Hohenzollern offers kingly splendor (without the drive)

Visitors to Germany often seek out well-known castles to visit, such as those belonging to King Ludwig, in the southern part of Bavaria. However, there is a castle that’s just as impressive at those, but within a one-hour drive of Stuttgart.

The Hohenzollern Castle is perched on top of an 855-meter hill on the outskirts of Hechingen and has been referred to as the most solid castle in the German realm and the “crown of all castles in Swabia.”

This is truly a warrior’s castle, built for a king.

Those who decide to take the hike straight up the hill or along the winding paths, instead of the shuttle bus from the parking lot, quickly find out just how difficult it must have been for an attacking warrior in medieval times to get to the castle.

The solid fortification of the castle must have truly hit attacking soldiers when they reached the main gate, known as the Eagle Gate. The challenge only became more daunting after they penetrated that gate, because they then had to penetrate three more gates, two with drawbridges, all along a winding road that offered the castle’s protectors plenty of vantage points to take out attackers.

However, it was probably the long, dark tunnel that extends from one gate to another where attacking armies lost most of their soldiers, as it offered defenders the ability to ambush or trap the enemy. 

Soldiers lucky enough to maneuver their way through the tunnel faced the final tower gate and another highly fortified tower to battle.

Unlike those medieval soldiers, visitors walking through the final tower gate are treated to view of a courtyard that rivals many small German towns, with its tall walls and an open market area. In the castle’s courtyard and surrounding grounds, visitors can take in the overwhelming beauty of the countryside, and realize why the castle and its magnificent view have been well worth fighting for.

The present Hohenzollern Castle is the third castle to be built on the hill, and, like most other castle tours, allows the public to view only a small section of the castle.

During the guided tour, which lasts nearly an hour, visitors view the ancestral hall, where the family lineage of past kings and their families covers the walls of a large room. The tour also includes the Count’s Hall, the library, sleeping and dressing chambers, various parlors, the treasury room and the armory.

Those who do not take a guided tour can still visit the two chapels and the final tower, which holds several exhibits, and descend many feet below ground to see the structural layers of limestone that the castles rested on. They can also see the underground casemates, which are bomb-proof vaulted cellar rooms that housed the knights during attacks.

To get to the castle, take B-27 past the city Tubingen. For information on prices and hours of operation, visit the castle’s website at www.preussen.de/en/today/hohenzollern_castle.html.