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What’s Your Fairytale? Sleeping in a Castle

bacharach germany castle hostel

With my cheek pressed against the portal glass of a orange and white Easy Jet plane, I absentmindedly began to flip through my Lonely Planet Germany. I was on my way to Freiburg and to get my holiday spirit on hopping from one Christmas market town to another in south-west Germany. Sipping on an overpriced cup of coffee, I was searching for ideas of places to visit after Freiburg. I had a tentative idea of where I wanted to go, but booked nothing, hoping to keep my options open and my plans flexible. Perusing on the section of the Romantic Rhine, I struck gold.

You guys owe me, I am about to give away one of my best kept travel secrets.

One time I got to stay in a castle in Germany.

And not just any old castle. A restored 12th century medieval castle, turrets and all overlooking the mountains, vineyards and forests lining the Rhine river. Did I mention it’s a hostel now? That’s right, I got to stay in a fairytale castle hostel, with my own room, bathroom, breakfast and dinner for 20 euros!

bacharach germany castle hostel

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Tucked away in the Rhine section of Lonely Planet was a wee little paragraph entitled Bacharach and under suggested accommodations: Burg Stahleck, burg meaning castle in German. I was hooked! That night after setting into my 16 bed dorm room (never again! Snorers, you are the bane of my hostelling existence! You know who you are, book a private room!) I went online and sent an email in horribly bad German to the hostel in Bacharach asking (read: begging) them  to let me stay there for 2 nights. Youth Hostel Bacharach is part of the German hostelling network Jugendherberge (DJH) which means that you can’t book it on other hostel and hotel booking websites, and I had to pay a minimal fee to be part of the network, at least I did back in the day.

This meant that this hostel was relatively unknown and mostly occupied with Germans and locals, also a lot of families, making it a unique experience.

I know you guys have heard me wax poetic about how I love castles, so I’ll save you the trouble of blabbering on about it again. Let’s just say that I was more than excited to get to stay here. After confirming my reservation, I spent the next few days buying trinkets at the Christmas markets and drinking far too much mulled wine. Finally that magical day arrived when I hopped on the train to Bacharach, well I used my Rail Pass to hop on and off to little cities on my way to Bacharach.

bacharach germany castle hostel

Jumping off the train in Bacharach was an experience I’ll never forget. The sun had set and frost had already begun to settle on the grassy platform. That’s right, Bacharach is so small it doesn’t even have a cement platform, just grass. Twirling around I looked up and saw the castle keep high above me covered in twinkling Christmas lights. Magical! But looking around, my heart sank when I realized I was the only person who got off the train. There was not another soul in sight and it looked liked the little village had already gone to bed meaning no one to ask for directions. How was I supposed to get up there?

Bacharach is the kind of town with only one main road, that I later learned was made up of switchbacks that run up to the back of the castle, but I couldn’t see it from the train platform. Crossing the street, I saw a staircase going up between houses and dense trees marked with a picture of a castle and someone walking with an arrow pointing up. Hiking my heavy backpack on my shoulders, I sighed when realized I was in for a little midnight hike in the woods. Lovely.

Staring at that dark staircase and trail with trepidation, I felt sure that I was going to be kidnapped and raped at some point that night. There is nothing creepier that being outside in a foreign place with no one around and complete silence. I took a deep breath, pulled my hood over my head to hide my shiny blonde hair, and started up the stairs. And by started I mean I ran as fast as my little legs could carry me.

Luckily, when I emerged from the staircase and forest, the thin trees gave way to a steep open hillside with a trail crossing back and forth up to the castle. Huffing and puffing in the frigid night air, I slowly waddled my way up to the castle bent over with my heavy backpack like a turtle. Bathed in moonlight (thank god there were no clouds otherwise I would have had to climb up in pitch black) I slipped and slid around on the pebbles and icy fallen leaves up the trail.

bacharach germany castle hostel

bacharach germany castle hostel

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What seemed like hours later (probably only 30 minutes) I emerged in the medieval stone courtyard unmolested and satisfied with myself for not dying. I checked in and went straight to my room to shower and change. I still remember that my face was beet red from the exertion of my little jaunt in the woods and the biting winter air. Even my ears were red. I crawled into bed and promptly passed out.

The next morning I woke up to the sun trying to break through the mists clinging to the river and mountains. The view looked like a painting! The landscape was turned to silver glass from the overnight frost and the round sun turned the clouds yellow as it tried to peek through. The world seemed sparkly and new. It was one of the few moments I’ve had while traveling where I didn’t want to leave the hostel!

bacharach germany castle hostel

Without out a doubt, this was the neatest place I’ve ever stayed, making for an unforgettable and unique experience. I would definitely recommend trying to change up accommodation like this when traveling. It was by far my favorite part of a several month backpacking trip around Europe. For three days, my own personal dream became reality of getting to stay in a castle. My fairytale came true!

What’s the coolest hostel you’ve ever stayed in? Would you like to stay in a unique place like a castle when traveling? What is your fairytale?

How to: Bacharach is a stop on the Koblenz-Mainz train route and is easily accessible to other cities around Germany; trains run every half hour or so. Need I harp on the fact that Germany has one of the best train systems I’ve ever seen? Germany has lots of train passes and deals, and I remember I spent the day traveling up and down the Rhine river from town to town on a pass I bought that day. You can fly into Frankfurt Hahn airport nearby serviced by Ryanair or into bigger towns like Freiburg, Cologne or Frankfurt with other airlines. To book a room at the Hostel at Burg Stahleck in Bacharach, call +49 6743 1266 or email at bacharach@diejugendherbergen.de

bacharach germany castle hostel

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26 Responses to What’s Your Fairytale? Sleeping in a Castle

  1. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas December 3, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    Gorgeous! My grandpa took me to France the summer I turned 17 and we staye din the most beautiful spots, including this castle: http://www.chateau-de-sully.com/

    • Liz December 5, 2012 at 3:14 am #

      very cool! Visiting the castles and chateau’s in France are on my dream list!

