Around the base of Königstein Fortress

0 Views · Published on Tue, 10 September 2019 · Camper & Caravan Reviews

This is a walk around the base of Königstein Fortress, to see the walls and internal parts of the castle, then you will need to see other videos I filmed during my stay. It is one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe and probably one of the most formidable castles in Europe. The castle is on a 9.5 metre plateau, some 240 metres above the Elbe. The outer wall is 1,800 metres long with walls up to 42 metres high with high sandstone cliffs. Located in the beautiful Saxon Switzerland area of Germany, this is a major tourist attraction and welcomes some 700,000 visitors per year.\nTo get there, you can use the Dresden S Bahn and walk from the station at Konigstein. This has the advantage of making one appreciate just how strong the fortress is. Alternatively, there is a car park at the base of the plateau with shuttle service up or coach parking just next to the castle.\nTo a large extent the fortress became a tourist attraction thanks to art – as indeed did the region of Saxon Switzerland. And this goes back to the latter part of the eighteenth century. Just before the Seven Years War, Elector Augustus III commissioned the Italian artist Bernardo Bellotto to paint a series of five large-scale views of the fortress at Königstein. The war started in 1756 and the pictures were not finished before the outbreak of hostilities. Bellotto did not know what to do with them and so sold them to buyers in the UK. Today, four of the Königstein paintings are held in public collections in Britain whilst a fifth can be seen in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.\nI think I also need to say that whereas I am not interested in art in general, I am also one of those people whose interest in Saxon Switzerland was inspired by the romantic artists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.\nThe plateau is a natural defensive area. There is a record dating to 1233 mentioning a defensive position on the site which for centuries has been on a border route although the names of the countries have changed. It also guards an important trade route, it controls traffic on the Elbe.\nIn the centuries that followed, it expanded, it changed hands, it even changed use and became a monastery for a short period of time. \nThe oldest surviving structure today is the castle chapel built at the turn of the 13th century. In the years 1563 to 1569 the 152.5 metre deep well was bored into the rock within the castle - until that point the garrison of the Königstein had to obtain water from cisterns and by collecting rainwater. During the construction of the well some 8 cubic metres of water had to be removed from the shaft every day.\nBetween 1589 and 1597 Prince-Elector Christian I of Saxony and his successor had the castle developed into the strongest fortification in Saxony. High outer walls and internal buildings were erected which include the gatehouse, barracks and armoury. Construction continued until around 1756 as rulers sought to expand the castle. After this period, work was carried out internally but nothing to match the major changes that had occurred earlier.\nOne curious feature is the largest wine barrel in the world which took from from 1722 to 1725 to make. This was done at the behest of August the Strong. \nAs Königstein Fortress was regarded as unconquerable, the Saxon monarchs retreated to it during times of social upheaval. The state treasury was here and many works of art were also kept here. It was also used by them as a second residence due to the natural beauty and good hunting to be found in the vicinity. It was also used as a prison.\nAlthough the fortress was never taken in battle, it was surrendered. During the Seven Years War in 1756, Prince-Elector Frederick Augustus II saw his army outmanoeuvred and forced to surrender from the castle on the nearby Lilienstein. In August 1813 during the Napoleonic Wars, the clash at Krietzschwitz took place in front of its gates, an engagement that proved an important precursor to the Battle of Leipzig, arguably the battle that defeated Napoleon. \nUntil 1922 the fortress was the best-known state prison in Saxony. During the Franco-Prussian War and the two world wars the fortress was also used as a prisoner of war camp. In World War I the castle was used as a prisoner of war camp (Oflag) for French and Russian officers. In World War II it again served as an Oflag, called Oflag IV-B, for British, French, Polish and other Allied officers. It was from here that General Henri Giraud escaped on 17 April 1942 – probably one of the most daring escapes of the war and something I will examine in another video.\nAfter the Second World War the Red Army used the fortress as a military hospital. From 1949 to 1955 it was used for those that did not appreciate life in the DDR. \nThe castle became a museum on 29 May 1955. In the first 20 years after unification, the Saxon government spent some EUR46m on renovation.

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