After our mini swabian holiday, Jacob and I drove back to Marburg in our little rental car. Wanting to make the most of our wheels, we planned a a couple of stops on the way back up north.We came off the autobhan just before Karlsruhe and drove to the northerly edge of the Black Forest to our first stop, Albtal und Seitentäler (Alb valley and its tributary valleys). Along a canal, which lead us into the forest, we stretched our legs over a few kilometres before returning to the road and heading on our way.
Our second stop was near Darmstadt, but at a higher altitude in the hills of Odenwald. Up and up we went, winding our way around hair-pin bends. “How much further?”, asked one of us. “Until we get to the top”, replied the other. Eventually we came to a dead end with half-full car parks on either side of the road and forest all around. We parked and proceeded to follow signs to the “Burg”.
Speckled on various walls and the odd tree were posters and signs advertising nearly year old Halloween specials: “Prepare to be scared”, “run for your life” and something about a monster. The day was warm and the sun shining. This made the place feel less eery, but only slightly.
We hiked up higher, where cars weren’t permitted, and the line of trees on our right took on the appearance of a wall, perhaps the outer wall of the fortress. Trudging on we caught glimpses of the occasional turret and other fortress characteristics. On a stone hung a sign reading “betreten auf eigene Gefahr”, enter at your own risk. On a closer look at the sign we read that the risk was in reference to the lack of winter maintenance, in other words, there was a “Rutschgefahr”, danger of slipping. There was also an extremely modest donation suggestion of €1 for the “Erhalt und Pflege der Burg”, the upkeep and maintenance of the castle.
Our concentration on the sign finally broke and we made our way over the grounds. Dead ahead was a small chapel exhibiting yet another small sign: “Mühtal registry office”. You can get married here in the quaint chapel at Burg Frankenstein. This is where I started to fan-girl big time. One of the novels I studied at school was Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and here I am now, more than seven years later, standing at the ruins of the fortress that may very well have inspired Shelley’s Romantic horror story.
I could picture them all here right now, Victor, Elisabeth, the monster and his bride-to-be, all waiting to marry. However, in the novel, there were no marriages on the Rhine. What’s more, it’s unlikley that Shelley ever actually came to the castle, but her river cruise down the Rhine in 1816 wouldn’t have missed it, nor would she have avoided hearing about this place full of myths around alchemy, life and death.
We moseyed about the grounds and explored a pocket of the Odenwald, skipping from one moss-covered boulder to the next. It’s not to say that this place is any more spectacular than other burgs, castles, fortresses and ruins, but it was exciting to be somewhere that had influenced my education. It became the first book I’d ever studied at school to really catch my attention. It warranted neither an eye-roll nor a sigh. Quite the opposite. Our essays discussed concepts of good and evil based on Rousseau’s theories and I realised that studying literature also meant learning about philosophy, history, geography, sociology, language and so much more than I’d imagined.