  2. Alex @ ifs ands & Butts December 3, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    No freaking way. Ah. I gotta go. Amazing!!

    • Liz December 3, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

      go! It’s amazing!!! Seriously the coolest place I’ve ever been and it’s not too far from you!

  3. Elke December 3, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

    “You can fly into Frankfurt Hahn airport nearby serviced by Ryanair or into bigger towns like Freiburg, Cologne or Frankfurt with other airlines.”

    Is that a typo there? You might have meant Stuttgart. Freiburg is a pretty tiny town and there’s no airport here–the nearest airport is in Basel (Switzerland). I wish there was, I live there and it’d be far more convenient. 🙂

  4. Kay December 4, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    This is SO cool. I’ve heard Germany is absolutely gorgeous. I really want to see this castle too!

    Thank you so much for sharing, Liz! Can’t wait to see more of your posts!

    • Liz December 5, 2012 at 3:13 am #

      Thanks Kay! Germany is so beautiful, especially this area! I definitely recommend visiting around the Rhine! It’s straight out of a fairytale-picture perfect!

  5. nikki wynn December 4, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    What a great find! Thanks for sharing! I am adding that castle to my list of awesome/cheap stays!

    • Liz December 5, 2012 at 3:13 am #

      definitely put it on your bucket list, the prices haven’t changed much! How can you not want to stay in a castle for 20 euros???

  6. Andrea December 6, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    I was in Bacharach this summer and adored it! It’s my favourite German village by far. I didn’t get to stay in that castle though.

    • Liz May 23, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

      I hope you get to go back one day 🙂

  7. Kaleena's Kaleidoscope December 13, 2012 at 6:58 am #

    Oh my goodness, that castle looks INCREDIBLE!! I’ve never had a huge desire to go to Germany, but this immediately just bumped it up to the top of my list. I’ll make sure to get there before dark so I don’t have to run through the woods like Little Red Riding Hood, like you did. 😉 I’ve stayed in some pretty impressive hostels, but nothing to these standards. I’d like to show up wearing one of those pointy princess hats and walk around singing songs like a Disney princess. Totally necessary. 😉

  8. Elena February 7, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    What a beautiful place and extraordinary experience!
    I’ll tell you about my fairytale: I grew up in a real medioeval castle in Italy!! I miss it so much, I remember a moonlight walk together with my cat all the way down to the river in the valley and back, no murderers nor kidnappers… I was feeling like a witch!
    I used to play with the children of the families living in the hamlet but during the ’70s they all abandoned the land to search for work in larger towns… It was sad, that’s when my parents started renting some of the houses, mainly dutch at the beginning. Now it’s a beutifull agriturismo, check it out when you can http://ww.montalto.it, for me is still my unspoiled childhood dream every time I manage to go back to visit my parents

  9. Pedro September 18, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    But how did you get a single room in a YouthHostel, Liz?

    • Liz September 19, 2013 at 4:47 am #

      Most hostels have private room options 🙂

  10. Alberto December 21, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    Hello there! This article couldn’t be written much better!
    Reading through this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He continually kept preaching about this. I am going to forward this information to him.
    Pretty sure he’s going to have a very good read. Thanks for sharing!

  11. nice air jordan 3 5 sales September 23, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Exceptionally well written!

  12. Sue May 17, 2015 at 9:49 pm #

    I stayed in that youth hostel castle in the late 70’s! It’s a long time ago but I remember it vividly, and washing in cold, cold water! I also remember climbing up to the castle with a backpack on. It seemed to take forever but it was worth it. Loved our stay there and the village, too… and the cake! Thanks for the memories revival!

  13. Tim Bearer May 20, 2015 at 7:41 pm #

    Stayed there in September, 1984. Some wonders in life never change! But rather than take buses or trains up and down the river, take passenger boat, bring wine, cheese and crackers, sit on the deck taking pictures of the castles that appear around every bend in the river. Every stop offers new wine, so be ready to jump off an buy another bottle every stop of the way!

  14. Amanda P June 18, 2015 at 11:00 pm #

    This is only about an hour from me. I wouldn’t normally stay overnight so close to home, but it’s tempting since it’s a castle and all.

  15. Meghan Oaks November 11, 2015 at 8:10 pm #

    This just totally jumped to the top of my must visit list this December! It’s been an item on my husband’s and mine bucket list to stay in a castle and this one sounds perfect! Thanks for the fantastic write up 🙂

  16. Marc Van Baelen December 12, 2015 at 11:55 am #

    Thank you very much for this wonderful story ! I have been to Bacharach about 8 years ago and, although quite small, it was actually one of the most beautiful villages I’ve ever visited. Actually the full Rheinland from Koblenz to Bingen is worth visiting, but there’s nothing as particular as Bacharach.
    Reading your story brings back beautiful pictures and memories ; I have got the feeling that, although impressed at the time, I have still not seen some parts of the town. Yearning to re-visit it asap !! Thanks again. I really envoyed reading your story.

  17. Marc Van Baelen December 12, 2015 at 11:56 am #

    I really enJoyed reading your story. 🙂

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