The great novelist Victor Hugo decribed Pfalzgrafenstein, a.k.a. Burg Pfalzgrafenstein, Pfalzgrafenstein Castle, or simply The Pfalz, as “A ship of stone, eternally afloat upon the Rhine, and eternally lying at anchor before the town of Pfalzgrafen.”
Pfalzgrafenstein was a toll castle, which means it collected fares from anyone passing through the region onto the fortified city of Kaub, or towards the Burg Gutenfels castle.
About The Pfalzgrafenstein And Its History
This ancient toll booth had its beginnings in 1326, when Ludwig the Bavarian erected the tower in a pentagon shape. A defensive wall was later added to give the building a more fortified feel.
By 1477, Burg Pfalzgrafenstein fell into the hands of the Count of Katzenelnbogen. During his rule, the castle truly began to become the fierce stronghold it is remembered for today.
Between 1607 and 1755, gun bastions, the turrets and the signature Baroque-style tower cap were added on as well.
With its strategic location “eternally afloat upon the Rhine,” Pfalzgrafenstein became a force to be reckoned with. It stopped any boat crossing the rivers at this point with a massive iron chain that stretched across the water, ready to be pulled at any moment, if the ship was unwilling to pay the toll. The reluctant boatsmen were also kept in the castle dungeon until their bill was paid.
It should come as little surprise that this ferocious fortress was never conquered or destroyed by marauding armies, or even the forces of nature. Tolls continued until the Prussians took control of the country in 1866.
For the next hundred years, it had the more benevolent purpose of acting as a signal station for boat traffic on the Rhine.
By 1946, Pfalzgrafenstein was again in state hands. It was turned into a museum and restored to its previous glory.
Pfalzgrafenstein Highlights And Features
The Pfalz’s museum gives its visitors a fascinating overview of life in the 14th century. And with such attention to detail, guests should be forewarned: there are no restroom facilities or even electricity within the tower!
Apart from that, guests will still enjoy the experience while perusing the various exhibits.
This is the site of one of the Burg Pfalzgrafenstein’s most enduring legends. Count Konrad was a great friend to the Emperor Barbarossa and equally disdainful of the Emperor’s rival, his cousin, Duke Henry the Lion of Brunswick. Count Konrad had great hopes for his daughter — his only child — to make an advantageous marriage, since her husband would become the actual heir to his own fortune.
Unfortunately for the count, his daughter Agnes was far more interested in love than in titles. Even worse, she was in love with the son of Duke Henry — the avowed enemy of her father and the Emperor.
The Count’s wife sided with her lovelorn daughter, and so Konrad had both of them locked away in the tower of Pfalzgrafenstein. However, the younger Henry was a determined lover and found a ferryman to take him to the island where he was reunited with Agnes. With the blessing of her mother, a few nights later, the two were wed in secret.
After many months, the Count was summoned to the island. He soon met not only his new son-in-law, but also his grandchild. Konrad expected the worst when he told Barbarossa the news. However, the Emperor was delighted that Agnes and Henry had brought the warring families together, and became the godfather to the child.
Guests to the tower can still see where the baby’s cradle once stood.
Pfalzgrafenstein Location And Opening Hours
Burg Pfalzgrafenstein can be found on the island of Falkenau (Pfalz) in the Rhine River, near the village of Kaub.
Navigation system users can get there by searching for the sight Zollburg Pfalzgrafenstein in Kaub.
There is also a train station (“Kaub”) located in the center of town. Because of its watery location, you must take a ferry in order to reach the castle. If the weather conditions are less than optimal, ferry service may be canceled. So be sure to check the forecast before you leave!
Pfalzgrafenstein Opening Hours
The castle is open year-round, except for December. Hours generally run from 10:00 a.m until 5:00 p.m.
In the summer months, you can visit until 6:00 p.m. every day except Monday. In the colder months of January, February and November, The Pfalz is only open on weekends.