Germany,  Hohenfels Day Trip

Castle Bechthal

Just a short 17 minute drive from Burgruine Brunneck in Bavaria Germany are the ruins of a 13th century Irish castle.  Well not exactly but this is the most Irish looking castle we have seen during our one year of living in Deutschland.

This was the second leg of our three castle day trip and had we driven straight from Hohenfels, the journey would have been 70 minutes one way.  The drive is beautiful and will feel less than one hour.

The quickest route through Google led us down extremely narrow roads which I enjoy so that was a bonus.  The approach to Bechthal is unlike any other castle ruin.  The landscape is mostly barren and rather than located on a hill, the castle is located on a promenade surrounded by sunken wide trenches.  The parking lot to hike the ruins is at the confluence of three approaches.

Once parked, the kids leapt from the vehicles as they could see the castle from their seats and from a child’s perspective–had a straight shot at running to the ruins.  As I said, this was unlike most castle ruins in Bavaria.  There was no wooded trail to take.  There was no delayed gratification in seeing your prize after walking for thirty minutes to an hour.  No, from this parking lot you had a beautiful view of the castle ruins.

As parents we responsibly packed up the necessary items for the short hike–water, snacks, sunscreen–and made our way from the parking lot to catch up with the seven children that were now scattered across the hillsides.  In fact, if it wasn’t for the children I would have stopped to take many more photographs from the walk to the castle.

Along the way we started to see strange vegetation growth on the hillside to the right.  In several spots it appeared this growth was forming a heart.  As we walked further, hearts outlined in rock appeared on the countryside as well.  It reminded me of North Dakota where I would travel frequently for work in the late 90s.  Many communities in North Dakota had hillsides dotted with messages, names, graduating class signage.  Apparently, something to this effect has been started as a tradition here as well.

We passed the castle to the right to check out the trenches located around the castle on the promenade.  It would be interesting to know how these trenches served as part of the castle’s defense 700 years ago.  Along the right side of the castle we also noticed many broken pieces of something akin to while slate (very thin and fragile rock).  It’s unclear if this was part of recent renovations to the castle, part of early construction or expansion of the castle, or simply native rock that simply is part of the landscape.

After checking out the trenches we headed back towards the castle and passed below it on the right as we were headed in the direction of the cars.  After walking a few minutes through the woods we came to a rising path with a wooden handrail.  I should say, for the parents we came to a handrail because many of the kids decided to bushwack their way through a ravine and thicket to get to the clearing inside the castle ruins.

The ruins have both the standard one wall standing look common to many German castles as well as a very well preserved tower that is inaccessible.  I say inaccessible even though there is a door to the tower.  The problem is the door is located approximately fifteen feet of the ground.  I imagine when the castle was still intact an exterior wall or interior room provided either a rampart or hallway through which you could access the tower.  It’s  a shame the Bavarian government has not provided a ladder or stairwell to allow access to the interior.

We took the obligatory ‘castle ruins in the background’ photographs and then shuffled back down the path with the handrail (kids in tow this time).  When we connected with the wooded path we had taken to reach the guard rail path, we turned left and continued through the woods headed in the direction of the parking lot.

After a few minutes the path forks with the left option taking you back to your car and the right option descending to a lake and playground.  Because the kids had spotted the playground and lake on our way to the castle they ran down the path not knowing how to get there exactly.

I had spotted the rambling brook separating the castle from the lake so I knew there must be a bridge somewhere.  It was funny to watch the kids running down the hill trying to be first, not thinking through this problem.

Can you spot the path opening in the trees?

Well halfway down the hill if you look closely you can see the slightest opening in the treestand on your downslope side.  I yelled for the children to come back and half came to where I was entering the woods and the other half entered the woods through a larger opening close to my opening that was still so small that they hadn’t noticed it when running by.  So beware to look for either of these two openings.

After ducking into the trees I promptly fell on my tuckus due to the slippery rocks and soil–you know the kind–rocks and soil that never see the sun so they retain a slipperiness about them all the time.  Just twenty feet from where you duck into the woods you will see a bridge that takes you across the brook to the lake and playground.

I didn’t bother to Google Translate the few signs that are next to the lake so I can’t say for sure if swimming is or is not allowed.  All I know is it was in the  50s and raining so we had no interest in swimming.  Well, I should say I had no interest in swimming.  My 11 year old Hunter was begging for permission to get in the lake.

The playground is small but I look at it as a bonus.  How often do you have a playground next to a castle ruin?  The smaller ones enjoyed the playground while the older ones (including one adult sized child) attempted to hit a wood pylon in the middle of the lake with rocks.  After 30 minutes of being unsuccessful our group retraced our steps back across the bridge.  From there we turned right and followed the rock strewn path ascending back to the parking lot.  From a difficulty rating this would be the most difficult part of this hike but as difficult as it was due to the grade, it was still easy enough that several children race each other up the slope.  The only thing that slowed the children down were the miniature toads they spotted hiding and hopping under the rocks located on the path.

ONE WAY TRAVEL TIME FROM HOHENFELS AREA: 1 hour 10 minutes

TOTAL HIKING DISTANCE: 1.50 miles

TOTAL HIKING TIME: 40 minutes

ELEVATION GAIN: 146 feet

DIFFICULTY RATING WITH CHILDREN: simple to moderate/ most tiring part was climbing the hill from the lake to the parking lot/ most technical part was descending down the slippery trail towards the bridge

Set your GPS to this address.

Quiet homebody.

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