Drachenfels (Dragon’s Rock) is the scene of the legend of Siegfried and the dragon where the Burg Drachenfels (Castle Dragon’s Rock) sits above the Rhine in the mythical Siebengebirge (seven hills) region. A mixture of famous legends, Siegfried sailed down the Rhine to slay the dragon after which he bathed in the dragon’s blood to become invincible, but a leaf floated down onto his back which became his vulnerable spot, leading to his demise. Look out George and the dragon and Achilles. So today we went to the scene of the myth.
The castle on the top of the hill was built between 1138 and 1167, originally to protect Cologne from attacks from the South. The castle was ‘slighted’ (deliberately demolished) in the 17th century after the Thirty Years’ War. Lord Byron has a poem where it features. Ok, history lesson over.
You can either walk up a steep incline to the castle or take a cog or rack railway, which was our chosen transport. That is an experience in itself as you are dragged up there (not the same as not wanting to go). The carriages built in the fifties just have doors on one side and inside and out have that wonderful design style of the period. When we got to the top we were soon standing in front of this awe-inspiring ruin but in truth there’s not much of it left, it’s the legend that lives on.
It was very windy up there and the path to the actual ruin was closed off, so we took our life into our hands, presumed the dragon was asleep and went up to the observation point (check out the sci-fi galaxy viewer). The view is rather spectacular, you can follow the curves of the Rhine and see all the barges slowly making their way towards their destinations in the direction of Switzerland or The Netherlands. In the distance you can see Bonn and beyond that Cologne. With my zoom lens I can just make out Cologne cathedral. The other way Olivia and Gerd were trying to figure out where their village was in the hills beyond Königswinter and Rhöndorf.
I rather like being a tourist even if the locals can see tourists just as a necessary evil, an economic compromise. Apparently in Venice there are so many tourists that they are being encouraged to stay away.
We decided to walk back down past an abandoned mansion and steep winding paths with forest all around us. Looking up into the twilight sky there were arrows of returning geese. Even they seem to know that the spring is upon us early. Halfway down the hill is Schloss Drachenburg, built in 1882 by a financier called Baron Stephan von Sarter, neogothic in design it would be a great location for the In Deep Music Archive.
At the bottom of the hill in the car park someone has scrawled ‘UFO’ on the wall, I wonder if it is the band, because German guitarist Michael Schenker was a member and it seemed like it was graffitied a long time ago, because another graffiti was ‘Kilroy Was Here’, anybody born in the fifties or sixties or before would recognize that phrase even if you never knew what it was supposed to mean, another mythical character.
Listening to some seventies German and Dutch music before we leave Germany on Wednesday. Inga Rumpf’s Frumpy, By The Way 1972. I bought it in Lucerne in Switzerland, hard to find outside the continent. Successful in Germany in the seventies, unknown in England. There’s some great footage online. I also listened to the very hard to find George Kooymans’ solo album, Jo Jo, from 1971. Kooymans is the guitarist in Golden Earring and I found the record those 3 days we were in Amsterdam. Kooymans was 13 when he formed the band in 1961 with his 15 year old neighbour Rinus Gerritsen. They have been together for 59 years. I saw them in the seventies in Liverpool at the Stadium when Radar Love was a hit. I can still see him strutting across the stage all dressed in black with his black Les Paul, Gerritsen super cool with his Dan Electro Longhorn bass, Barry Hay singing and playing the flute and Cesar Zuiderwilk jumping over his drum kit (as you do). This concert was also where I discovered another of my fave Dutch seventies bands, Alquin, the support that night.
Ancient legends, ruined castles and seventies rock bands, what a perfect day. But for those of you that don’t go for the seventies sound and you only know one song from The Netherlands in the sixties (Venus by Shocking Blue), go and blow your mind and listen to the AMAZING Group 1850, the album is Paradise Now from 1969. You won’t be disappointed. Interestingly the cover photo is taken by Herman Kooymans? I wonder if…
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