I was intimated of the existence of Burghausen Castle rather randomly. Picking up strawberries from an unmanned cart on a country road somewhere between Austria and Germany on my way to Munich, another traveller mentioned it to me. With its claim to fame as the longest castle in the world, my lack of knowledge of this castle was rather surprising given that it didn’t show up in the homework I did before setting out on a road trip in Bavaria, Germany.
The Burghausen Castle is the longest castle in the world stretching over one kilometre.
Just over a 100kms from Munich, the Burghausen Castle complex extending along a hill above Burghausen’s Altstadt (Old Town), measuring in at an impressive 1043m long, is one of the longest castles in the world with almost all of its fortifications intact. Pretty impressive given that the castle dates back to AD1025. In the late Middle Ages, Duke Georg der Reiche (George the Rich) turned the castle with its six courtyards into the strongest fortress in the country. Hardly surprising then that this is where immense stashes of gold and silver were kept. And it perfectly explains the moniker of George the Rich. The castle complex today includes the main gothic castle structure, a Gothic-style chapel, several museums and six courtyards.
For most of its early history, Burghausen was the site of torture and executions. Today visitors can see the tools of torture in the castle’s Torture Museum. The art gallery has a collection of late Gothic panel paintings and a picture cycle illustrating the history of Bavaria.
The best part of visiting Burghausen Castle for me were the views over the town of Burghausen – magnificent! The Wöhrsee (Lake Wöhr), which can be seen from the castle, is a popular swimming and recreational spot for locals and visitors.
For the best views of Burghausen Castle, go across the river – that is the view I took in as I was driving into Burghausen and it was spectacular. The town of Burghausen with its colorful houses is also worth wandering around. When in Burghausen, Knoxoleum with its artsy feel is a good place to grab a meal.
Making Burghausen your base for 2-3 nights, some places that are worth visiting are –
THE MARIENBERG PILGRIMAGE CHURCH
This church is referred to as the “Pearl of the Salzach Valley”.
To reach the church, visitors must climb 50 steps. Upon entering the church, the ceiling painting, frescos and its décor are a sight to behold. In the middle of the room is the high altar with its 7th-century image of the Miraculous Madonna by Johann Georg Lindt. The highlight for me was the remarkable frescos – the work of Munich painter Martin Heigl.
The church was consecrated in AD765. The seat of the parish was moved from Marienberg to Raitenhaslach in 1806, and the church at Marienberg was turned over for demolition. The Miraculous Madonna and other interior items were brought to Raitenhaslach and some were even reportedly sold at auctions. However, the people of Marienberg protested against the order to have the church torn down. A letter was sent to the Bavarian Crown Prince and later to King Ludwig I himself. This had a positive outcome and the church held its first service again in 1811. The Miraculous Madonna was then returned to Marienberg in 1815.
For centuries, pilgrims, worshippers and travellers have all come here and given its popularity and beauty, it does seem that this trend will continue long into the future.
This Bavarian jewel has woken from a 200-year slumber and has only been recently open to visitors.
First mentioned in AD 788 as “Raitinhaselach”, the Cistercians founded their first monastery in Altbayern (Old Bavaria) here in AD 1146. Raitenhaslach lies at a bend in the river Salzach just five kilometres from Burghausen, nestled in an unspoiled landscape. The abbey has belonged to the town of Burghausen since 2004. Only after the town of Burghausen acquired a part of the monastery, have visitors been able to explore this Bavarian beauty.
The original three-aisled Romanesque pillar basilica, consecrated in 1186, is considered a jewel of Bavarian Baroque. Especially worth seeing are the altars, the frescoes and the tombstones of the Wittelsbach family, who were once Kings of Bavaria.
The monastery complex boasts two hidden treasures, which have only been recently opened to the public. One is the “Pope’s Room”, where it is said that Pope Pius IV spent a night in 1782 and the other is the “Stone Hall” – which is now used for concerts and events. Raitenhaslach has also been used several times as a location for shooting television programs.
BERCHTESGADEN NATIONAL PARK
The only Alpine National Park in Germany celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2018.
The Berchtesgaden National Park in the Bavarian Alps attracts many visitors each year – and for good reason too, as this 21,000 hectares protected area with breathtaking scenery, forests, mountain ridges, streams and alpine panorama offers pure bliss in stunning natural surroundings. The National Park is home to Lake Königsee (reputed to be the cleanest lake in Germany), the Warzmann, the highest mountain in the park, as well as a diversity of flora and fauna from mountain hares to alpine flowers. There are over 250 km of hiking trails to choose from in the park – from short day trails to longer trails. Pack a picnic basket and hike into its dramatic ravines, breathe in its fresh air and bask in the glorious landscape. The Wimbachklamm with its gushing waterfalls has some of the most beautiful gorges in this region. After a hike, cool off in Lake Königsee or order a delicious rustic lunch at a mountain lodge. For the adventurous, there are options here to paraglide or hang-glide through the air, free as a bird.