The medieval castle Burg Hochosterwitz stands out from the surrounding countryside on a 170-meter- (564 ft) high limestone cliff and is a fun excursion for young and old alike.
Already from a distance, the formidable medieval fortress gives a powerful impression. Even after driving up the last slopes from the surrounding plain and to the parking lot, the cliff with the castle looms well above you. To get to the castle you can choose between hiking uphill through the 14 castle gates or taking the elevator directly from the entrance. I recommend using the access road at least one way. If you walk up there are plenty of opportunities for a break to enjoy the breathtaking views.
A 620-meter-long access road to the castle was built as a defence gauntlet to make it as difficult as possible for attackers. It winds its way up the steep limestone cliff and through the 14 fortified gates that were built between 1570 and 1582. None of the gates is the same and all are constructed with different types of defence mechanisms. Although the has been badly damaged from attacks by the Turks, it is said that no attackers have ever arrived further than the fourth gate. Well ahead of the castle itself, it lies on various plateaus surrounded by fortress walls. In addition to the inner part of the castle as well as the museum, the chapel is also worth a visit. You can also enjoy the view from several places along the palisades around the castle.
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In the Middle Ages, Burg Hochosterwitz served not only as a fort but also as a refuge for the locals. The ingenious construction and location made the castle almost impenetrable. The residents of Hochosterwitz were also mostly self-sufficient. They had their carpentry workshop, mill, blacksmith, bakery, and printing press and produced wine, vegetables and fruits. The museum offers different activities, including a forge where medieval crafts are still practised and provides an interesting insight into life during the Middle Ages. Moreover, the museum mostly exhibits weapons, armour and uniforms. However, there are also many other personal objects and family treasures from the 500-hundred-yearlong occupancy by the Khevenhüller family.
Still, family owned and run
Burg Hochosterwitz has been owned by the Khevenhüller noble family since 1571. The Khevenhüller family was involved in the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) on the Swedish side and owned, among other things, a property in central Sweden until the 1900s. Today the family still owns and operates the castle. No major rebuilding of the castle has taken place after the 17th century and the entire castle appears to be very well preserved. Furthermore, the castle courtyard houses a restaurant with a large outdoor dining area. The castle is open between April and November, and for a weekend in December with its Christmas market. In addition to the museum, you can explore parts of the castle on your own. During the year several events, such as knight festivals, take place as well.
For more info, check out the castle’s website.
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