Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

An American in Germany / Part # 31 / Burghausen-3

GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
Burghausen / Burgfest / Part #3

 Burghausen Castle / Keep Tower
Andy and I had just completed a quick personal tour of Burghausen Castle's inner courtyard and accompanying buildings, which encompassed the private residence of the lords and ladies associated with the Duke of Bavaria.  It was time to exit the area of the main castle to begin making our way back through the five individual courtyards that ran to the north of our present location.  We crossed back over the drawbridge and went in search of Angela and Leo who were somewhere within the massive biergarten within the First Courtyard.  As we gazed over the expansive seated crowd, we noticed a few familiar faces from KKG, our host school located in Altötting, Germany.  We found Angela and Leo with another really familiar face, my co-chaperone Wendy, who was surprisingly all decked out in traditional dress!  One of her German friends had convinced her to go native to save some money on the admission fee to the Castle Festival.  Anyone wearing a historic costume could get a discount to attend Burgfest.  She was looking very Bavarian, naturally merging with the old world setting in her customary black and white dirndl dress.  Wendy and I briefly exchanged a little conversation and a few laughs before I snapped a few pictures that have since been destroyed.  Apparently, Wendy deemed the pictures personally embarrassing and I was later forced to exchange them for my plane ticket home.          

Angela... Leo... Where Art Thou?
Reunified as a family, we now began the trek back out through the busy crowds toward the far gate that served as a portal to the modern world.  The kids were getting tired, including me!  Once again we were within striking distance of the food vendors and their intoxicating aroma was pulling me forth.  Once again trout and other various meats were roasting over an open fire.  The trout was literally "reeling" me in but since we would be walking and not seated at a table, the thought of trying to navigate through all those bones without a fork got me off the "hook".  Ok, I'll admit, that was a pretty lame play on words!  I settled on a delicious grilled steak sandwich topped with a tangy sauce in a long crusty role that was easy to eat on the go.  We said goodbye to our KKG friends including Wendy, whom I would see again Monday morning, the first of our final two days of school before we would be heading home.  With my sandwich in one hand and camera in the other, I tried to capture as much of the beautiful courtyards as possible.  One of the important items on the remaining agenda for my tour of Burghausen Castle was a souvenir pin to add to my collection of all the historic sites I have visited over the years.  I found a small, one room shop selling a few items and quickly popped inside to see if they had my pin.  I was in luck! I was able to find a pin at almost every place I visited during my trip.  Later, they would all be added to the pin banner hanging in my classroom that displays my full collection.  Score!

Hedwig Jagiellon and Georg the Rich
(Image Credit / Bavarian Palace Department)
The most famous resident of Burghausen Castle's long history was Georg the Rich, the Duke of Bavaria, who ruled the area in the middle of the 15th Century.  The most celebrated event during his reign was his marriage to Princess Hedwig Jagiellon of Poland in 1475.  The marriage ceremony took place in the Bavarian city of Landshut and became known as one of the most important festivals of the Middle Ages.  The medieval wedding pageant was attended by over 10,000 people from all over the known world at the time.  Over the years, the Landshut Wedding has been reenacted and celebrated from time to time but ever since 1985, it has been celebrated in grand fashion every four years in the historic old city of Landshut.  The city of 60,000 swells ten fold during the three week celebration in early August.  The next Landshut Wedding festival is scheduled to take place during the summer of 2013.  Georg the Rich and his lovely bride had three sons and two daughters but none of their sons lived to adulthood to continue his dynasty.  When Georg the Rich died in 1503 he was legally prohibited from passing on his lands directly to his daughters but tried anyway by attempting to pass the duchy to his daughter Elizabeth and her husband.  A war broke out over this act, breaking the empire into smaller pieces that were divided up and seized by other dukes.  However, one section of Georg the Rich's former duchy remained in the hands of Elizabeth's oldest son Rupert.  Just one example of the constant change of power and control over the ever evolving political landscape of Europe.  Eventually the most powerful dukes would become kings, which would keep the physical land intact by transferring power to a single individual through their bloodlines when they died.  Usually the oldest son would inherit the throne, if there was a male heir, or they would resort to the family tree to find the person most closely related to the deceased monarch.

