Sunday, May 22, 2016

P-day in Braunfels - 21 May 2016

Credit where credit is due:
We were with 4 other couples just an hour from our apartment in Frankfurt to visit the old city of Braunfels. We felt a special connection to this place because the prince they refer to as "Texas Charlie." Prince Carl (Karl) of Solms-Braunfels (1812 – 1875), was a German prince and military officer in both the Austrian army and in the cavalry of the Grand Duchy of Hesse. He spearheaded the establishment of colonies of German immigrants in Texas. Prince Solms named New Braunfels, Texas in honor of his homeland. This guy was pretty interesting. He was originally landless, but he was well educated and a military officer. He read books about Texas, and he was eager to develop a New Germany there. In anticipation of his second marriage to Maria Josephine Sophie, Prince Solms formed plans to build "Sophie's Castle", and layed the cornerstone in New Braunfels in 1845. Sophie refused to leave Germany, and Carl never returned to Texas after his marriage to her on 3 December 1845.

The Solms family has owned this castle for 800 years and has occupied it for almost all of that time (they were displaced by Spaniard, then Swede and then Spaniard occupiers again during the 30-years War). Elder Jarrard made sure that the tour group knew that we are Texans and have a connection to New Braunfels. The tour guide was telling the group that virtually every tour they have someone with a connection to New Braunfels who comes to find out about the origin of the settlers there.

We were not allowed to take pictures inside the castle, but it was full of artwork, antique furnishings, and armor. The guide had everyone slip on felt overshoes to keep from marring the beautiful wood floors in the areas we were allowed to visit. Part of the castle is still a residence for the owner.

Jeff overheard two young women being asked by the tour guide if they were sisters. They were clearly Americans, and Jeff looked for a missionary opportunity. He asked them if they spoke German, and one of them said that she did. When he explained the tour guide's question, they said, "Oh no, we are girlfriends." They were from San Francisco and knew that we were missionaries from our tags. Jeff let it go when they made it clear that they were gay, but he thought later that he should have talked with them some more.
From the south at Phillipstein

Wish we had had a better camera for a close up
From just below the castle walls
Towers, towers everywhere

From inside the outer walls
Imposing stone walls. Portions of the castle date from the 13th century.
One of the main entrances to the castle grounds

Multiple gates must have made the castle easier to defend

Series of gates leading to the old city. A house was built between the gates in the 1600s, and someone lives there today.

That's actually an apartment above the gate

Elder and Sister Snapp trudging up to the castle

Leaving the castle inner courts for the old city

That's an ivy covered carriage house

First gate as you walk down to the old city

Guarding the gate
A door in the inner courtyard (to the residence - we didn't go in there.

This narrow courtyard was the assembly point for tours

Leaving the interior part of the castle at the end of the tour

Love this old door and the ivy covered steps

The date on the brass cannon is 1538. It apparently was not too useful. The guide said that the barrel had to be cooled for about an hour between firings. 

This tower is inside and is part of the family residence. It was a 19th century addition. 

Waiting for our group to assemble for the tour
We love the lilacs

In German they are called Flieder
A few pictures from the castle wall looking down at the newer part of Braunfels

The old city

The old city was incredibly charming, too. We had a very nice lunch on the open market plaza. There was some kind of road rally underway and antique cars, trucks, and motorcycles of all kinds kept rolling through the plaza for a brief check in, so it was like watching a parade. Elder Snapp and Elder Newman are car enthusiasts, so they loved it.

An old well house that was sunk in the basalt. It was complete with a sign warning parents to keep their children from falling in, among other things.

This street was barely wide enough for a car, but there were none moving in this part of the town.

Last gate (or first depending on your direction) going down into the old market square.

The center of the old city is always the market square

The first (or last) gate of the castle looking up from the lower end of the market square.

Beautiful old building is now the tourist information office.
The side of the same building

The distinctive blue lion is a mark of the Solms family
There was even time for a little shopping. The men found a nice bench in a park, but after they had been sitting there for a while, Elder Newman asked, "Do you guys smell dog poop?" Notice what he is sitting next to.

Snapps and Jarrards walking down to the old city

A sad war memorial

The Gasthaus where we had lunch

Hotel Solms

The bench was a great sunny spot in the park - except for the bin Elder Newman sat next to

What a beautiful spring day

Notice the German lady with the walker didn't need a sweater. Sister Kirk needs to toughen up

The drive home was spectacular as we wound through the woods of the Taunus mountains. We stopped just south of Braunfels at Phillipstein. This tiny settlement grew up below a fortress built on a high spot by a competing duchy to protect their border from the Solms family's expansion. It fell into ruin in the 1600s, but it is a great place to look out over the valley and take a picture of Schloss Braunfels to the north. It was also apparently the local teen hangout - not much else to do in this tiny village. Also, rap music seems to be a universal language - sadly.

It was steep climb through the woods to the fortress ruins

This tower and a bit of wall are all that is left. You can see the restoration work on the upper part of the tower.

This ornate manhole cover from 1904 was mounted to a wall for some reason

The view was worth the short climb

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