GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
Burghausen / Burgfest / Part # 2
Burghausen Castle Above the Salzach
It was the middle of the Castle Festival taking place within the extensive fortress walls, towering overhead the historic city of Burghausen. The Galneder Family had taken me out to experience the history of Bavaria in a unique and rare setting by visiting the thousand year old stone structure known as the World's Longest Castle. The half mile long medieval castle had come back to life for a brief three days in early July, as it does every year for the annual Burgfest Faire. Andy, Angela, and their children Leo and Amalie were guiding me through the crowded outer courtyards as we slowly made our way toward the main section of the castle located on the far southern end of the narrow ridge above the city. We were traveling the same route of a friendly procession of allies, making our way through the castle's outer defenses on our way to visit the resident lord and lady of the keep. A foe may also have attempted to fight his way toward the castle, attempting to capture the string of outer courtyards one at a time. Each courtyard extending away from the castle's stronghold was once gated with drawbridges, moats, and other barriers. The sections were constructed separately over time and each seemed to become more imposing, protective, and secure than the previous. As we made our way through the gate into the Fourth Courtyard, we were looked over by two guards protected by armor and armed with formidable halberds. Andy asked for a photograph of me and the watchmen and told them I was visiting from America. I was a little concerned I would now be seen as a foreign enemy in the process of a one man attempted invasion. However, the guard who wasn't wearing an all concealing helmet laughed and I instantly felt more at ease. I concluded my ultra cool German style hat was my key to entry, since I looked so Deutsch, I was quickly transformed from American into ally.
Castle Guards Detain a Suspect
Just inside the Third Courtyard is the former Interrogation Tower, which now houses the Torture Museum, which thankfully is a private collection and not open to the public. I was experiencing medieval history up close and personal but my curiosity had it limits. I had little desire to experience the wrath of the rack, although I did try to think of any crimes I might confess if detained within the tower. Thankfully, I couldn't come up with anything worth mentioning aside from my secret trip to McDonald's at Lake Königsee, where I sinfully divulged in American fast food by devouring a Big Mac in record time. However, I concluded... what happens in Lake Königsee... Well you know the rest... Happy to have the ominous tower behind me, we passed by a long and narrow building that paralleled the interior castle wall on the opposite side of the courtyard. Although previously torn down during the 19th Century, the stable and elevated grain barn formerly known as the Haberkasten, was rebuilt during the 1960's. The exterior of the building was reconstructed to every historical detail to match the original but the interior was modernized, now housing an active theatrical academy. The city below was well known as a cultural center for the arts, an attraction that equally pulls tourists to the area from far and wide. The reinvented dance school was a great example of how to preserve the site's historical past, yet also have the space serve a supporting role to fullfill a vital need in the modern community. Well done!
Peaceful Aventinus House
On the opposite side of the Third Courtyard was a beautiful stone residence known as the Aventinus House, which once served as the home of the local castle chaplain. The house was one of my favorite features of the entire castle as it was a historically old building but beautiful in its simplicity. The house was isolated from the other crowded sections of the outer courtyards, possessing a unique openness that stood in contrast to the protective feel of other areas within the castle. Aventinus House appeared as if it could easily have been located in the rural countryside. Flanked by beautiful flower filled gardens and groomed slate walkways, I was in envy of anyone who had the privilege to call such a residence home. Part of the first floor that served as a carriage house once upon a time, now may have housed a automobile as a converted modern garage. However, in the historic spirit of the Castle Festival, the modern modes of transportation of the current residents discretely remained hidden from view. Continuing onward we passed multiple artisans and craftsmen selling their wares, which would be typical of a real faire during the Middle Ages. Several minstrels and organized musical groups entertained passersby with authentic song and dance of the time period, adding to the festive atmosphere of the scene. Other vendors were selling historic foods and drink in the form of draft beer from large wooden kegs while several varieties of grilled meats sizzled over open fires. Several cooks roasted what was called Steckerlfisch, various species of skewered fish over a wood charcoal fire pit, which were constantly rotated by hand to ensure they cooked evenly. Patrons from every time period were drawn in by the intoxicating aroma. It looked delicious and I was more than tempted but we continued onward to pass into yet another vast courtyard.
The Interior Townsfolk
Soon we came upon a Medieval scene of town-folk living within the castle walls which supported the important permanent residents, most of whom were wealthy and living in the most well protected section at the extreme southern end within the main castle. Craftsmen were making repairs, artisans constructing their goods, and foodstuffs were being gathered and stockpiled. Several ladies were selling some of their traditional edible creations and Angela wanted me to try what she described as a very Bavarian customary food. She purchased a slice of bread lathered with a thick layer of some type of creamy brown colored spread. It resembled some type of wet peanut butter and had a nutty, oily taste that was not much to my liking. Angela revealed that it was a old traditional Bavarian spread made from animal fat. I was instantly grossed out and tried not to think too much as I passed it to Angela who finished it off with a laugh! Wendy... Help! I passed up grilled trout for nutty flavored animal fat? Angela was expecting, so I chalked it up to one of those bizarre cravings she must fall victim to on occasion! She was genuinely sorry and equally surprised I did not care for it. According to the worldly web scholars of Wikipedia, it might have been something called Griebenschmalz, which roughly translates to the English word of "gross". I was instantly reminded I was in a foreign country but when in Bavaria... It was hard to get the taste out of my mouth so I purchased one of my favorite pretzels as an anti-venom agent, which helped a little... a little. Griebenschmalz was probably the main reason why Italians invented Nutella in the 1940's as an delicious alternative to creamy animal fat! Nutella is a thick chocolate spread made from hazelnuts, cocoa, and skim milk that has become very popular as an essential item on kitchen tables across Europe. It is very popular with kids... like me and is even becoming a common sight in the United States. Nutella resembles thick dark chocolate cake frosting and is good by the spoonful all by itself for a quick treat! Whoops... was that another confession? Let's move on...