Interior Courtyard Residences
We continued on our way toward the far northern gate of the Fifth Courtyard where the Middle Ages ended and the 21st Century began.  As we walked along the busy main thoroughfare through the castle grounds, I continued to be surprised by the beautiful and historic residential housing we discovered nested within the defensive walls.  Without warning, the landscape shifted from a scene containing imposing structures of war to tranquil stone farmhouses accompanied by flower filled meadows.  The castle was truly a hybrid structure in the realm of the here and now, serving as a historic landmark and living space for a group of local citizens of Burghausen simultaneously.  It was a unique marriage between history and modernity that somehow seemed to work hand in glove.  I can't imagine Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor housing full time residents in the military barracks or underground bunkers, while also catering to tons of tourists.  The residents of the castle courtyards must get tired of visiting tourists trekking through their front yards on a daily basis, looking in windows, and maybe even knocking on doors.  I often wondered at the level of patience a person would have to posses to live within an active tourist attraction.  The full time residents of historic Elfreth's Alley in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania would be in a similar living-history environment.  It would have both pros and cons but you would really have to love history during the three days of the Castle Festival.  If not, you might have to leave the area, take a vacation, and maybe travel to Philadelphia to violate the privacy and the patience of the residents of Elfreth's Alley!  Revenge is a dish best served cold!

Armor and Arms Dealer
Ok, since I was in the shadow of the Interrogation Tower of the castle, time for another quick confession... Years ago, I took my 125 + students on a day trip to tour historic Philadelphia with the help of my fellow teaching colleagues.  We split the kids into two groups and I was in charge of leading a walking tour of what is often called America's most Historic Mile.  It is not easy to keep the attention of one single fourteen year old under the best of circumstances, let alone sixty kids walking through a big city filled with millions of little distractions.  I led the way, while my fellow chaperone teachers corralled the kids from behind to keep the herd together and go after any strays that got separated from the group or attempted a break for freedom.  I knew it would be difficult for the kids to hear me during my brief presentations along the way, so I brought along a small battery operated bullhorn to help project my voice.  I know... I know... what you're thinking but I was very conscious of when to make my short presentations to the group, often finding a quiet spot away from the mainstream whenever possible.  I introduced Elfreth's Alley to my students in front of a warehouse before we actually turned the corner to enter the alley and gave the kids a quick lesson as well as a warning on field trip etiquette so they would respect the residents of the oldest continually occupied street in America.  We walked through to the other end without incident and I gathered the group within a small parking lot to give my summation and reveal some points of interest.  In the middle of my dialogue, an elderly woman interrupted me to inform me I was violating City Ordinance #583902B+G to the third degree regarding noise pollution within a residential district.  I thanked her for the information and continued my script while 65 kids stared as she started to heckle me. I was in a power struggle with a 90 year old lady who was now threatening to call the cops.  I kept my remarks brief because the kids were no longer hearing a single word I said andwere most likely listening for approaching police sirens.  I cut my losses and made a fast getaway to our next stop, to avoid Philadelphia's version of the Interrogation Tower!  It was probably the only thing the kids remembered from the trip but I will admit... It is a great story!

