Castles were the theme of our weekend in Germany, and my favourite castle was Burg Cochem. A beautiful drive through rolling German hills culminated in a lovely little town on the banks of the Moselle River.
Up on the hill was a perfect little castle, surrounded by vineyards.
After climbing up the windy hill, we were ushered through a gate into an idyllic courtyard to join the guided tour through the castle.
Our guide was a seemingly non-nonsense German lady who secretly had a hilariously dry sense of humour.
The castle was originally built in the 11th century, but rebuilt and filled with gorgeous artifacts from a range of different time periods eight centuries later by a businessman from Berlin, who used it as his family's summer home.
Highlights included several real suits of armour, this mermaid lamp that imparts good luck to anyone who touches her belly, a huge wild boar head mounted on the wall, and these wine flagons, which are from a monastery and are big enough to hold the normal daily ration of wine for a monk (approximately 4 liters).
As the only children on the tour older than babies, Axa and Raj were invited to try to find the castle's secret passage.
After some hunting, they discovered the button on the floor that swung open the wood-paneled secret door.
Also fascinating was the spiral staircase, which goes the wrong way round. The idea is that an invading army running up the staircase will not be able to grasp both the hand rail and their swords.
The castle afforded some lovely views of the surrounding countryside. Even in the dead of winter, the place is magical.
And the tour, of course, would not have been complete without getting in trouble with the subsequent tour guide (who apparently lacked even a secret sense of humour) for lagging behind to take a kissing selfie.
After coming back down from the hill, we had lunch in the picturesque town square, and then drove home, well satisfied with the results of our castle quest.
And here's my favourite photo. There are few things better than a medieval castle seen through a stained glass window.