Schloss Tratzberg

Schloss Tratzberg

If your getting tired of castles or Schloss that look like big Christmas cakes or were dreamed up by some half-mad dillitent then a trip across the border to the Inn valley is a good way to get to see some proper castles where people had more bloody matters on their mind that floating around in roughs and powdered wigs.

My favourite to date is Schloss Tratzberg. Unlike the medieval castles that are dotted all along the Inn river, 15th-century Tannenburg is more like an early Schloss, perched high up the side of the valley, it certainly commands a formidable position, nonetheless it is a comfortable dwelling as well. From the valley floor, it does not look so different from its 19th century imitations, all whitewash and turreted, but struggle up the winding road to the main entrance and you are rewarded with something of much greater historical and architectural moment than say you get after heaving yourself up to Neuschwanstein (there is a shuttle train option in both cases).

Viewing is by way of a guided tour of about an hour’s duration. Different wings were completed over the 15th and 16th centuries and the interiors take you from late gothic through to early renaissance. Both styles exhibited in dark wood paneling, black ironwork, and heavy furniture. The alcoves created by the turrets on every corner feel like they are suspended above the valley descending below. All the stately rooms are of a homely and manageable size, with pleasing proportions. Grand without being ostentatious and the ‘early renaissance’ room seems to have more in common with its more austere predecessors than the excess which followed.

The formal banqueting room has walls covered on all sides with a chronological mosaic of Hapsburg dignitaries up to Emperor Maximillian (the castle’s founder). It all kicks of with the great Hapsburg victory of ???? against the bohemians in 1270, from whence their uninterrupted domination is traced via a series of intertwining tree branches (literal depiction of a family tree) to the 15th century. If this room were to be extended (would have to be a big extension) it would stretch all the way to a single ailing branch representing the octogenarian bachelor Otto, currently residing by lake Sternberg, the sole remaining descendant of the greatest ruling family of Western Europe.

The tour ends in the armory, where you can see the sort of barbaric weapons that made the thirty years war (though it never got as far South as Tratzburg) so catastrophic. The high point in the development of medieval warfare, all monstrous pikes, faceless suits of armor and big spiky balls on chains. As you exit through the beautiful inner courtyard another chance to see the striking mosaics decorating all four sides of the inner castle.

Having over-nighted in Achensee I rode back to the nearest Bavarian train in Lengries that afternoon, but if your not into cycling or only have a day, this is probably a trip to be done in a car, the train fares into Austria and labourious route via Rosenheim making anything else unrealistic.

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