Schlösserstraße - Road of the Castles: Tour
Castles of the Burgenland & Southern Styria
I have always liked castles. As a child I loved exploring them and thinking of knights in shining armour with mighty swords. I think most children are like this. Some don′t develop very far - which applies to me, still liking castles. A very good place to dive into the history of medieval warfare is the Burgenland and Southern Styria. These most eastern provinces of Austria have served as a buffer against Magyar tribes and Turks - much like Lower Austria and Carinthia.
The Burgenland and Styria offer great opportunities to explore castles and - at the same time - follow a "off the beaten track" itinerary. A total of 18 castles ("Burg" or "Schloss" in German for a more military or palace like building, respectively) forms an alliance called "Die Schlösserstraße" ("The Road of Castles"). This alliance consists of castles of significant importance with some kind of impact on the regional culture. They are all individually maintained (often privately) and follow their own policy, but have joint marketing efforts and invite people to tour them.
The "Road of the Castles" (www.schloesserstrasse.com) overlaps with some of the best wine areas of Austria, but also with the home of many spas - taken together, these attractions might fill a very decent vacation. The most notable castles are the following:
The "Road of Castles": Schlösserstraße in the North
Burg Bernstein (www.culture.privateweb.at/bernstein) is owned by the heirs of the Counts of Almasy. Sounds familiar? You might have seen "The English Patient" (good movie) or read the novel (better book). The name giving "English" patient was Lazlo Almasy and in fact a Hungarian count - the real Almasy′s family still lives on this scenic castle. Almasy himself was in fact a pilot, successful car mechanic and racer and buried in Salzburg.
The ancient walls of the Burg Lockenhaus (www.tiscover.com/burg.hotel.lockenhaus) are similarly impressive. The castle has a nature reserve stretching into Hungarian lands and a conference hotel to accommodate up to 600 people. South of it you will find Burg Schlaining (www.burg-schlaining.at), a fairy-tale like castle that is also the main site of "European Museum of Peace and Violence". There are public exhibitions that chance frequently. The nearby village of Schlaining has some lovely corners in its medieval centre, several interesting churches and a synagogue.
Somewhat East of this you will find a cluster of other castles. The slightly smaller Schloss Hartberg (www.hartberg.at) is more of a palazzo dating back to the 12th century, but was refurbished in Renaissance Style in the 16th century and gained some arcades in the 17th century. Today it is used for exhibitions, lectures and concerts. Schloss Schielleiten is another manor with similar usage and a beautiful baroque facade but no website, whereas Schloss Stubenberg (www.schloss-stubenberg.at) is slightly bigger and used as a wellness hotel these modern days.
Schloss Pöllau (www.naturpark-poellauertal.at) is a good chunk bigger and the predominant feature in the historic market town. The castle is a previous Augustine Abbey and an impressive baroque building in the middle of a valley that is part of a nature reserve (Naturpark Pöllauer Tal). Schloss Herberstein (www.herberstein.co.at) is famous in Austria for its private zoo, but it is also impressive as a building, art museum and site for historic gardens.
Central Castles, Vineyards & Spas
The smaller, but scenic Schloss Obermayerhofen Castle (www.obermayerhofen.at) holds a restaurant and hotel. The similarly smaller Schloss Burgau Castle (www.burgau.steiermark.at) dates back to the 14th century, but was refurbished a few times and was owned by the Count Batthyany, who was executed for treason after the revolution of 1848. It is now owned by the local community Burgau and used for concerts, seminars and exhibitions.
One of the most impressive castles of Austria is Burg Güssing (http://www.burgguessing.info) just by the Hungarian border. It dates back to 1157 and built on a volcanic mountain, making it the oldest castle of the Burgenland. Güssing, too, was owned by the Counts of Batthyany. Today it has a large museum, a restaurant that arranges Medieval style feasts and a well-known Medieval Festival ("Burgfestspiele"). They are also very proud of their well-equipped wine cellar ("Vinothek").
The mighty Riegersburg (www.veste-riegersburg.at) back in Styria is of similar appeal. It was also built on volcanic rock (482 metres high) and is private property of the Prince of Liechtenstein (that tiny joke-country between Austria and Switzerland). Most of today′s castle was built in the 17th century; this includes a total of three kilometres of defence walls to protect the plateau of the rock. It is open to visitors and contains a museum of witches and witch prosecution ("Hexenmuseum").
The nearby Schloss Kornberg Castle (www.schlosskornberg.at) is also worth seeing. You can see the castle itself with an exhibition of the local history or go to the obligatory restaurant, which - surprise - also organises medieval feasts.
The Southern Castles & the Highlights of all
Schloss Kapfenstein (www.schloss-kapfenstein.at) is not far from Kornberg and in its core very old, dating back to the 11th century. Not the biggest of the "Road of the Castles" castles, it is in the middle of wine lands, which adds to its appeal. Schloss Tabor (www.schloss-tabor.at) dates back to the 15th century and is more a manor than a castle. It is used for concerts, seminars and exhibitions today.
The castle of Bad Radkersburg (www.badradkersburg.org) is impressively big and supplemented by a scenic town with a medieval centre. It hosts a museum and changing exhibitions. The castle itself was constantly modernised and is now more baroque than medieval.
Schloss Seggau Castle (www.seggau.com) was the palace of a bishop and turned into a summer residence in the 19th century. Today, the cosy castle serves as a church-run seminar hotel and has its own vineyards. Burg Deutschlandsberg (www.deutschlandsberg.at) is also called Burg Lonsprecht and has Celtic roots. Most of the preserved parts are medieval and the castle′s restaurant makes good use of its position in the midst of Styria′s wine lands with little but Leibnitz anywhere near.
I recommend matching your castle visits with some visits at vineyards, historic market towns and a stay in one of the region′s spas. So what are the highlights in terms on the "Road of Castles"? I would say Burg Schlaining; Schloss Pöllau with the market town around it; Schloss Herberstein if you travel with children (because of the zoo); Burg Güssing; the Riegersburg with the "Museum of Witchcraft"; and Schloss Kornberg.
Thermen and Spas of Austria (many in this region)
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