Harburg Schloss

Our trip between Rothenburg and Augsburg was a busy one. We spent a couple of hours touring the medieval walled city of Dinklelsbuhl before we set out for our main destination of the day, Augsburg. I mentioned in a previous blog that I would have loved to have visited Nordlingen along the way as it would have made the third town in Bavaria that we had seen that still had its original medieval walls. However, Nordlingen has another major claim to fame in that humanity started to live here in paleolithic times, little understanding that they were inhabiting a meteorite impact crater (Nordlinger Ries) that had been formed 15 million years before. Nordlingen was built 6 kilometres from the centre of the crater. Scientists established in the 1960s that the depression was caused by the impact of a meteorite due to the presence of Coesite rock that can only be formed by the shock pressures of a meteorite impact. The local church in Nordlingen was made with Coesite rock, making it one of the few churches on earth where the building materials have been formed by cosmic forces, emanating from a universe-travelling meteorite (See Appendix 1).

Unbeknown to us, we were driving along the edge of the Nordlinger Ries on the way to Augsburg. We hadn’t pre-planned it, but we noticed the sign on the edge of the road to Harburg Schloss and decided to have a quick stop. We discovered on the information boards outside the castle that hiking the meteorite crater was one of the outdoor activities that the region promoted.

As can be seen from the images here, the castle is a very impressive fortress built on top of a hill that today overlooks the Wornitz River and its valley. Curiously the first recorded mention of the castle comes from 1150 CE but historians believe that this hilltop location had a castle well before this date, at least in the 10th century.

The above image on the left shows the public entry to the castle. As we walked along this road, we noticed that there were lots of images of fairy tales characters and other images placed on sticks to welcome us.

We had encountered references to the Hohenstaufen family associated with the first castle built at Rothenburg. They were a large family intent on castle building and controlling their territory and so they are mentioned as being in control of this schloss in the 12thy century. In this region, the Hohenstaufen family were replaced by the ‘Free Knights of Oettingen’. The Oettingen family name has been prevalent in the history of Southern Germany, right up the 19th century.

In many ways this castle is a small fortified town; it is surrounded by a wall with six towers. Inside the walls there is not just one large building containing all the castle facilities but a series of buildings that perform specific functions for those folk that once lived here. For example on one side of the inner courtyard shown in the image below, there is the bakery on the left (now the ticket office and tourist shop) and on the right is what is referred to as the main palace building where  Oettingen family members would reside

Continuing on around the courtyard, you pass the castle’s well and find yourself in front of a single tower referred to as the keep/dungeon. Next door is the castle complex’s granary with a building just inside the entry to the courtyard that is today used as a restaurant.

Using the overhead photo of the castle below, next door to the palace complex on the western side there is a large building called the Great Hall where no doubt the public business of the castle’s noble family would be carried out. On the opposite side of the courtyard there is the castle’s church. Behind the church on the river side of the castle courtyard there is a viewing platform with amazing views down on the small town of Harburg and along the river valley.

With more time we would have liked to have gone down to Harburg and had a look around but time was getting away from us and we were due in Augsburg. The view from the castle showed us the old stone, six span bridge that crossed the Wornitz River.

APPENDIX 1:  St George’s Kirche Nordlingen

The meteorite Church!


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