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This medieval castle of Hohenwerfen has served the rulers of Salzburg as a fortification and a residence for hundreds of years

David Goran

Hohenwerfen Castle, also known as the “Castle of Experience”, is an amazing castle that stands high above the Austrian town of Werfen in the Salzach valley and has withstood the test of time for over 900 years.

Hohenwerfen castle in Salzburg, Austria. Source

Hohenwerfen castle in Salzburg, Austria. Image by: Harikrishnan Tulsidas/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

 

The castle is surrounded by the Berchtesgaden Alps and the adjacent Tennengebirge mountain range. Source

The castle is surrounded by the Berchtesgaden Alps and the adjacent Tennengebirge mountain range. Image by: Elena Pleskevich/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The land is located in the center of a large valley. From the south, there are two massive sets of mountains which create a natural barrier for any traveler or a would-be conqueror.

This pass, that only opened where the Salzach river winds its way northwards, is called “Pass Lueg” and is the only route to cross the mountains. Therefore, it was a major strategic stronghold in Salzburg for many centuries.

The castle is around 45 minutes by train from Salzburg. Source

The castle is around 45 minutes by train from Salzburg. Image by: Frank Fox/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The fortification is a “sister” of Hohensalzburg castle both dated from the 11th century. Over the centuries, the castle has seen countless attacks, seiges, and seen many rulers and lords walk its halls.

It  was extended in the 12th century and again in the 16th century during the “Bauernkriege”, when looting and rioting farmers and miners from the South of Salzburg moved toward the city, laying fire and severely damaging the castle in 1525 and 1526.

The garden of the castle. Source

The garden of the castle. Image by: Thomas Quine/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

After the unsuccessful siege of the Hohensalzburg Fortress, Prince Archbishop Matthaus Lang ordered the castle be rebuilt. The farmers were forced to surrender and as a punishment, they were forced to work on the reconstruction.

To secure the city, three major castles were extended-The Hohensalzburg Fortress, Hohenwerfen castle and the Petersberg ob Friesach. Source

To secure the city, three major castles were extended-The Hohensalzburg Fortress, Hohenwerfen castle and the Petersberg ob Friesach. Image by: Elena Pleskevich/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

 

After World War II it was used as a training camp by the Austrian Gendarmerie until 1987. Source

After World War II it was used as a training camp by the Austrian Gendarmerie until 1987. Image by: Elena Pleskevich/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Prince Archbishop Johann Kuen-Belasy imported state-of-art know-how from Italy to build fortifications and bastions that should stand firearms and cannons and in 1563 he ordered a massive remodelling of Hohenwerfen.

Beyond its function as a strategic military building, the castle has served as a court of prison over centuries. Source

Beyond its function as a strategic military building, the castle has served as a court of prison over centuries. Image by: Elena Pleskevich/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

 

In 1803 the castle changed over to Bavarian rule and was allowed to fall into disrepair and ruin. Source

In 1803 the castle changed over to Bavarian rule and was allowed to fall into disrepair and ruin. Image by: Elena Pleskevich/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

As time passed, the castle was also used as a state prison and therefore had a somewhat sinister reputation. Many prisoners and nobleman spent their days there under inhumane conditions.

The ruler Archbishop Adalbert III was arrested by his own ministers in 1198, Count Albert of Friesach in 1253 and Prince Archbishop Wolf Dietrich Raitenau died here in 1617 after six years of imprisonment.

In 1968 the castle served Hollywood as a backdrop in the feature film Where Eagles Dare with Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton. Source

In 1968 the castle served Hollywood as a backdrop in the feature film Where Eagles Dare with Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton. Image by: Elena Pleskevich/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

 

A falcon flying over the castle. Source

A falcon flying over the castle. Image by: Thomas Quine/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

In 1987, Hohenwerfen castle was opened to the public and now functions as a museum. Among the numerous attractions offered by the fortress are guided tours showing its extensive weapons collection.

And the historical Falconry Centre offering daily flight demonstrations by various birds of prey, including eagles, falcons, hawks, and vultures. The castle remains one of Salzburg’s foremost tourist attractions and one of the prettiest castles in Austria.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPl7xeRlwpE