The Nature Park Altmühltal is known for its abundance of castles and palaces. This time we are introducing you to a couple of destinations for lovers of art and history. Text and photos: Dietmar Denger
Rococo and modern art
The walls of Spielberg Castle bring visitors into the here and now with their imaginative contemporary art. Close to Gunzenhausen, this grand complex can be seen from a distance perched on the Hahnenkamm mountain ridge, which looks a little like a volcanic cone.
In 1983, Count Oettingen-Spielberg ceded his ancestral home, which dates back to the 12th century, to the Steinacker family of artists, who have renovated the castle in spectacular fashion.
Schloss Spielberg: art with a view
The avenue that runs up to the castle, the “Sculpture Meadow” beyond the curtain wall with views across the plains, and the inner courtyard have all been turned into magnificent stage settings for the often colourful sculptures of Ernst Steinacker, whose design vocabulary is at times reminiscent of Picasso and Hundertwasser.
Massive heads integrated into the gate in the castle wall appear to have been inspired by the Moai statues on Easter Island, while inside the courtyard more delicate objects reach up to the skies above the castle. The main building houses the Schlossgalerie Steinacker, where visitors can enjoy the paintings and drawings on display.
Old and new come together quite naturally at Schloss Spielberg and prove that Gothic windows, Baroque and Rococo styles can be a perfect counterfoil to the object art of the 21st century.
Wülzburg: a mighty fortress
You would not be surprised to come across the three Musketeers striding through the mighty Wülzburg towering high above Weißenburg, on the western edge of the Nature Park Altmühltal. This gigantic Hohenzollern fortress built in the form of a pentagon would make a perfect film location with its cannons, its endless walkways and its massive wall.
Situated on one of the highest mountaintops of the Franconian Alps at 630 metres above sea level, the view is also hugely impressive. That will not have escaped the attention of Margrave Georg Friedrich von Brandenburg-Ansbach, who in 1588 built this Renaissance fortress with its five bastions here on the southern boundary of his territory, with the Imperial City of Weißenburg almost within shooting range. The pentagon shape was a military novelty and offered ballistic advantages over the four-cornered version.
The notorious “Pappenheimer”
In German, “knowing your Pappenheimers” is a phrase in common parlance. The small town of Pappenheim, close to the Wülzburg, is not averse to using this notoriety to its advantage in its merchandising. The idiom is said to have originated with Friedrich Schiller. In his work “Wallenstein”, the general says “I know my Pappenheimers”, meaning I know exactly who I’m dealing with.
Why? According to Schiller, Pappenheim’s cuirassiers - armed and armoured cavalry - were particularly brave and loyal. The small, quiet town of Pappenheim is one of the loveliest in the Nature Park and is dominated by its castle.
As well as the chapel with its night sky scene and the small museum in the former arsenal, the main charm of Burg Pappenheim is the lovely view across the rooftops.
Wheat beer from a moated castle
In the village of Titting, the Gutmann family have been proving for 166 years that a historical residence can have a truly delightful smell. In its own malthouse, the former moated castle in the village created a wheat beer that is known far beyond the borders of the Altmühltal.
Beer has been brewed in the castle since 1707: commissioned by the Prince-Bishop Johann Anton I Knebel von Katzenellenbogen (literally “of the cat’s elbows”!), the Eichstätt court master brewer Jakob Engel set up a brewery there.
The renovation and extension work carried out in Renaissance style in the middle of the 16th century gave the building its current form. In 1855, the Gutmann family bought the complex and has been brewing beer there ever since.
You can taste the light and dark wheat beer as well as the Bock wheat beer next door in the family’s own “Bräustüberl”, or, even better, every year at the Tittinger Kellerfest. It makes a wonderful finale to a journey through Altmühltal’s castle region. But also provides refreshment along the way!
Click here for the story Castles in the Altmühltal Nature Park
You have to see them
One of the best preserved knight’s castles in Bavaria and a must for fans of the Middle Ages. The exhibition “Knights, Warriors, Noble Ladies - Burg Prunn and the Nibelungenlied” offers a thrilling glimpse into life in medieval times.
The falconry display is absolutely enthralling, as is the spruce little town of Riedenburg at the foot of the castle.
Visitors to Pappenheim will love the combination of castle and town. The castle houses a Museum of Nature and Hunting and the original torture chamber, while the town, which nestles snugly round the castle hill, is simply charming.
The art of beer under historical vaulted ceilings: guided tours are also available in this small brewery in the moated castle of Titting.
brauerei-gutmann.de (only in German)
At the geographical centre of Bavaria, the “Roman and Bajuwaren Museum” plays a central role. The small Waldbiergarten just outside the door is also a convivial place to sit.
bajuwaren-kipfenberg.de (only in German)
A magical combination of castle complex and modern art, high above the Gunzenhausen plain.
schlossspielberg.de (only in German)
This gigantic fortress offers splendid views in all directions. You should also make time to visit Weißenburg, one of the prettiest towns in the Nature Park!
weissenburg.de/wuelzburg (only in German)