I was standing on top of a medieval tower with a 360 degree views over a splendid landscape.
On one side rolled the hills of the Black Forest, densely covered with deep forests. On the other – the Rhine Valley spread all the way to the horizon with the mighty river of myths and legends meandering round small tidy villages and neat green fields.
Above it all, a deep layer of clouds added drama to the scene. And just then the sun shone through the clouds and its rays beamed down on the majestic panorama. It was a moment memories are made of and I felt on top of the world.
We had reached Yburg Castle after a day in lacklustre (for me, my husband actually loved its ‘verve’) Baden-Baden. A narrow road coiling first round vineyards methodically organised on steep hills and then through deep woods took us higher and higher up the Yburg mountain to its summit at 539 meters height.
Parking our little red car in the small lot, we were faced by a tall jagged defensive wall which had borne witness to the tumultuous history of Yburg Castle – raised and then destroyed several times since its inception almost eight centuries ago.
We captured the castle the easy way – by walking through its stone gate and pausing to take in its vast courtyard. Centuries-old linden tress stood guard to time and history. What really caught my eye though and convinced me that we were in a special place where myths had been born were the magical creatures resting on the lawn.
There was a dragon, there was a griffon, there was a frog prince…
And just then, I glimpsed a more recent addition to the mythical group.
The bright red cow stood in stark contrast to the weathered stones of the defensive wall. This brought back a memory of the summer of 2002 when scores of these full-size realistic cows painted in different colours and thematically adorned populated the streets and sights of London as part of the famous Cow Parade.
How this particular cow had ended up the Yburg mountain in the courtyard of a ravaged by war and the passage of time medieval castle is still a mystery to me. Still, it was a contemporary reference in the gathering of the otherwise weird and wonderful creatures in the courtyard.
We followed the path further away where two buildings stood up.
One – the restored tower of the old castle – and the other – an impressive large house, seemingly covered with dragon scales, which, we found out later, had been built in 1892 and nowadays serves as a guesthouse and a restaurant.
People were sitting on the small tables outside, admiring the gorgeous views of the dark wooded hills. A dragon was relaxing on the low stone wall separating the courtyard from the steep abyss below. A new-age tune was being piped through. Carved out of wood, a lady warrior with wings and a spear stood guard – probably Brunhilde herself. We were in a Germanic dream.
We scaled the ragged steps leading up to the tower. An observation platform was suspended around its foundations. The Rhine Valley glistened in the rays of the late afternoon sun. The air was clean and clear, easy to breathe in.
Inside the tower a staircase coiled its way 20 meters to the top. I scaled it slowly, stopping every now and then to admire the trees which I could glimpse through the tall windows.
At the top, I found myself on my own. The square platform opened incredible views in front of me in all four directions. The undulating hills of the Black Forest stretched all the way to the horizon. The dense forests seemed impenetrable with the trees so close to one another that their deep green colour merged into a black sea of tree tops perfectly illustrating the reasoning behind the area’s name – Schwarzwald.
The unending forest in front of my eyes was a living memory of the fact that until the early Middle Ages most of Europe had been covered with dense woods and people lived in small holdings not often daring to venture outside of the confines of the places they had been born in.
The wind rustling in the trees, the impassable vegetation, the shadows playing on the forest’s floor all influenced the human imagination and folk stories were born aiming to forewarn against the dangers lurking in between the trees.
Looking over the tree tops, I could see in the eye of my mind a young girl with a red cloak playing a dangerous hide and seek with a large wolf. Rapunzel’s tower stood high in the middle of a forest clearing and Snow White was lying rigid on the forest floor having bitten a piece off the poisoned apple.
Following them all, were the Brothers Grimm, writing down as quickly as they could the stories which had been told and re-told thousand times to captive audiences in front of the roaring fires during the cold winter nights.
Once back down to earth, we all headed to the restaurant to enjoy an afternoon cup of tea and a slice of the famous Schwarzwald cake.
The big brown house was divided in a number of cozy rooms, where people were huddled around the tables deep in talk.
A smiling waiter led us all the way through to a small terrace on the other side of the building, which enjoyed a breathtaking view of the Rhine valley below us.
We sipped our black teas accompanied by a generous slice of homemade apple pie (they had run out of Schwarzwald cake for the day) and basked in the rays of the sun.
Even now, looking back, this is one of my favourite memories of summer 2015.