Wednesday, December 05, 2007
So here's another image from our fine calendar. (the color picture, not the other one) This is the valley of the Neckar River from the Hornberg--- not the Hornburg (Horn Fort), which is in Lord of the Rings, but the Hornberg (Horn Mountain), which despite being identified as a mountain was in fact the castle of one of Germany's folk heroes, Gotz of the Iron Hand.
Gotz von Berlichingen, who should have an umlaut above his o, was a 16th century German knight and mercenary whose adventures were traced in an autobiography and a famous play by Goethe. The Hornberg was his home, though he seems not to have spent a lot of time there--- instead he was off with his mercenary band raiding towns, kidnapping rich nobles and merchants to hold for ransom, engaging in feuds, and (only when absolutely necessary) fighting battles against people who actually shot back.
It was in one of these latter engagements that he lost his hand, which was replaced by a prosthetic that enabled him to hold a pen, sword, or enormous leather jack of beer, depending on the necessities of the moment. It was the first prosthetic ever, apparently. This iron hand still exists, is in a museum, and was the inspiration for the 20th Century British physician who designed the first modern prosthetic.
Kathy and I encountered the Hornberg during a series of motor trips following the 1990 Worldcon in the Hague. We took a lovely drive down the Neckar, which is a highly picturesque river winding through lovely scenery. Many tall hills overlook the river--- I wouldn't call them mountains myself--- and on every single one perched the ruins of a robber baron castle, situated so as to best exact tolls--- or revenge--- on the river traffic below. Along the river there were incredibly neat German towns with red geraniums hanging from window boxes, and a fair amount of river traffic moved in and out of the locks--- especially now as the robber barons weren't interfering.
By and by we came to a hotel that wasn't a ruin, and was in fact a Schlosshotel, a castle converted to a hotel. We inquired, and the prices were reasonable, so we got a room high up in the hotel, under the rafters, with eiderdown quilts and folk art headboards. The castle also had a very good restaurant, wherein I had wild boar for the first and last time. (Despite the meal being well prepared, I found the flavor disappointing.) Also the air in the restaurant thick with cigarette smoke, and we had to ask for a window to be opened.
In the morning we explored the castle--- still largely a ruin--- and encountered Gotz himself, in audioanimatronic form. For the cost of a mark, Gotz would swill beer and tell a drinking buddy about his life. In German, so we didn't understand much of it.
From a part of the schloss overlooking the Neckar I snapped this picture. The morning mist has not yet risen, and softened the light over the river. The result is a picture, to quote myself, "Romantic and Teutonic as all hell."