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Königstein Fortress – Sächsische Schweiz, Germany

08/07/2011

In my last post a few days ago from Sächsische Schweiz in Germany, I promised you some photos of  Königstein Fortress, a few km upstream from the sandstone rock formations.  It took me a few more days that I had hoped to get my this latest post together, but here it is.  Thanks for your patience.

With over 25,000 castles and castle ruins in Germany, a traveler can easily get “castled out”, in which memories of one castle begins to melt into the next.  Don’t get me wrong, I love German castles, but it can be overwhelming at times.

Having said that, I find the Königstein Fortress in the Sächsische Schweiz to be beautifully unique.  More of a fortress than a castle, as such, the structure sits atop a high stone mesa, integrating the natural stone structures into the man-made walls.  One cannot help but appreciate the cleverness of the designers.  Further, the über-green views of the Elba River valley from the fortress would make an Irish person weep.

Like the Sächsische Schweiz sandstone formations, Königstein is an easy day trip out of Dresden and is accessible by auto, bus, S-Bahn, river steamboat, and even by bicycle.  For directions: http://bit.ly/rtpvhM

The oldest written mention of a castle on Königstein Mountain goes back to 1233.  Around 1589 the conversion from castle to fortress began.  Historians are proud to point out, Königstein has never conquered in its 750+ year history.  That includes the years of World War II, in which the fortress was used as a safe place to store art treasures from Dresden and other German museums.

Königstein was also used to house Allied prisoners during WWII.  Despite its formidable high stone wall, (at least) one daring French General did manage a daring escape by repelling down the rock face.

Fast forward to today, when I was accompanied by “Klaus”, the retired father of a good friend from Dresden.  As usual when traveling, I really appreciate the perspective of a local native.  This day was no exception, with Klaus making an excellent private tour guide.

Let’s get started with an aerial view of Königstein Fortress.  Unfortunately my hubschrauber (helicopter) was in the shop for repairs that day (wink), so I send thanks to Fritz-Gerald Schröder of Wikipedia Commons for the fine aerial photo.

(Tip:  Clicking any photo will bring up a larger version.  Clicking that version will display maximum size.)

Königstein Fortress takes full advantage of the mesa’s natural stone heights.

We parked the car in an easily accessible garage at the base of the mesa, then walked up the hill to the fortress. An open-air tram between the parking garage and the fortress is available for the physically disadvantaged.

Note the clever way the fortress walls were built as extensions to the existing natural stone formations.

A lift is available for the physically challenged. For those who are able however, I’d recommend entering through the main gate by foot.

Klaus leads the way toward the main enterance.

Another good example of how the fortress walls were built as extensions to the existing natural stone formations.

View of the Elbe River, upstream toward the Czech Republic.

Looking downstream toward Dresden. Note the Sächsische Schweiz sandstone rock formations in the distance.

Here’s a zoomed in view which reveals the Sächsische Schweiz sandstone rock formations in a little more detail.

A look across the valley towards an adjacent mesa shows how the natural formations make a perfect base for a fortress.

Another view downstream shows again the blend of natural stone and human-made walls.

A barge on the Elbe River makes its way upstream through the village of Königstein, toward the Czech Republic.

Another shot showing the adjacent natural stone mesa.

Roman style arches span natural gaps in the stone.

It’s easy to see why the fortress was never conquered in its 750+ year history.

Fortress canon once owned the river below.

Fortress canon owned not just the river, but also the surrounding countryside.

Klaus bravely faces down a canon single-handedly.

The underground wine cellar remains a constant temperature and humidity year-round. In its day, at 238,000 liters, a wine barrel built in 1725 in the cellar was once the largest wine barrel in the world.

It’s time now to say goodbye to Königstein Fortress.

That wraps up my post for now.  Thanks again to Klaus for the great day.

Until next time…  Happy Trails!

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