Germany’s famed Hohenzollern Castle boasts eternal cultural and historical values
Germany boasts some of the world’s most beautiful ancient castles. Some have a romantic beauty, others a rough and ancient appearance. Among them is Hohenzollern, a castle with an incredible history and striking architecture.
Located on the top of the Swabian Alps nearly 1,000 meters above sea level, the castle’s towers etch bold strokes against the sky, creating a painting that belongs in the pages of a fairytale.
Our shuttle bus drove up a steep and winding road and stopped midway up the mountain to let visitors finish the trip on foot. While we climbed, out of breath, a group of raucous students ran past us, their cheeks flushed. They were undoubtedly on a school trip, perhaps for their history class. We caught our first glimpses of the castle in the distance, its silhouette flickering behind the trees.
The history of Hohenzollern Castle
Originally built in the 11th century, the castle, which took the name Castro Zolre, was destroyed in a war in the 15th century. This castle was the ancestral seat of the imperial House of Hohenzollern, which ruled Prussia and Brandenburg in the Middle Ages. In 1454, the castle was rebuilt, although its constant changes of ownership led to it being abandoned. It fell into ruin. The only medieval structure to remain is Saint Michael Chapel.
One summer afternoon in 1819, the future Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, then a 24-year-old prince, came to visit what remained of the castle. Looking at the ruined walls of what was once an important part of Prussian history, he wished to restore his ancestral home to its former glory.
In 1850, the king launched the construction of the third castle based on the designs of the famous Prussian architect Friedrich Stuller. This architect had designed one of the most beautiful castles in Germany, which was completed in 1867. This castle is probably a memorial built to honor the Hohenzollern dynasty.
The castle has 140 rooms with an elegant high domed design and sparkling stained glass windows. The most impressive chamber is the Queen’s Blue Parlor with a gilded ceiling, wooden floors, and walls adorned with portraits of Prussian queens. The castle is now open to visitors. Many of the objects on display once belonged to members of the royal family, including a dress worn by Queen Louise, a crown of Wilhelm II, and a letter sent by US President George Washington to Baron von Steuben, a descendant of the House of Hohenzollern.
Legend of the White Lady
An interesting legend claims a woman dressed in white lurks around the castle to terrify those unfortunate enough to meet her. Closely tied to the castle and the House of Hohenzollern, this story is also told in many other regions of Germany. It is believed that the legend refers to Countess Kunigunde von Orlamonde, a widow with two children. After her husband died, she fell in love with Duke Albrecht von Hohenzollern and wished to marry him. The Duke said he would marry her “were it not for the four eyes between us”. He was referring to his parents, who opposed to this marriage. The Countess, however, thought he meant her two children. In an effort to get her way, she murdered her children.
As time went by, tormented by guilt, she locked herself up in a monastery. After she died, she began to haunt every castle in the kingdom of Hohenzollern, casting bad luck upon anyone unfortunate enough to catch a glimpse of her. Her ghost still lingers after hundreds of years and is often associated with sudden deaths or epidemics in the region.
Although fact and fiction are often mixed up, legends remain legends. The legend of the ghost of a White Lady only adds to the mystery surrounding Hohenzollern Castle, which has proved a point of attraction for the hordes of visitors.
I leaned against a wall, which held some of Germany’s history, and admired the scenery around me. As I looked down from above, the autumn woods were turning into a colorful carpet. In the distance, fields, villages, and orchards spread to the horizon.
It was a chilly day. Grasping the warm hand of the one beside me, I watched in silence as the last rays of daylight died on the horizon. A dynasty had come and gone but will never fall into oblivion, as the cultural structures still remain to serve as reminders of a glorious, bygone era and the eternal values left to their descendants.