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I am married to the love of my life and am finally able to shower him with all of the attention he deserves. I am now retired and living the life here in Europe. I am an American, he is an Australian, and this is our second overseas address. The first was Shanghai, China and now Munich, Germany. Come along and live the life with us as we continue our adventure of discovering all Europe has to offer.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010


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View of the Main Castle at Burghausen from Outside the Castle Walls.

    I often wonder what it would be like to go back in time and live in a different century;
the 7th or 8th century in Europe, for example. I ponder what life was really like on a day to day basis. Fortunately, much of Europe has preserved the ancient buildings of this time period and today you can discover whole towns that still exist from the Middle Ages so that we might have a glimpse into life as it once was. Many castles in Germany still exist from that stormy period of time that began after the disintegration of the great Roman Empire.

     One such ancient city is Burghausen near the Austrian border. At over 1 kilometer in length, Burghausen Castle is the longest castle in Europe. The oldest documented mention of Burghausen is in the year 1025. However, archaeologists have found remnants of the Bronze, Iron, and Celtic ages as well as the Roman times making it difficult to pinpoint an actual founding date.

                                                           Small Chapel in Ancient City
     Chivalrous knights, huge fortified castles, medieval swords, and damsels in distress are what most of us associate with the Middle Ages.  The castles were initially designed to keep any attacking force out of the city. The fortified home of a powerful warlord, it provided sanctuary during times of strife. 

Inside the Ancient City of Burghausen

     People lived a hard and dangerous life within the fortress walls.  People were born into a social position with specific duties and had little chance of changing their lot in life.  The comfort and safety depended on the work of all of the others. Inside the walls of Burghausen, you can see that it is well maintained and actually has converted all of the buildings into flats where people actually reside today.

 Another view of the Castle Walls from Outside

     Today, Burghausen has grown to incorporate a new and modern city around the original castle walls.  After a legacy of Duke Henry the Lion in 1164, and the subsequent Wittelsbachs, it finally became the second residence of the Lower Bavarian dukes.  The main source of income at that time was from the trade of salt from Hallein (modern-day Austria). 
     In the 14th century, Emperor Louis IV granted it the privilege of becoming the area's administrative and revenue office.   Burghausen experienced an expansion during that time, the golden age,  and then in 1594 lost most of its' income from the salt trade during the establishment of the ducal salt monopoly.
     For 300 years it experienced more administrative and commercial decline.  By the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century the city lay in disrepair and the population dwindled to 2,500 inhabitantsToday, it still would be in shambles if it were not for the Wacker family.
     In 1903 the Wacker-Chemie GmbH was founded.  It was the first ever large-scale producer of acetaldehyde, acetic acid and acetone.  One could safely say that this industrial plant, that now covers over 2 square kilometers and has over 10,000 employees that manufacture thousands of different products in some 150 facilities is responsible for the preservation of the town.  Today, many people reside in the ancient city and the castle and other buildings have been converted into flats.

View from inside castle walls to St. Jakob's Kirche in modern Burghausen

     It's tower is 78 meters high.


Drawbridge where Napoleon Once Stood

     This bridge spanning what was once a moat that had to be crossed to gain entry into the innermost palace of Burghausen Castle.

Beautiful Wooden Carvings on Pillars and a Painted Sign Above the Arch that Reads "1523."

Bavarian Coat of Arms

     Back in medieval times, colorful flags and coat of arms would have decorated the walls of the castle honoring the escapades of the royal knights.

     An Interior View of the Ribbed Vaults Inside the Parish Church

Arched Doorway to Cellar of Castle

     I did not want to contemplate where this doorway led.  Having watched far too many Hollywood versions of dungeons, my imagination was already in overdrive.

                                          Star of David on Door Window

     I have read that there was a Jewish population in Burghausen during WWII.  This Star of David ornament on a door within the castle is further proof.

A View of the Modern City of Burghausen from Atop the Castle Walls.

   The Salzach River surrounds the castle on one side and the Woehrsee, a lake cut from the riverbed of the Salzach River, at the end of the last Ice Age, when the river changed its course. 

The Dual Coats of Arms at the Entrance of the 2nd of 4 Courtyards of Burghausen Castle.

     This represents the alliance between George of Bavaria & Hedwig of Poland.  The left panel features the Bavarian Coat of Arms with lions, while the right panel features the Polish Coat of Arms with a white eagle.
     Burghausen is only an hours drive from Munich and is situated right next to the Austrian border.  It is a lovely drive where you have beautiful views of vistas such as this one of the Austrian Alps or the one below:

     It is a lovely way to spend a day, going back in time to a place of fantasy with jousting, squires, heraldry, Ales, peasant bread, and pottage.  It is easy to let your mind wander to more romantic times, but it is also a reminder of plagues like the Black Death  and famine.  One only has to remember medieval stories like Hansel and Gretel, like most of Grimm's Fairy Tales, to know that they had a basis in reality and illustrated the harsh possibilities of natures whims.  (A sad note is that during the Black Death, oddly enough, concerns over famine were alleviated as the survivors found they had more food available.)
    It is  a fanciful history, but women then were treated as property.  After the crusades, knights returned having learned of adversaries who actually revered their women.  Passion was no longer considered sinful to 11th and 12th century moralists and courtly love became the subject of some of the most famous medieval poems.  Hence, the word "courtesy" in our language today.

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