Colorful Tents of the First Courtyard
As we entered the Second Courtyard, which is the smallest of the five spaces, we were confronted with the muscle of the castle's military weaponry. The wall bordering the Salzach River contains three small evenly spaced watch towers that were once armed with loaded cannon ready for action. On the opposite stone defensive wall was the large rectangular castle arsenal known as the Kurzer Kasten where additional cannon and smaller arms were stockpiled below with vital food grains stored on the upper floors of the structure. The large stone building absorbed most of the open space within the Second Courtyard. As we approached the gateway to the final courtyard's entrance, the tower of the master gunsmith loomed overhead. The First Courtyard was large and open and filled to capacity with festival participant's tent encampments and people from various time periods seated at endless tables consuming food, drink, and conversation in great quantities. Individual groups were appearing in parade dress along the main thoroughfare led by their regimental flags and marching to the cadence of the unit drum core. For the first time of our journey, the impressive interior structures of the castle itself came into full view. The high outer walls of the famous Georg's Gate had the power to impede our quest to gain access to the main castle. A drawbridge spanned a wide and deep ditch that separated the First Courtyard from the interior residence of Dukes and Lords. At one time, the ditch may had been a moat filled with man eating crocodiles, sharks, and piranha but today the dried out space housed additional Burgfest attractions. The opened drawbridge also provided the best view of the colorful town of Burghausen below along with the border of the Salzach River and Austria on the far shore.
Approaching Drawbridge of Georg's Gate
Angela and Leo found seating at a table with friends within the First Courtyard's large biergarten, while Andy, Amalie, and I ventured across the drawbridge and passed through the portcullis of Georg's Gate. The interior recesses of the castle were unlike anything I have ever before had the privilege to experience or explore in person. The buildings within the space of the main castle contained the official residence of the Duke of Bavaria and accompanying royal court. One of the first buildings we encountered within the castle courtyard was the large structure known as Knight's Hall, which is one of the oldest parts of the castle, first constructed in the middle of the 13th Century. The heated space provided dining and meeting quarters for members of the resident Duke's inner circle on one side, while separate similar facilities known as Women's Hall were reserved for the official ladies of the court. Andy had Amalie in the stroller so I climbed the steps and entered the dining hall on the second floor alone, only to discover I had just walked in on a official state dinner. Lords, vassals, knights, clergy, and ladies in waiting dined on the finest cuisine of the day. The group was spread throughout the vast space, seated along one side of long interconnected wooded tables, covered with fine lace tablecloths. A group of minstrels behind me broke out into sudden festive song and dance to entertain the distinguished guests in attendance... including several visitors from modern times, like me!
Five Star Dining Castle Style
After a few minutes, it became sadly apparent the group of prominent party goers were not going to ask me to join their dinner reception. I later learned the first floor area of the hall below me that once was used to store provisions had been converted into the Bavarian Palace Department's visitor center and gift shop. I wish I had time to explore it because I love a good gift shop but it was time to leave Knight's Hall and find Andy outside in the courtyard. The wealthy ruler ironically named Georg the Rich constructed an inner space known as a keep to house the royal treasury. The keep's solid iron clad door was propped open to reveal another gate constructed of thick interlocking iron bars that was locked shut to bar entry. A few feet inside the recesses of the keep was a large open wooden chest overflowing with white cloth bags tied shut with twine. The bags were no doubt filled with gold and silver coins, most likely collected tax revenue, courtesy of the lucrative local salt trade. The keep's door was surprisingly unguarded. I hypothesized the knights were now probably unionized and partaking in their mandatory ten minute ale break, guaranteed in their collective bargaining contract? I was tempted to pull on the iron gate of the treasury to see if I could help myself to some booty without anyone noticing. However, common sense dictated this may be a test and not wanting to get hit in the back with an arrow bolt from an unseen archer or wind up in the Interrogation Tower for an extended stay... I just continued on my merry way.
Interior Castle Courtyard
I met up with Andy and Amalie and it was soon time to make our way back to Angela and Leo, so we went into overdrive to see the rest of the castle's interior courtyard spaces. A large structure known as the Bower was directly opposite of Knight's Hall. An amazing arched stone enclosed walkway spanned the courtyard, connecting the two large buildings together. The Bower once served as living quarters for family, friends, and visitors of the Duke of Bavaria. Today the Bower houses yet another modern day museum within the castle known as the Burghausen Municipal Museum. Next was the beautiful inner castle chapel known as Saint Elizabeth, which was directly accessible by the Duke and his family from their private residence within the Palas located next door. The Palas or palace, contained the Great Hall and prestigious apartments of the royal family, which served as their main living quarters. Today the large space contains... you guessed it, another museum. The Castle Museum and State Gallery features 56 panel paintings depicting scenes of life in Bavaria and Austria from the 17th Century. The full historic themed art collection fills three floors of the impressive structure. Unfortunately, we were out of time so Andy and I quickly retraced our steps back to the entrance of Georg's Gate. In conclusion, the main section of the castle was amazing, appearing to have been carved from a single gigantic stone of solid rock. Each space was independent in style and purpose, yet were all seamlessly conjoined together into a single interconnected geological mass. How they managed to construct such a huge structure with limited tools and technology was truly spectacular and awe-inspiring. Tune in next time as we reverse course to navigate our way back toward the modern world.
Steckerlfisch / Grilled Fish on a Stick
Please stay tuned for the next installment of our adventure!
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