the flooded middle Rhine

During the golden part of the day,
the sun low on the horizon
on a summer’s late evening,
we wound our way
some thirty miles or so
down the west bank of the middle Rhine—
down the Rheingoldstrasse up-river
from Rhens through Brey,
Boppard (with its Roman ruins),
Bad Salzig, Hirzenach, Fellen,
Sankt Goar an der Loreley,
Oberwesel (with evidence of the Celts from 400 BCE),
Bacharach, Rheindiebach, and Trechtingshausen,
to Bingen.

In that stretch, we counted twelve castles.
Twelve!
We ended up thinking our count might be a little off
because (a) we weren’t expecting as many—
even though I had said there would be a lot—
we weren’t expecting them as regularly,
and (b) because we were uncertain
whether or not to count old towers—
of which there were four or five.

(Rick Steves, we noted later,
counts 16 castles on our route.
So if you include the towers, we were right on—
or he didn’t count the towers and we missed some castles!)

We passed the reefs of the seven sisters—
or seven maidens,
the river nymph Loreley’s cliff top haunt,
the castles of the quarreling brothers,
the cat and mouse fortresses.

We passed them all
driving through a story saturated landscape.

And even if we didn’t know them all—
didn’t know the particular stories,
we always knew we were in a landscape drenched with them.
And we marveled.
For what can not happen in a landscape
with a castle around each bend?

And what can not happen to someone
who’s been through a landscape
with a castle around each bend?

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