In the first part of our Medieval Pursuits series, we took you on a trip through medieval France, Spain and England. The journey now continues with an exploration of regions that today are part of the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany.
The storied Austrian city of Salzburg dates back to the year 15 B.C., but it first rose to prominence when the Monastery of St. Peter was founded here in roughly A.D. 700. The area became a vital religious center; the monks lived high up on the hill in a towering palace, which still looks down upon the city to this day. Hohensalzburg Fortress is the defining feature of this riverside city. This structural marvel dates back to 1077 and remains one of the largest fully preserved castle complexes in Europe. An audio tour offers a 30-minute introduction to the site, including stops at the archbishops’ former staterooms and a dungeon.
Salzburg is within roughly an hour’s drive from several additional medieval sites of interest. While there, venture to the 12th-century Lerchen Castle in Radstadt; Kufstein Fortress, a historically contested strategic landmark; and the Augustinian monastery in Rattenberg, Austria’s smallest town.
Next, drive three hours to Graz, the capital of Austria’s Styrian region. When the city was founded, the overbearing presence of Schlossberg Rock made it an ideal area for building fortifications. Atop the rock sits a magnificent clock tower that dates back to the 13th century. Late afternoon is a popular time for both tourists and locals to gather here to enjoy sweeping views of the setting sun retreating from the cityscape.
A walking tour is the best way to see the Old Town, a World Heritage site. Winding streets, narrow passageways, landscaped courtyards and other hidden treasures create a romantic atmosphere that incorporates both medieval and renaissance architectural styles. While you’re in the area, take the half-hour drive to Frohnleiten. This market town was established by the counts of Pfannberg around the year 1280 in order to protect the only bridge between Graz and Bruck, a town located across the Mur River.