rock ledge high above St. Goarshausen and the river. We watched barges move their cargo slowly along this watery highway as a ferry darted to St. Goar on the opposite bank. We rode that ferry only an hour earlier and it was odd to see this same sight from the vertical. We had the trail totally to ourselves during our entire climb and descent, and never once saw another person until we returned to St. Goarshausen.