If you decide to visit only one smashed up castle in Germany, make it Hohentwiel. In a nutshell, this place is absolutely stunning! The extensive grounds dwarf the other ruins we have explored. But, bring a picnic – you’ll be here a while!First built in 914, the fortress at Hohentwiel (near Singen) at different times housed both a monastery and a prison. During its heyday, it was considered unconquerable. It’s no wonder that Napoleon ordered Hohentwiel destroyed in 1801. Today, it’s the largest castle ruin complex in Germany, a claim verified by our good friend Wikipedia.We arrived by car, but it’s also possible to come by public transport. Stop half way up the mountain at the barn-like welcome center, and purchase your tickets (3,50 adults / kids free / family rate available). It’d be a shame to hack it up the hill, just to be stuck outside the iron gates!
Speaking of that “hill”… it’s a brutal one. It might look innocent enough at first; hey, it’s even paved most of the way. But the climb is quite steep. That’s not to say kids can’t or shouldn’t attempt it. We survived with a minimal amount of whining and, on the descent, observed a considerable number of senior citizens making the trek. So, buck up! You can do it!
Leave your pram at home unless you want to keep your arms in line with your ears the whole way. Even if you did muscle a stroller up the mountain, it’s rather useless inside the complex.
While we were walking up to the ruins, Doc Sci noticed cords and lights strung up along the path. When we reached the entrance, we found a stage and loads of equipment littering the fortress. Boo. Nothing like a bunch of techies and sound equipment to make a mess of your photographs.
Visitors to Hohentwiel have several levels of ruins to conquer. We didn’t look around the lower part on account of it being chock full of kegs and beer advertisements. After a quick gander over the wall, we carried on up the steep, rocky path.
On the main level, we found the tower. It’s not very pretty to photograph due to the cell phone antennae bolted to the side. The view, however, goes beyond amazing. On a clear day, you can see the Alps!
The boys and I decided to investigate the tunnels underneath the original castle structure. They giggled with delight as their shoes slid around on the slimy stones. I couldn’t get over how much cooler the air felt; my non-scientific self estimated a 20F difference. Nothing like free, natural air conditioning!
The best discovery for me lay in a smallish circular tower (real technical, I know) on the south side of the fortress. Initially, we climbed down to it in order to snap a photo of the view, sans crowd control barriers. We were delighted to find that we could, in fact, go on the tower.
Down, down, down, we picked our way carefully on the stone steps of the circular staircase. We found ourselves in a cool, quiet recess. The boys climbed up the rock in several places. From here, we could watch the festival worker bees scurrying to set up their ugly equipment.
We spent roughly two hours at the Hohentwiel ruins, and we would’ve stayed longer if we had not made plans to visit a few places in Switzerland later in the day. As I mentioned earlier, I highly recommend bringing a sack lunch. I noticed several proper picnic tables as well as benches. Even the most boring salami sandwich can be turned into a memorable meal when this is your backdrop!If you’re within day trip distance of Singen, add these ruins to the top of your “must see” list. Unfortunately for us, no ruin in Germany will ever impress as much as the Hohentwiel. Fortunately, we don’t care – we’ll never stop exploring!
Visiting the Bodensee / Lake Constance area? You won’t want to miss Mainau, Stein am Rhein, or the city of Konstanz. What are your favorite smashed up castles, German or otherwise?You can find this post and loads of absolutely fascinating travel-related posts at the Sunday Traveler hosted by my friend Chasing the Donkey. Check this week’s list out here!