Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hello there, Haut Koenigsbourg!

Mardi, 17 juin.
 
My day trip to Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle could not have been more fun ... or less anticipated!

When I wrote down my schedule for this leg of the trip, my plan today was to visit the museum / memorial that I came all the way out to Strasbourg to see. But due to some transportation complications, the visit was postponed until demain and I was left with nothing to do for the day! I started flipping through some brochures left out by my AirBNB host and decided that since I had already had a chance to explore Strasbourg, I should venture a little further into the beautiful Alsace region. And if it's only an hour (and a couple euros) away, why not hop on a bus to a medieval castle?

 



Le château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg perches on a rocky outcrop in the Vosges Mountains in Alsace. (It's really cool; the castle actually seems to grow out of the rock.) It was named a monument historique before the American Civil War, but remains an enormously popular tourist site. Today, the whole mountain was packed with visitors from all over France and Germany.

Built in the twelfth century, the castle was used by a succession of German ruling families, who made the castle progressively larger and well-defended. The size of the fortress, combined with its unassailable location (at 700 meters above the surrounding countryside) made for great publicity. While under the possession of the Holy Roman Empire in the 17th century, the castle was besieged, burned, and mostly destroyed by Swedish forces during the Thirty Years War. Given its almost impeccable condition, it's hard to believe that the castle actually sat in ruins for over two hundred years!



Early attempts to restore the castle failed; it was not until Alsace came back under the control of Germany that Haut-Koenigsbourg would receive the attention it deserved. This sketch reveals the extent of the restoration work, undertaken by German emperor Wilhem II just before the start of World War II.

Modern scholars tend to question some of the decisions made by Wilhelm and his architect Bobo Ebhardt (especially the ones that chose to glorify the German empire at the expense of historical accuracy). However, no one ca deny that the restoration was an incredible feat of architecture and engineering.

The architect, Ebhardt, was a student of medieval and Renaissance architecture and studied both comparable castles and old accounts to inform his decisions. Ebhardt restored some of the castles most striking features -- like this spiral staircase and the wooden balcony (which provided access and privacy to the nobles' bedrooms), that had been entirely destroyed generations before. If you're interested, you can read more about the restoration of the castle here.

 


Although it was really interesting to walk through the castle and see the reconstructed rooms and courtyards, the best part of le château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg had to be the view.

 


View? What view?


Oh, you mean ... this view?

Wow! My pictures were taken from the upper courtyard, whose lookout tours provided incredible views over the valley below ... but I cannot even imagine how incredible and dizzying the view must be from the top of the castle's keep. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Alps, but the castle's closer neighbors are the Vosges Mountains and the Black Forest.




 

Are you interested in visiting the Chateau Haut-Koenigsbourg? (If you say no, you're wrong.) The official website has all the information you could need about your trip ... including a guided virtual tour, in case a day trip to the Vosges Mountains isn't in the cards for you at the moment! The castle is easily accessible by car, but there's also a shuttle that runs throughout the day from the nearby town of Sélestat, which can be reached via regional train (TER Alsace) from Strasbourg.




3 comments:

  1. Beautiful! So proud of you getting out there and seeing things!
    Love, Mommy

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  2. Love that you got some pictures of you in here!! So glad you are enjoying everything and miss you! :)

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  3. Beter late than never; I couldn't post immediately but I really enjoyed your castleing (new verb) / Thr viewd are spectacular amd so are you. Love you, P&B

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