Making New Friends in Burghausen
Along the way, I met up with a group of friendly Orks who had stopped in for some grilled fish on their way back to Mordor.  I told them I hadn't seen Frodo, Gollum, or Gandaulf all day but did say to be sure to give Sauron my best when you see him again.  I noticed they were all starring at my gold wedding ring but they eventually moved on, pulled away by the smell of roasted fresh fish.  The hobby of reenacting the Middle Ages is becoming more and more popular every year throughout Europe.  The Lord of the Rings trilogy films directed by Peter Jackson and the original series of books written by author J.R.R. Tolkien has helped fuel the interest level in all things Medieval, Middle Ages, and Middle Earth.  As a Civil War reenactor, I could see a lot of similarities with my historical hobby back in the States, which also takes place on battlefields and historic places of interest.  Same hobby, different time period, gear, and setting.  It's a great way to learn about history and fun to play soldier with a group of your friends, just like you did as a kid.  The events also seem to run Friday through Sunday, just like they typically do in places like Gettysburg.  Ironically, the 149th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg was celebrated and reenacted a few days earlier back in my home state of Pennsylvania.  Just as it would be difficult to explore all that Gettysburg has to offer in a single afternoon, there was so much to see and do within the castle that it was impossible to experience it all in a single visit.  This is probably why many people attend events like the Battle of Gettysburg and Burghausen's Castle Festival year after year as a summer family tradition.  There is always something new to see, eat, and discover.   However, I would suggest skipping hard tack biscuits in Gettysburg and traditional spreads made from animal fat in Burghausen. 

Historic Parade Procession
After getting back home to Pennsylvania, I researched the castle more in depth when writing this blog posting using the German Palace Department's website to help guide me.  I discovered a list of all the additional attractions I missed seeing during my afternoon tour of the World's Longest Castle.  If I ever get the opportunity for a return visit I would love to climb atop the large observation deck located above the main castle that touts amazing views of the surrounding landscape from every angle.  Another key section of the castle grounds worth exploring is the Eggenburg Watch Tower that looks out over Lake Wöhrsee to the east.  Once upon a time the five story tower was fortified with guns and was the first defense against foreign invaders.  The tower is accessible from the main castle by way of a secret passageway in the form of a hidden tunnel.  That's cool!  There are also all the museums to explore found throughout the castle complex.  By 1780 Burghausen Castle had lost its role as a critical fortress with Austria gaining control of lands on the other side of the Salzach River.  As the government took control of the lucrative salt trade, the city lost their main source of income and the castle began a slow decay into a state of disrepair.   In 1809 the castle was occupied by Napoleon during his war against the Austro-Hungarian Empire but the castle was no longer considered a military asset due to its poor condition.  The castle that was once considered one of the strongest castles in the world was now re-purposed into barracks for military troops for the next two decades until the garrison was permanently dissolved.  The castle was then in danger of being razed but the townspeople stepped in and fought to save it from destruction.  The first renovations began in 1896 and continue to the present day.  Sometimes the best decisions and ideas come from the average person!

A Couple Explore the Courtyard
As a continuous student of history, I am always amazed by the "Power of Place" and the feeling you get from standing within a sacred space where famous people once stood long ago.  Standing within a castle where Napoleon once gazed across the Bavarian and Austrian landscapes was awesome.  I had the same feeling sweep over me when standing on the bridge in Regensburg where Crusaders once crossed on their way to the Holy Land, looking at the house in Branau where Adolph Hitler was born, and while praying in the small chapel in Altötting where Pope John Paul II once prayed.  It is impossible to describe to others, what is something one can only appreciate in person with their own emotions and experience.  We had finally made it all the way back through the labyrinth of never ending courtyards to the final threshold of the Fifth Courtyard.  We stepped through to the other side and entered another dimension called the Modern World.  We walked back down through the quiet city streets toward the underground parking garage.  We descended the steps into the lot and found the car wedged within its tight space.  Somehow Andy had contorted his body and enter the car through the driver's side door.  Angela then got behind the car to coach Andy out of the space to avoid the vehicles on either side and a large pole supporting the roof.  The kids and I watched from a safe distance in fascination, watching Angela's complex string of hand and leg gestures.  If I wasn't in charge of watching the kids, I might have been tempted to steal second base.   Eventually, Andy eased safely out of the space and we could all enter the vehicle for the relaxing ride home through the countryside bathed in the colorful fading sun of late afternoon.  Another fantastic day!

Angela Coaches Andy's Exit
 Please stay tuned for the next installment of our adventure!



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