On Saturday I received two postcards from a pen-friend I met during this year’s A Month Of Letters Challenge. Christine lives in Germany and had sent these postcards during her holiday in the Swabian Jura (or Swabian Alps), a low mountain range in Baden-Württemberg – Germany’s third largest state. The range is bounded by the Danube on the southeast and the upper Neckar in the northwest. In the southwest it rises to the higher mountains of the Black Forest. There are many castles, monasteries, churches, ruins and old towns in the area.
The first card depicts some of the mountaintop castles. In the upper left corner is Schloss Sigmaringen which was the princely castle and seat of government for the Princes of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen; portions date from the 11th century. Following the Allied invasion of France, it became the seat of the French Vichy Government-in-Exile. The large center photo shows the cliff-side Lichtenstein Castle located near Honau which was constructed on the site of an earlier ruined castle in 1840-42 by Duke Wilhelm of Urach who had been inspired by Wilhelm Hauff’s novel Lichtenstein. Hohenzollern Castle is pictured in the upper right. Some 50km south of Stuttgart, it is considered the ancestral seat of the Hohenzollern family, which emerged in the Middle Ages and eventually became German Emperors.
Wildenstein Castle – middle-left – is a fortified castle built between 1200 and 1300 above the Danube break-through in the Swabian Alb. It’s currently used as a youth hostel. The middle-right photo shows the ruins of Hohenurach Castle built around 1025 situated at the town of Bad Urach. It became a state prison in the Middle Ages and was razed to the ground by the citizenry in the 18th century. In the lower left we see the ruined Hohenneuffen Castle, sitting on a mountaintop in the northern foothills of the Swabian Alb at an elevation of 2,437 feet (743 meters). It was built between 1100 and 1120 by Mangold von Sulmetingen. It was besieged for more than a year during the Thirty Years’ War and went out of use in 1795. Local residents used parts of the castle as cheap building materials until further destruction was safeguarded in 1830. An inn was established there in 1862. Lower center shows Burg Teck, a ducal castle in the kingdom of Württemberg crowning the 2,544-foot high ridge of Teckberg. It was destroyed during the German Peasants’ War in 1525 but was reconstructed during the 19th and 20th centuries. Finally, in the lower right, we see Reuẞenstein Castle. the ruins of a medieval fortress built in 1270 in order to watch the only pass into the Swabian Alb from the Neidlingen valley. It became uninhabited in 1550 and fell into disrepair, only having been restored in 1965-66.
The second postcard portrays scenes of the landscape of the Swabian Alb, consisting of gentle to moderate hills often covered with forest or cleared for small-scale agriculture. Today, the grass fields covered with juniper bushes has become a comparatively rare sight but in places is protected by the government of Baden-Württemberg.