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Castle Hochosterwitz

© by Österreich Werbung, Foto: Diejun

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 take the elevator directly from the entrance. I definitely 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.

Never defeated

A 620-meter-long access road to the castle was built as a defense 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 are the same and all are constructed with different types of defense mechanisms. Although the has been badly damaged from attacks by the Turks, it is said that no attackers have never 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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Self-sufficient

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 own carpentry workshop, mill, blacksmith, bakery, printing press and produced wine, vegetables and fruits. The museum offers different activities, including a forge where medieval crafts are still practiced, and provide an interesting insight into life during the Middle Ages. Moreover, the museum mostly exhibits weapons, armor 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 you own. During the year several events, such as knight festivals, take place as well. For more info, check out the castles website.

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Written by Arnold Weisz

Arnold Weisz

Globetrotting multilingual communications specialist born in Vienna, Austria – with passion for scuba diving, golf and culinary delights! 15 years of experience as a scuba- and travel reporter for among others: X-Ray Dive Magazine and Dykking.