The Concealed Castle

By Dennis Rettke, Traveling Donkeys

For our road trip through Europe, there was no doubt in our mind that we wanted to drive as to fully immerse ourselves in our European encounter, and it didn’t take long before we drove the car away from the highway and into adventure.

It was a sunny day and the bright yellow glow beamed onto the forest-clad foothills. Small villages and imposing villas clutched the hillsides as we slowly travelled away from the more developed parts of Italy. We began to cross rivers, as the faint outline of mountains appeared on the northern horizon.

Up until this point, we had seen a number of castles with their respective village scattered among the hills, each one of them in different states of disrepair. One particular one caught our eye – a castle hidden in a ridge, tall and proudly positioned above the river far below. We only caught a brief glance before the mountain quickly hid it behind one of its rocky wings. We really wanted to check out one of these hidden secrets and decided that this one was calling out to us.

As we began to climb towards the castle, the road became narrower and it wasn’t long before it was reduced to a single lane. As we entered the village, the road hugged the buildings so closely it resembled more a footpath than a roadway. The village looked like time had stood still since the 17th century and as we began to discover it on foot, we encountered a small courtyard that looked straight out from an Elven fable. A stone house with a wooden balcony still had flower baskets with red flowers adorning the home, while to its left another house was completely covered in ivy. Drooping down in every corner, the ivy hid the house so well, it looked as if a tree had grown and the people had dug a house out of the wide trunk. Green shrubs and flowers completed the natural cloak. The fact that no one was around completed the tranquil atmosphere.

We strolled around the village and had a brief rest under the shade of some trees before walking back to the car. Realising the castle wasn’t in this village we drove back to the crossroad to take another road, that lead to another settlement. A small car park and a church beckoned us to explore this place as well and peering over a wall, we admired the view to the village below and the highway even further down with an endless trail of toy-sized cars, busy to reach their destination.

It was time to continue our journey to Croatia. We drove back down the winding narrow road and back onto the highway that would lead us to our next destination.
We never found the castle, but to have glimpsed it on the crag and to have had the possibility to delve into a mysterious village gave us such a high spirit! To this day, we recall how we felt and what it was like to come across this amazing scene.

Would we have had that chance on a tour?
No way!
Would we have even seen it had we not taken this quiet highway instead of the motorway?

Our message is to venture off the beaten path. You don’t have to travel to Europe to find tantalizing corners that you never thought existed. Nor do you need to visit a five-star attraction. These corners are everywhere, even within 5 minutes of where you live. Look to the left and right sometimes and you’ll find a place that will stay with you always!

Dennis Rettke is a founder of the website Traveling Donkeys.
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