KONIGSTEIN – EUROPE’S BIGGEST MOUNTAIN FORTRESS

Perched on a hill and overlooking a small Saxony town of Konigstein is the mighty Festung Konigstein (Konigstein Fortress).

In its 800 years of existence it has stopped all its enemies and remained unconquered until the arrival of present-day tourists eager to climb its walls, admire its might and enjoy great vistas from the top especially the Elbe River bend.

It is undoubtedly Europe’s biggest mountain fortress with impenetrable 40 metre high walls, 60 buildings inside to explore and covering an area of 9.5 ha.

For all its aloofness it is very accessible as you can choose to climb the hill following a picturesque and winding path which only takes 30 minutes or take a cute courtesy train from the town centre.

The fortress is truly massive and you need a least half a day to see everything but the experience and the views are definitely worth the effort.

The first document to mention Konigstein dates back to 1241 and refers to it as a castle.  Originally it belonged to the Bohemian Kingdom but at the beginning of the 15th century it passed into the hands of Saxon rulers. Since 1589 it was turned into a fortress and remained one until the beginning of the 20th century.

Throuhout its history different Saxon regiments have had their base there and many buildings have been added reflecting different architectural styles from Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque to the 19th century Neo-Gothic Garrison Church.

The fortress have also some other unusual wonders such as the deepest well in Saxony (152.5 metres) dug in 1563 and still being operated for tourists to marvel at its sheer drop.

The army supply warehouse with its sloping surface perfect for rolling massive barrels down to the bottom is another treasure. It holds “The Great Cask” – the largest wine barrel in the world with a capacity of 238,000 litres.

Other treasures include a collection of cannons and regimental Saxon uniforms. The interesting fact is that Bismarck used to keep millions of silver talars in the fortress – obviously trusting its impregnable walls.

The sheer drop of massive walls of the George Castle and the stark entrance gate with the Royal Saxon Coat of Arms is particularly impressive.

I also liked the collection of royal cannons and the ornate Baroque Lilienstein Tower perched precariously over the cliff but with stunning views of the Elbe River below and surrounding hills.

After all this exhertion there are ample opportunities to sample traditional German fare of bratwurst with mustard and a schnitzl with potatoes.

The fortress is a magnificent place just waiting to be discovered. So don’t just stay in Dresden – get on a bike and get there.

HOW TO GET THERE

By car: by motorway A17 – Dresden – Prague (Pirna exit), then federal road B172 in direction Bad Schandau

By Urban Railway: S-Bahn line S1 – Dresden – Konigstein – Schona

By Boat: Dresden – Konigstein – Bad Schandau

Admission Fees: 8 EURO

You can find free parking in Konigstein town.

The car park next to the fortress has a parking charge.

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