This region of Bavaria is known for Neuschwanstein, however, as mentioned in my last post, Neuschwanstein is actually a modern castle, which was built in the medieval style. It never played a defensive or strategic role. In contrast, the Hohenfreyberg and Eisenberg Castles were ACTUAL medieval castles which had tremendous militaristic significance in the 14th through 19th centuries.
Unfortunately, when they retreated, the Austrians had a scorched earth policy and burned these castles as they left. However, the ruins of these castles are well worth a visit. Further, because so many people are distracted by the other castles, these sites are virtually deserted, and you are able to wander at will through these structures, without needing to pay the exorbitant entrance fees of the other castles.
The bike ride from Fussen to Eisenberg was lovely, but a bit hilly. At a certain point, I left my road bike and continued up the path on foot towards the ruins. (These paths would be possible on a mountain bike if that is your preference).
My first stop was Hohenfreyberg Castle. This castle was built in 1418 by Frederick of Freyeburg zu Eisenberg, son of the lord of the neighbouring Eisenberg castle. This was one of the last great castles of the German Middle Ages, anachronistically embracing the design of a high medieval period castle, while in other regions, castles were being abandoned or being converted into country houses. However, the crippling costs of building and maintaining this large castle (and the lack of a male heir) forced Frederick’s sons to sell the castle to Austria.
While the modernized fortifications served the castle well during the German Peasants’ War in the mid-1500s, near the end of the Thirty Years’ War, they were ordered to burn down the castle so it would not fall into the hands of the approaching Protestants. Tragically, the attackers changed their line of advance, which meant the destruction of these spectacular castles was unnecessary. After the Battle of Austerlitz in the early 19th century, Austria had to cede its Allgau possessions to Bavaria.
You can see the Eisenberg castle from Hohenfreyberg, which was my next stop. This castle was built in 1313, but later in the 14th century, the castle was sold to Austria. It was the son of this Austrian lord who built Hohenfreyberg. During the German Peasants’ war (1525) the castle was badly damaged and later rebuilt. However, near the end of the Thirty Years’ War, this castle was burnt by the Austrians, along with Hohenfreyberg.The view from these castles is also breathtaking. You can see almost the entire Allgäu alps, including Hopfensee, WeiSensee, and Säuling. (Zugspitze, the highest mountain in Germany, is obscured by Säuling). One of my favourite things about this spot was that up against these historic ruins, overlooking some of the most beautiful views of the alps, was a herd of sheep and goats, just hanging out among the medieval walls, snacking on the lush green grass, tiny bells clanging in the breeze. I have been collecting contenders for a “prettiest pasture” award, and these guys may be in the lead [but also check out these British sheep who have it pretty good].