Burghausen fairytale castle

In Germany you will be fortunate enough to see many of Europe’s most attractive and interesting castles and palaces. Of particular interest is Burghausen Castle. It  is the longest castle in Europe, with its walls stretching to over a kilometre (1,043 metres to be exact) it is one of Germany’s largest castles. You can’t really miss this massive fortification as it perches high above the small baroque town of Burghausen in Upper Bavaria, which is on the Austrian border, and is remiscent of a typical fairytale castle.

Burghausen‘s many impressive towers have seen more than a thousand years of history pass them by. The castle’s present appearance is typical of a grand and prestigious castle: with its fortified towers, walls which are five metres thick in places, outer wards, keep, ditches, banqueting halls and drawbridges, most of which date back from the 13th to 15th centuries. Burghausen, as befits its age, also has many dark, but not very secret, chapters in its long history, as evidenced by those medieval necessities such as the witches’ tower and torture tower (which is now a museum), the “Spinnhäusl”, where the female prisoners were kept in degrading conditions, and the Prechtl Tower, in which the executioner lived in the 18th century.

Located east of Munich and situated on the west bank of the Salzach River, Burghausen is built high atop a ridge which overlooks the town and surrounding countryside; the castle is divided into six courtyards. A complex design, each courtyard had or has its own fortified gate, moat and wooden drawbridge. Likewise each courtyard was built at a different time and has its own history for the history of fortifications on this spot harks back nearly 1500 years.

In 600 AD the first building on the castle site was a wooden fortified house built by Bavarian Dukes and is a magnificent medieval fortification. It served for general administration as well as for the protection of the salt trade, an important commodity that was used for the preservation of foods, particularly meat, which was shipped on the Salzach River.  The first expansion of Burghausen castle was made by Count Sieghart X in 1090, but most of those buildings have disappeared. The castle remained the seat of the counts of Burghausen until 1163. In that year Heinrich the Lion took possession of the castle and the Earldom until 1180.

Considered to be a Gothic castle, its location on the border with modern-day Austria, and its imposing presence, has assured that Burghausen Castle has seen it have much military and political importance over many centuries. The main castle was extensively renovated in around 1896 and a comprehensive programme to restore the entire site was undertaken in 1960. The fully restored medieval Dürnitz – the hall for knights and their retinues – has been a visitors’ centre and events venue since 2004.

Burghausen is very much a living castle still. Today the castle houses gothic paintings from the Bavarian State Picture Collection; it has several rooms where concerts, banquets and receptions are held, and chapels that are often booked for weddings.  There is also a youth hostel on the premises, giving visitors the opportunity to stay and experience the castle firsthand.

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