Haut Koenigsbourg was our destination today. I am glad to say that we made it all the way to the top too! Although, in the end I am happy that I saw Haut Koenigsbourg, I didn’t realize the challange before us when we left our warm apartment. This huge castle was built at the very top of a mountain that reaches 757 meters high overlooking the Alsace plain. It was supposed to be 9 kms away…. it was probably 9 kms (uphill…ok, it’s only slight, but it’s there!) to the base of the mountain. So we biked…walked and biked some more up steep inclines and sharp turns slowly counting each torturous minute….at least I was. Richard, being the strong, determined athletic type, barely broke a sweat, while I was huffing and puffing at as close to O km/hour as you can get , inching my way up. It took us about almost 2 hours from our door to get to the top (about half an hour of that was biking to the base). But for better or worse, we made it. The girls were happy to get out of their carriers and run around a little. And what better place to run around than a castle?
It was freezing, but the castle was stunning. The girls especially loved the top where the lookout was. They had some old canons and other artillery up there and many windows also look out onto the whole Alsace plain, but the girls mostly liked the large open parapets which allows the sunlight to pour in, but held back the wind.
Apparently historians don’t know exactly when Haut Koenigsbourg was built, but someone first mentioned the castle in the 12th century. For years it was owned by the Habsburgs and the Hohenstaufens, before it was abandoned in the 17th century when it was pillaged by Swedish troops during the Thirty Years War. Then at the beginning of the 20th century it was restored by Kaiser Wilhelm II. He tried to rebuild the castle as accurately as possible to the way it was before it was pillaged, according to the histories. Well… as accurately as possible with as much emphasis of Habsburg and Hohenstaufen family links as he could fit in (he wanted it known that he was the rightful heir).
Inside the castle they had a miniature of what the old castle looked like before restoration began. I can imagine that it was beautiful back then too, but it seems that Wilhelm put a lot of work into restoring it – now it looks like it belongs in a fairy tale. Just beautiful. Now it is a huge tourist attraction with tours going on all the time. So we certainly were not the only people there; we were just the only people who biked! Well that’s not entirely true, we saw a few (professional) bicyclists pass us on the way up and watched them come back down too! Apparently they use the mountain to train….Anyway, we didn’t stick with a tour guide because, well, although I enjoy hearing all there is to know about the attraction, I hate waiting around and missing out on exploring the place on my own… and I was cold and wanted to keep moving. So we passed through the groups of people as we explored the beautiful old castle. You can still see dozens of huge old ceramic encased fireplaces (almost one in every room…must have been nice and toasty) some of the old furniture and decorations are left as well as some weapons, armor, etc. Winding staircases bring you up to the upper walls were you can look out and very far down. I really enjoyed visiting Haut Koenigsbourg, but I was too tired to really appreciate it at the time. Sorry Richard!
At around dinner time we started our way back down. Remember when I told you that it took us about 2 hours from door to door on the way up? Well it took us all of 2 minutes to get back down the mountain and another 18 or so to get all the way home! I was shocked at how little time it took us to get down. Little Norah on my back refused to stay huddled, shielded from the wind. She had to see! So there she was peering over my shoulder the entire time, not caring that the icy wind was blowing in her face. She’s a trooper, that one! When we got home us girls took a nice hot bath and soaked in the warmth until we were wrinkly! A nice end to a cold, full day.