Peter knows that I love castles and whenever we get to go somewhere on a vacation or a day trip, he tries to include a trip to some castle for me.
The last one we went to has really stuck in my mind more than any other (even more than Neuschwanstein!).
It was raining on the way there, as you can see from picture above, and it reminded me of a dragon wound around a giant rock and determined to stay. (It is a really bad photo, but I love the broody, melancholic feeling it has.)
Ok, I admit, I looove even the thought of dragons (and dinosaurs). But over my time there, I came to think that impression was intentionally given.
Peter told me a bit about it on the drive up. Apparently all Austrian school children are taken there at some point in their education (lucky!).
It is built with 14 gates, along a path that winds up around the rock, each one with it’s own deadly devices, until you reach the castle at the very top.
They do have a funicular, but I would not have taken it even if I could. (It was out of service that day). For a fat little American granny, it was quite a vertical walk, but the path and the gates were the part that really pulled me in and engaged my mind and my emotions.
It wasn’t one of those castles that made me feel like a tourist and like I had to take pictures to document it. I didn’t take many pictures because I got caught up in the experience. I really felt my own presence in that space.
The walls still have the paint and patterns that they were first decorated with. Metal doors are still the original metal doors. It doesn’t take much of a stretch of imagination to feel like a medieval soldier, who has to take the castle. Looking up and knowing that it is a deadly chore and there is no way out of it but up and through…
Some of the gates are barred doors with arrow slits above and holes to pour boiling water or pitch down on you. One of the gates is right beside the guard barracks. Some are on the other side of a drawbridge, each one slightly different and ever more deadly.
As you get higher, the path becomes switch backs, which put you at the mercy of the people on the path above, with more arrow slits and those holes that will give you nightmares… All of this before you would even get to the next gate, running towards a hail of arrows, with even more dropping from above, to finally reach the gate, which might have an inner stone ceiling, triggered to fall and crush you underneath
Some areas are a bit open, though still behind ramparts, and it brought to my mind the generals, overseeing and ordering defenses. I walked over to one and looked down and I could just see in my mind’s eye, vast armies bristling with weapons, stretching out below, as far as the eye could see.
The higher and closer to the castle we got, there were beautiful arched gates and a lovely church and church garden. Touching those stones and walking that path, you could feel the age and the vast span of humanity that had passed there before you.
I actually took some pictures there, because I wanted to make some paintings loosely based on them.
When you get to the castle, it could be confusing to figure out exactly where to enter, if it wasn’t pointed out to you. There were a myriad of paths, clinging to the side of the rock, and ancient stone bridges stretching to reach another building waaaay out on an outcropping of stone. Ancillary buildings bulging from the rock in all directions. The inner castle itself is rather small, but taken as a whole, the castle looks massive.
Just inside the castle walls, there was the blacksmith, an absolute master at his craft from the work that we saw. His family had been the castle blacksmiths for over 600 years. He uses the original forge and Medieval technology that his ancestors used, repairing and renovating the castle with the same tools and techniques used to build it.
You wander through rough stone corridors, and an area with a medieval cannon and a lot of teenaged boys, but eventually you will find the courtyard.
When you come into the small courtyard, there is a colonnade, which I can just imagine running along, while rain sheets down, dry and comfortable underneath it.
At the end, by the well, is a café with benches and trestle tables settled under the trees and dappled sunlight. You can sit and relax after your hike up, or wait for a guided tour of the museum in the inner part of the castle, having a coffee or cold drink and some small thing to eat. I would recommend a guided tour, the castle has a really interesting history and you can find out all about it and hear the stories behind some of the armor and weaponry that has been preserved. But you can, of course, tour the museum yourself and maybe just enjoy the peaceful courtyard, before you begin your hike back down.
Oh yes, you have to get back down. It was easier for me than going up, but it worked different muscles (or the lack thereof in my case).
I absolutely love this castle. Neuschwanstein is the most beautiful building I have ever seen. I absolutely loved it’s over the top, just stunning beauty. But it felt as engaging as watching TV. Not necessarily real. Hochosterwitz felt like a real, working castle, and I really felt that I was part of it while I was there.
This is the link to the Castle Hochosterwitz website. They have it translated into several languages, and you can see more of it than just my casual pictures.
This is the link to it’s Wikipedia page. Even more information.