The map to the right below shows the towns and cities included on the tourist drive in Germany called the Romantic road which we had been following for the last 8/9 days, starting out at Wurzburg. It is meant to be based very loosely on the old Roman Road that once led the Roman armies up to the Rhine River. It is of course a tourist marketing idea developed after the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949 to rebuild the tourist industry in the south of Germany, through Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg. We enjoyed the tour very much, our only worry was that lack of time meant we didn’t capture all the places we wanted to visit along the way. The town of Fussen down on the southern border of Germany is the end point of the Romantic Road, famous for the amazing castles nearby. For various reasons, we decided we would stay in a hotel at Nesselwang which was only a 20 minute drive to Fussen. This decision resulted in us spending more time in Nesselwang than in Fussen due to the cows, rather than the castles we had come to see.
We got away reasonably early from Augsburg and we stopped on the way at Schongau for morning tea and a quick look around. Again checking the Romantic Road map above right, Schongau was the sixth town this side of Fussen but only 38 Kms from this castle town of Fussen.
It wasn’t far from Schongau to Nesselwang and we arrived in good time and decided to have a stroll around the centre of town before checking into our hotel, the Akzent Hotel Alpenrose. It was a very pleasant town with the centre dominated by the impressive St Andreas Church and the Rathaus, housed in what looked like a large Swiss Chalet.
After casing the centre of town, we drove up the hill to our hotel and settled ourselves into our hotel for the next three nights. That left us with half a day to do some exploring of the region. We had decided we would do our major castle day near Fussen tomorrow and after checking the map, we decided would go to one of the closer castles at Hopferau. (See right for photo of the ‘castle’ we missed visiting!) As we were driving along the highway a little north of Fussen, we noticed that two hills off to our right both appeared to have ruined castle on their peaks. We came to a carpark designed for visitors to this area and decided that a good walk to TWO ruined castles was good value for money.
Lack of local knowledge meant that parking down near the main road was a mistake for our hiking legs as we discovered that the ruined castles were a long way up the hill. In the meantime, we had to walk up hill through a large, very green cow paddock before we got to the fence-line that led us into the property of a perfectly positioned café/restaurant, the Schloßbergalm Zell. After an ice-cream we began walking up hill again and started to realise what invading other countries and beseiging their castles really meant…hard and dangerous work! We persisted and eventually came face to face with our first castle, a ruin with its best years many centuries behind it.
This was Eisenberg Castle built close to the border with Austria and the small region of Tyrol in the Alps along the border with Italy and Austria. It was built by local nobility around 1313 who had been forced out of their mountain home further south near Tyrol and they moved to this region in Bavaria. The castle builders, the Hohenegg family, decided that times were tough in these mountains and sold their castle to Austria in 1382. The son of the constable of the castle decided that what the area needed was another castle nearby, the Hohenfreyberg castle (1418-32). In Germany in the 16th century the peasants were restless and in the 1525 uprising, the Eisenberg Castle was taken and damaged badly.
Since the 1980s, the locals have done a lot of work to restore the castle for the safety of visitors wishing to explore everybody’s childhood dream, the ruined castle on a hill. Outside the main walls a small but effective tower/platform has been built for tourists to start off their tour of Eisenberg castle by checking out both the extent of the castle and surrounding views of the beautiful countryside.
The local peasants who had breached to castle walls in the early 16th century lived to regret their actions as after the uprising was put down, the owner of this castle received high compensation payments from the local peasants for some time and Werner Volker of Freyberg was able to rebuild his castle. Perhaps he wouldn’t have bothered if he had known that in the next major war in the region (30 Years War), the Austrians invaded the area and burnt down their own castles!
We spent a reasonable time exploring the nooks and crannies of this castle before we moved on to the castle on the next hill, the Hohenfreyberg Castle. As we made our way up to the next castle, we encountered a number of folk whose interest wasn’t in the castles. There appeared to be lot of locals where the paths up to and around the castle were their jogging tracks and we very impressed by their enthusiasm!
This castle was built between 1418-32 and the local noticeboard claimed that it was one of the last castles in central Europe that was built in the medieval manner. It has some old-fashioned features for the time; apparently the 15th century knights faced both military and economic decline and their attempts to keep power in society was doomed to failure. Building a 13th century designed castle to face 15th century military attacks was ludicrous and the builder, Frederick of Fryberg, exceeded his financial resources, went ‘bankrupt’ and had to sell his dream castle to the Austrians. The Austrians burnt down their own castle in 1646. The image to the left is a recreation of what Hohenfreyberg Castle would have looked like in its ‘Hayday’.
It was a very interesting castle to wander around. It was renovated by the locals between 1995-2005 and the noticeboard explained that the aim of the renovation was “not to diminish the charm, beautiful outline and architectural history of this fantastic piece of late medieval, castellated architecyture“.
The downhill walk to the car had to be taken in stages. First of all we had to get down the slopes of ‘two-castle’ mountain back to the café. The next stage was the winding paved path that took us back through the lush paddock of the cows, some of whom had bells around their necks which tolled every now and then as these slow, bovine beauties ate their way across the hill side. We should have recognised that we spent too much time admiring these beasts…it had repercussions for our time usage over the next few days!