Cover photo: Johann G via Flickr
The unique treasure of Bavaria
In Germany, the Bavarian state has the most castles, with over one hundred castles and ruins marking the former important, central role of the region. The uniquely beautiful palaces and castles, each with its own legend, attract visitors not only from Germany but everywhere around the world. The appeal of the area comes from its cultural treasures, culinary delicacies, and the naturally cheerful Bavarian people. The symbol of Burghausen is the longest castle in the world, which is an outstanding sight in Upper Bavaria.
This city of eminent cultural and economic significance is located in Southern Germany, 100 km from Munich, and 50 km north of Salzburg. It is included in the Guinness World Records as the longest fortified castle in the World, which measures 1,051.02 metres (3,448 ft 2 in) long. The many faces of Burghausen with its over 1000-meter-long Gothic castle and picturesque historic centre mesmerizes its visitors instantly. The fort itself is built on a hill between the city, Lake Wöhrsee, and the river Salzach, which marks the border between Germany and Austria, providing an amazing panorama of the Bavarian landscape.
The history of Burghausen Castle dates to the Bronze Age, and almost all its medieval fortifications are still intact. According to archaeological findings, the predecessor of the present castle 600 years ago was a building with a wooden structure. Archaeologists found Celtic, Iron Age, and Roman artefacts here. The castle had been expanded and reshaped many times until it reached its current size with no less than six courtyards. The building has several gardens, towers, chapels, and barred gates with drawbridges, as well as some well-protected inner rooms which used to ensure the safety of Bavarian dukes.
Every courtyard is actually a whole little castle in itself, the most interesting of them being the fourth courtyard, in the tower of which witches were imprisoned. This tower has been turned into a museum exhibiting the tools used in the execution of thousands of witches until the 19th century. The third courtyard of the castle has a suspension bridge made exclusively out of wood, which is one of the best-preserved structures of its kind. The bridge is 23 meters long, and it hangs above an 8-meter-deep moat. No wonder the castle had significant strategic value and was important from a military aspect too.
Photo credit: Novofotoo via Flickr
Finally, the last courtyard’s highlight is the late Gothic Chapel of St Hedwig built in the 15th century.
The Welf duke Heinrich der Löwe took ownership of the castle in 1164, but by 1180 it was already a Wittelsbach estate.
From 1255, it served as the second residence of the courts of Lower Bavarian dukes and their spouses. At the time, the main source of income for Burghausen was the salt trade.
The castle with six courtyards was turned into the strongest fort in the country by Duke Georg der Reiche in the late Middle Ages.
This castle was the best fortified German castle in the Middle Ages, symbolizing the strong ambitions and power of Bavarian dukes. Between 1255 and 1503, as a safe family residence, it had various functions. For instance, rich Bavarian dukes kept their works of art, and their gold and silver valuables here. The construction of the new castle at the Southern corner of the hills was started in 1255 by Duke Heinrich XIII. His predecessors had by then given city status to the tiny settlement consisting of a single row of houses on the bank of the Salzach. The ancient houses attached closely together were destroyed by recurring fires, and the flooding of Salzach also caused a lot of damage to the people living below the castle. The fort complex originally consisting of six, now only 5 castles, was surrounded by a fortified castle wall with barbicans between 1459 and 1503.
Photo credit: Burghauser Touristik GmbH
The most famous resident of the castle was Polish princess Hedwig Jagiellon, the wife of Georg der Reiche. The former ducal seat is rather rich in monuments. The richness of the sights easily fascinates the curious eye. The busy town has a special charm to it, taken from the contrast of high technology and history, as well as its rich options for leisure, sports, and cultural activities. A walk in the historic centre will take you to the past. The magical public squares, narrow alleys, and medieval buildings surrounding the immense fort create a unique atmosphere. The beautiful Baroque façade of the city halls also recalls times long past.
Photo credit: Burghauser Touristik GmbH