Day 48: More Castles

Today, like yesterday, was again about castles.  But not the cushy romantic reproductions of the rich like yesterday, but rather a nearby set of 4 castles and fortresses that were built for, and put to entirely original, defensive purpose.

The region just south of Bavaria, where we are now, is Tirol, and through the mountanous area goes Via Claudia.  This roman road goes from northern Italy to southern Germany, through the alps.  Nowadays it is full of hikers and has become a popular bicycling route (as car traffic is mostly on the nearby modern highways).  But back in the day, if you were traveling north/south around here you went up this road.  There was no alternative.  So control of this road was very lucrative for economic reasons — you got to tax and control all the goods, and in particular salt, that passed through.

Anyways, there have always been fortifications here since the time the Romans built the road.  The remains that are here are known as the Ehrenburg “world of fortresses”.  A funny translation, but apt enough.  Ehrenburg, the oldest castle here, was originally built in 1293, on a high hill overlooking the road.  From here the road could be commanded.  Later, Ehrenburg Klause, which was more of a stout building with a wall, actually spanned the valley through which the road passed, from side to side completely.  Now it is a museum.

Ehrenburg was built originally as a medieval castle — high walls on a high hill.  During later years, when cannon became available, Ehrenburg was held by Tirol (now part of Austria), but was taken by Bavaria (now part of Germany).  Tirol didn’t like this, and dragged their cannons up a nearby higher mountain and wiped out the Bavarian invaders (and took out their own castle in so doing).  It was repaired and adapted to better withstand cannon attack, and another fortification called Fort Claudia built on the other side of the valley.  Then someone seemed to get worried that if Fort Claudia fell then it could shell Ehrenburg, so Ehrenburg was yet further beefed up to be able to attack its own neighbor, Claudia, if needed.  Then finally Schlosskopf was built on the top of the mountain that had originally been used to shell Ehrenburg, there was lots of fighing and exchanging of fortresses, and eventually the whole issue of protecting the road became irrelevant, and everything left to go to ruin.

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What is kind of interesting about these sites is that they are relatively newly “discovered”, in that it is only in fairly recent times that they have been made accessible to tourists, let alone even had any attention been paid to them by locals.  Schlosskopf, the highest fortress, could not even be seen from below as it was entirely covered in trees.  If you had asked most locals about 10 years ago they would not have even known it was there.  Now it is entirely revealed, and both it and Ehrenburg are getting some attention to preserve their crumbling walls.

These and the rest of today’s photos can be found here.

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