Hohenzollern Castle is the home of German emperors. Perched on a peak in the Swabian hills, this Schloss rivals its Bavarian cousin, Neuschwanstein, as an impressive stop on a German itinerary.
Like many castles, Hohenzollern is a steep climb. During an attack, opposing armies exhausted themselves hiking up 855 meters / 2,805 feet in full armor before being riddled with arrows and scalded by boiling oil. Tourists escape the weaponry, but not the cardio work-out up the hill.
At the gates the vista is stunning with the tree-covered landscape, especially in autumn. Everything about Hohenzollern is huge, whether it is the ceilings, hallways, and stairs. Why not? It is the home Hohenzollern family, who rose out of the Middle Ages to rule Germany
Three castles were built on this site. The first, constructed in the 11th century was destroyed in a 1423 siege. The second, completed in 1461, protected Catholic refuges during the Thirty Years War. The current fortress was ready for battle in 1867. The architecture resembled French chateaus in Loire, giving Hohenzollern the fairy tale magic of King Ludwig's Neuschwanstein without the madness and Bavarian Alps.
'Nothing Without God' became the family model as the Hohenzollern's emerged in the 12th century. They eventually became rulers of Prussia, Germany, and portions of Romania. Reformation split Germany and the Hohenzollern family. The Catholic Swabian branch remained in the area of the castle, and eventually lost power. The Protestant branch moved to Frankfurt and their bloodline included electors, kings, and emperors. Hohenzollern power ended in 1918. Post-World War I revolutions swept through Germany, ousting royalty. The last ruler, King Wilhelm, died in exile. The House of Hohenzollern continues to claim royal power over Prussia, a vanquished kingdom that included portions of Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, and Russia.
Hohenzollern Castle is only 50 kilometers / 30 miles from Stuttgart in southwest Germany. The German transportation capital is packed with attractions, including the Mercedes-Benz Museum, making it an attractive stop on a German travel plan.
Growing up in the flatlands of Northern Ohio, I never dreamed of visiting so many German castles. Hohenzollern is among my favorites. My ancestors were Swabians. At the castle gates I easily imagine the flags of the enemy's armies, and hear the clang of iron and the mighty hoofs of the Emperor's charging knights. Give your imagination a whirl by stopping by Hohenzollern Castle the next time you are traveling in Germany.