Castle Frankenstein

In 2002, I was working with the Department of Defense Finance & Accounting Service. About once a month, I would travel from Grafenwoehr, Germany to DFAS headquarters at Kaiserslautern to hand-deliver financial records for the US Army Transportation Management Center for Europe.

On one trip, I finished early and took the autobahn back home. I saw a sign around the Mannheim and Darmstadt area for Burg Frankenstein. This immediately piqued my interest. I had time to spare so I took a short excursion to the castle said to inspire Mary Shelley to write her gothic novel, The Modern Prometheus, in 1818. Today, we know this story through Halloween and classic hit movies as the story of a monster come to life by a mad scientist through the channeling of a lightning bolt.

But did you know that there really was a mad scientist?

Castle Frankenstein is all mostly in ruins now. In 2002, it was still quite large and stunning, however. I remember the stones being almost red. I remember walking through the ruins alone and up the stone steps to the towers. The place is supposed to be haunted.

The castle was built around 1250. It was sold in 1662 and used as a hospital for a while before falling into ruins. By the time Mary Shelley may have seen it in 1814 when she visited the Rhine region and a small town called Gernsheim, 10 miles away, the castle would have been in pretty bad shape. No one knows for sure if Mary Shelley went there but it is believed her stepmother, who was a translator for Brothers Grimm stories, had first heard the story of the mad scientist and passed the story on to Shelley.

Who is this mad scientist?

His name was Johann Konrad Dippel. He lived at the castle or near the castle sometime around 1673. He invented what he called an “elixer of life” that was said to cure many diseases. Johann was a professional alchemist, a medieval term for a chemist. According to rumor, Johann also did anatomy and some even speculated that he exhumed bodies for his research.

There are other fascinating and mysterious stories associated with the grounds around the castle. Supposedly, there is a fountain of youth nearby that turns old women into young girls on Walpurgis Nacht. There is also a story of a knight fighting a deadly dragon.

The most interesting story I found is located on Mt. Ibes. This is the location of a collection of magnetic stones. Compasses do not work on Mt. Ibes. It is a place supposedly where ancient rites, rituals, traditions take place according to the old ways of the Franks, the previous Germanic tribes that lived in this area. Frankenstein literally means “stone of the Franks” which could be related to this magnetic stone circle phenomenon. Mt. Ibes is supposed to be a sacred and respected place.

Sadly, I did not take pictures of the trip. This was 2002 prior to the arrival of the smartphone. and it was just a side excursion from the autobahn. It was one of those “spur of the moment” decisions that I will never regret. Some day it would be great to see the Castle Dracula too.

There is another place close nearby there along the border with France. The paranormal story from this place was called The Bleeding Nun and it is featured in another gothic classic written by Matthew Gregory Lewis called The Monk. The bleeding nun is an apparition that appears at Castle Lindenberg and warns you of giving in to lustful desires as it must have led to her demise. The Monk was published in 1796.

The only other story I really love from the Rhineland region is probably The Lorelei. She is a beautiful apparition that sits on the rocks just above a dangerous turn of the Rhine River. She was jilted by a faithless lover and committed suicide by casting herself into the waters of the Rhine at that spot and drowned. Now, she seeks revenge on sailors or other male travelers on the Rhine river. She sings a wondrous tune just like a siren. She is said to be exquisitely beautiful and also…..deadly. Men who see her, generally swim towards her….only to drown in the treacherous rapids below her. She became the inspiration for a portion of the small adventure book I wrote, Searching for Fire.

Here is a nice link to a BBC article with pictures of Castle Frankenstein. Thanks for reading this and have a gute nacht, freunde.

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20161018-germanys-most-monstrous-castle

See Keukenhof Gardens in Virtual Tour

One of the most beautiful places in the world is Keukenhof, considered to be Europe’s gardens. Check out this great link from the Daily Mail that talks about a virtual tour by drone of the gardens put together by photographer Albert Dros. Scroll through the brief article and you will see the videos to click on and view the wonderful outdoor spectacle that is Keukenhof. The park is closed for the first time in 71 years but still can be seen through this virtual tour.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/escape/article-8272887/See-flowers-Keukenhof-garden-Holland-virtually-thanks-photographer-Albert-Dros.html

I learned about this oddly enough by researching the Dutch origins of the Snickerdoodle cookie. I’m smiling right now just thinking about how the internet leads you off on various other paths so easily. Yes, I’m making an old family recipe book. It is just a short collection of favorite family recipes that I am planning to give to my mother-in-law for Mother’s Day which is fast approaching.

My family name on one side is Schippers which in Dutch means “son of a skipper” or “son of a shipowner.” My family moved to western Kansas in the Midwest United States in the late 1800s from the Volga River region of Russia. They were German-Dutch farmers that lived in Russia under the authorization of Catherine the Great. With all the turmoil of the late 1800s and early 1900s, they re-settled in America.

Snickerdoodles were a popular recipe among Dutch-German immigrants along with other things like Smargs and Beirocks. Here is some origin information about this sweet cinnamon sugar cookie. This is a great article:

https://www.myrecipes.com/cooking-method/baking-recipes/snickerdoodles-history

And here is our family recipe for the cinnamon sugar cookie. It’s a pretty good one:

(Google Images.)

Snickerdoodles

1 and ½ cup flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

½ cup vegetable shortening

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk

4 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Combine flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.  Set aside.  In another bowl, cream shortening and sugar.  Beat in the egg and the milk.  Stir in the dry ingredients.  Cover dough and chill for ½ to 1 hour.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.  Combine 3 tablespoons of the sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Roll the dough into small walnut sized balls.  Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture and place on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until very lightly colored.  Transfer to wire racks to cool. 

Bringing in 2020 with Ice Wine

Oops, we totally missed celebrating Repeal Day on December 5th.  

But where there’s booze involved, we can make another reason to party.

…..so…..

December 15th was Bill of Rights Day

…..and although, the amendment ending the prohibition of liquor wasn’t really in the first 10 articles called the Bill of Rights…..

well, it certainly makes it onto our TOP 5 FAVORITE AMENDMENTS OF ALL TIME list!

And, I’m certain our Founding Fathers would agree.  I mean, wasn’t it Ben Franklin that said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”?

Then, of course, there is Samuel Adams…the namesake for a very fine beer.

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Repeal Day occurred in 1933 during the Great Depression.  It ended 14 dry spell years for the country.

Good grief!  That’s a long wait for a beer!

So…in honor of Repeal Day or Bill of Rights Day or just to bring in the New Year right, we should probably talk about German Eiswein.

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You are probably thinking, “What is that?”

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Eiswein, or Ice wine, is a special product with limited availability due to the nature of creating it.  The grapes are picked on the first frost and processed to enhance the sweet flavor of the wine.  Picking frosted grapes is an arduous task that involves a large on-call work force.  The grapes are cold for the fingers and the harvest must be done in a few hours.

Eiswein usually comes in smaller bottles and is used as a dessert pairing.  It is considered to be greater value than these degrees of German wine:

Auslese

Spatlese

Taflewein

Ice wine production occurs in the United States as well but primarily in the Great Lakes region.  Michigan is the biggest producer of Ice Wine.