EUROPEAN SOJOURN: The latest in thumb screws (Day 4)


Koblenz, Germany. “Set high above the hill overlooking the town of Braubach,” said our daily itinerary, “the [Marksburg] castle is the best preserved on the Rhine. Built with remarkable fortification, it was never besieged by enemies and therefore appears much the same as it did when it was built approximately 700 years ago.”

218It was fortuitous that it was never besieged. When we toiled up to the castle and were facing the view the cannons faced, we learned that the design of their cannons and inept use of them kept their cannon balls from hitting anyone. Remarkable fortification, indeed.






(I have no idea why one of our shipmates has Curious George seated on the cannon. Their were many parts of this trip which, because we only got in on the middle of the story, were mysteries to me.)

This hilltop fortress was also fully equipped with all the latest gadgets and technology of the 15th century. It had:

–A dining/ kitchen area with a beautiful slab of wood for a table, wooden chairs, a broad hearth with strong hooks supporting hunks of meat and kettles of soup, a white-washed larder, a brace of pheasants and mallards hanging from pegs like raincoats, dishes of vegetables for the evening meal.





It was big but cozy. I could see a medieval family gathering there for Christmas dinner. The whole setting was clean and tasteful, worthy of Better Homes and Castles.

A bedroom with a cramped bed for the lord and lady of the manor, pillows piled at one end so they could sleep sitting up. Apparently the horror of those days was to sleep lying down “like dead people.” Beside their bed, a primitive cradle.


A loom room, for weaving and spinning:264


An armory lined with mannequins modeling various styles of battle gear:268

There was supposed to be an iron chastity belt on the wall. I think this is it, although I’m not sure how it would work. Put your arms through the spouts and beat the attacker to death? I don’t know how chastity belts worked anyway; I’ll have to Google that. (You can get more pictures of this castle by Googling it, too.) Were they to prevent rape or infidelity? Maybe it depended on who made the decision to lock the lady into it while the lord was gone–and who kept the key. 269

Oh, Jerry says that isn’t it.





–A small chapel with amateur art on the walls and ceiling, really atrocious. But pious and well-meaning, I’m sure. 257









-A smithy. It was a room, more of a cave, at a curve in the covered road or path leading into the castle. It was like an attached garage, sheltered by the castle roof and under the human living quarters, but not quite in the castle itself. This was a cozy space, too. I could picture Jesus being born here.


Curiously, this part of the road was paved with slabs of slate crowded together on end, creating a very uneven and clumsy surface for hooves, carts, wagons or tourists in blue denim tennis shoes with the support of ballet slippers. It seemed to be less to facilitate their own horses getting to the blacksmith than hindering enemy horses or chariots from following them. I couldn’t help wondering if the road to the blacksmith caused sprained or broken ankles which had to be tended to by the in-house veterinarian.

–A toilet seat, overhanging the garden.

–A torture chamber, with helpful guidelines on the wall:273 Chop off arm A with ax B.


It was such a thoroughly modern, thoroughly appointed yet homey castle I couldn’t imagine the men really used those implements of torture. I think while their women cooked and loomed the lord showed fellow lords around, preening. “I know your torture chamber has stocks but do you have a rack? I have stocks and a rack, the newest model. And over here, look at these, I had to send away for them–the latest in thumb screws!”

Jerry says the torture chamber was just a man cave. I agree. I think it was just for show.

A gift shop.

Just the usual castle amenities.



About Jessica Renshaw
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3 Responses to EUROPEAN SOJOURN: The latest in thumb screws (Day 4)

  1. Enoch Stansfield (Nancy too) says:

    Nick and I visited a castle while we were in Germany. This castle you went to reminded me so much of that one. We also got to go inside and see the inside. I don’t recall it having a torture chamber. In the castle we saw there were secret passages and a number of very small rooms. It really made me appreciate the homes we live in now.

  2. No, the torture chamber was just that – a torture chamber. People did hideous things to their enemies, both political and religious, in those times.

  3. I like my version of history better. I know there has been hideous cruelty throughout history and is now (ISIS being the most recent example) but in this particular instance, because it doesn’t seem to matter much and the thought of it overwhelms me, I’m choosing not to acknowledge it.

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