After our day in Dresden we took a train about 40 minutes out to Königstein. The ride took us along the River Elbe past beautiful rolling hills and tiny, picturesque villages. Once you get off the train at the Königstein station your journey to the fortress has truly begun. From there you walk to the center of town to get on a double decker bus. That bus can only drive about halfway up the mountain, so you have another stop where you get on a “train” that is really a tractor pulling some cars.This drops you off where you buy tickets to the fortress. Then you get to walk up the path leading to the entrance. It is quite steep, but gives you a pretty good idea of why the fortress was never taken. Just to get from the river to the gate is quite the feat, not to mention getting past the castle’s formidable fortifications. Originally built in the 13th century, this fortress was constantly being renovated to be stronger and more shell proof, right up until WWII. I took the self-guided audio tour with a friend, but the structure was so huge that we only managed to hit the highlights. The best part of the fortress was the amazing view from atop the walls.
Other than the beautiful landscape, there were plenty of interesting parts of the fortress itself as well. In addition to the 500 foot deep well and 13th century chapel, there was also a wine cellar where Augustus the Strong had the world’s largest wine barrel built. It held over 50,000 gallons of wine!
One of the main uses of the fortress was to store gold, silver, and precious artworks during times of unrest. For this purpose a treasury house was built with walls over six feet thick and a cellar with mechanical carts that could transport the barrels of coins around.
My favorite building on the property was Fredericksburg (Frederick’s castle). An original part of the fortress, Augustus the Strong had it renovated in 1731 to reflect the modern Baroque style and used it to house small court meetings. One special feature that he added was a mechanical table that functioned basically like a food elevator from the kitchen below. His guests were very impressed. A visiting royal even asked for the plans to build his own.
Fredericksburg was also the setting of the funniest story at the fortress:
The Pages Bed
One night at dinner a page indulged in a few too many glasses of wine. He was so sleepy afterwards that he set off in search of the nearest bed. Soon he found a nice flat surface near the ground. Since it was dark and he was more than a little intoxicated, he did not realize that this flat surface was actually an open window facing a 130-foot drop. The next morning, the king’s guards found him still fast asleep on the windowsill. When the king was told what was happening, he ordered his page to be tied, carefully to the sill and a parade of drums and trumpets to march by. That is what I call a rude awakening.
Visiting the fortress was a lovely way to spend the day. I highly recommend it if you are in the area. It was very dog friendly, if you happen to be traveling with pets. It was not, however built on easy terrain. If someone in your group has difficulty getting around, it might not be the best option. Perhaps you could check out a day cruise along the river. For beautiful summer scenery the fortress and surrounding area were a great day trip.