“Vom Fels zum Meer“
On a beautiful summer evening in July 1819, 23 year old Crown Prince Frederick William of Prussia paid a visit to the ruinous ancestral seat and decided its reconstruction. As a King, Frederick William IV. wrote in 1844:
“The Memories of the year 1819 are exceddingly dear to me and like a pleasant dream, especially the sunset we watched from the bastions….Now a dream of my youth has matured into the sole wish, to see the Hohenzollern hill made habitable once more….”
Between 1850 and 1867 the kings dream was realized together with his Swabian relatives, the princes of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and -Hechingen, and the architect Friedrich August Stuler. Following the romantic ideal of the time one of the most imposing neo Gothic castles in Germany was erected. The main castle complex with its many towers and turrets is surrounded by ramps and fortifications which 19th century contemporaries acclaimed masterpieces of military architecture. The Hohenzollern Castle rises majestically on the mountain peak of the Swabian Alb. Its bastions offer a breathtaking panorama over the countryside. After 1952 the splendid halls and rooms have been furnished by Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia (1907-1994) with valuable works of art pertaining to the history of Prussia`s kings and Germany’s emperors. In addition to paintings by well-known artists like Antoine Pesne, Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, Anton Von Werner or Franz Von Lenbach, there is a display of precious porcelain, gold-and silver-smith works from the 17th to 19th centuries as well as historical garments such as he uniform, worn by Frederick the Great during the battle near Kunersdorf or clothes from Queen Louise. In the catholic St.Michael’s Chapel, which for the most part originates from the previous castle, late Romanesque sandstone reliefs and stained glass windows from the 13th century with the oldest known depiction of the Hohenzollern heraldry, can be seen. The protestant Christ Chapel, erected on special request by King Frederick William IV., was the resting-place of Frederick the Great and his father Frederick William I, between 1952 and 1991.
In 2004, case-mates, bomb-proof vaulted cellars once used for military purposes, and parts of a secret passage were opened to the public. The picturesque site and the precious art collections make a visit to Hohenzollern Castle a sustainable experience at any time of the year. The Castle is open daily – all year-round. Between April 1st and October 31st a shuttle bus runs from the parking lot to the castle entrance and vice verse. During the winter season tourist parties of at least 20 persons can book the buses two days in advance. At the Castle there are also home-style meals to be had. During the summer season the Castle pub entertains one of the most beautiful beer gardens in the Zollern alb district. Here you are welcome to bring a sandwich along. Drinks of your choice as well as small snacks, a cake selection and sweets are available at the kiosk.
The Entrance to Hohenzollern castle is through “Eagle Gateway”. The Entrance has Frederick I or Elector of Bradenburg as he was also called, mounted on his horse. Above is the prussian eagle with the Hohenzollern motto “Vom Fels zum Meer“ (From cliff to sea). which was derived from the Hohenzollern Royal Order from 1851. When building the castle the steep height was a problem which had to be solved using limited space. The entrance or castle ramp, which was considered a masterpeice when built was constructed using three over lapping elliptic loops, which covered an altitide of 25m or 75ft. The ramp was protected by gates and drawbridges and the climb was easy even for horse and carts of the time.
The walls to the entrance hall were decorated with the hohenzollern family tree. It begins above the entrance and begins with the first know documentation of the Hohenzollern family in the 11th century. The tree branch of the family tree breaks up just after into the Swabian (red) and Franconian (Blue) later to become Brandenburg-Prussian lines. The latter line continues onto the right wall and stretches up enumerating Prussian Kings, German Emperors and their descendants, right upto modern day. The line also also stretches off another way to the Kings of Rumania who originate from this family line.The room also houses a picture of Germany’s last emperor William II (1859-1941).
The Hohenzollern banquet hall and ballroom named Count`s Hall, is the largest and most representative room in the Castle. The room is similar to a church in that the rib vaulted ceiling rests upon free standing columns made of red Nassau Marble. Due to the convergence of the outer walls,, the hall is visually stretched in the southwest direction, seeming longer. The floor is made up of Solnhofen stone slabs and Italian Marble, dominating colours are the black and white, the Hohenzollern Colours. Statues line the room, at the north end eight statues of Holy Roman Empire rulers. At the south end or “Bishops Niche” are members of the Church’s Knights, and the statues along the side portray important dignitaries.
The Royal Treasury, housed in the former castle kitchens, contains many of the precious objects, art and Memorabilia. They were allowed to stay in Hohenzollern following a property dispute in 1926 whereupon Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia (1907 – 1994 ) made them accessible to the public. There is far too many to talk about and only a visit to Hohenzollern can really show you the beauty they hold.
Other rooms around Hohenzollern castle you will see on your Tour include: The Blue Parlour Room, The Library, Queens Reception Rooms, Margrave`s Parlour, the Royal Bedchambers and dressing rooms. The two Chapels you will visit are St. Michaels Chapel and Christ`s Chapel. There is a Russian Orthodox chapel below where four Hohenzollerns are entombed:
- Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia
- Princess Kira of Prussia
- Princess Kira junior of Prussia
- Princess Xenia of Prussia
Hohenzollern Castle is certainly a treasure of Germany and one we can certainly recommend.
In 2001 an astounding discovery was made where builders stumbled upon several medieval secret passageways and casements. They have been cleaned away and are now filled with valuable china, glassware and silver and gold dishware, all available for you to view. The famous “White Lady” is associated with the rooms.
Legend has it that a mysterious white lady sneaked into the castle during the seige of 1422/23 by way of a secret passageway. An illustration dated 1630 showing a “Hidden exit” testifies to the fact that a postern-gate was indeed available at that time for escape. Maybe you will see her while you walk through the cellers???
On A 81 (Stuttgart–Singen), exit Empfingen, on B463 in direction Balingen, then on B 27 in direction Hechingen (in Hechingen, Burg Hohenzollern signposts give you the direction) or via B 27 (Stuttgart–Tübingen-Hechingen-Balingen), exit Burg Hohenzollern. The road leads through the forest directly to the parking lot of the Castle. A sufficient number of parking places is available for the buses. The increasingly steep getting walking path (approx. 30 minutes) leads to the Castle entrance, the Eagle’s Gate. Here you find the cashier booth. The Castle can be reached more comfortably by taking the shuttle bus (station is opposite the parking lot).
By Bus & Train to the Castle
By train you can easily get to Hechingen station and from there by bus to the Hohenzollern Castle – for example via the following connections:
From Stuttgart main station (Hbf) to Hechingen station by train (IRE)
Stuttgart main station: leaving at 10:16 hrs – arrival Hechingen station at 11:22 hrs (daily)
Stuttgart main station: leaving at 12:16 hrs – arrival Hechingen station at 13:22 hrs (daily)
From Hechingen station by bus to the Hohenzollern Castle
Hechingen station: leaving at 11:25 hrs – to the parking lot of the Hohenzollern Castle (daily)
Hechingen station: leaving at 13:25 hrs – to the parking lot of the Hohenzollern Castle (1)
Parking lot of the Castle: leaving at 16:05 hrs – to Hechingen station (daily)
Parking lot of the Castle: leaving at 17:30 hrs – to Hechingen station (2)
Parking lot of the Castle: leaving at 18:30 hrs – to Hechingen station (1)
(1) = Daily 01 April – 31 October
(2) = Saturday/Sunday/public holidays 01 April – 31 October
For the return rides from Hechingen station to Stuttgart main sation you have a couple of possibilities which are to be announced on www.bahn.de (please choose as start point “Bahnhof/ZOB, Hechingen” and “Stuttgart Hbf” as destination).