More than three times longer than the Romantic Road, is the 1, 200 km Castle Road which runs from Mannheim to Prague in the Czech Republic. The Castle Road is one of Germany’s longest established scenic roads lined with 90 impressive castles (and castle ruins), palaces and stately homes.
Navigating the Castle Road
From Mannheim, the road zig-zags eastwards and along the way, just before the half way point around Nuremberg, the Castle Road passes the Neckar Valley, the course of the Jagst and the Tauber rivers all of which add to the fabulous scenery. The Road then takes a northward direction to Coburg, taking in the landscapes of Franconian Switzerland, the Main River, the Franconian forest and the Fichtelgebirge (Spruce Mountains), then passing through Bayreuth (Richard Wagner’s city) before entering into the Czech Republic and ending at Karlštejn Castle in Prague.
Castles and Palaces along the Road
To many of us, castles are places that are steeped in history and they often conjure images of knights in shiny armours and princes, ladies-in-waiting, courtships and festivities. In reality though, from the perspective of many of the people who lived in the castle grounds, life probably wasn’t that great. Alongside the legends, myths and fairy tales that abound, are also the real stories of the people who lived in the castles and what life was like during the medieval period.
A tour along the Castle Road allows travellers to link travel with history and culture. You can immerse yourself in the fascinating period when castles were the town stronghold and the centre of life. At some of the castles you can go on guided ghost tours or enjoy medieval banquets and feasts.
As such, the Castle Road is best experienced on a leisurely driving or cycling holiday. Apart from the castles and ancient monuments, there are many interesting and romantic towns and medieval villages to visit, each one with their beautiful town squares, abbeys and architecture, not to mention the possibility of sampling the local specialities and wine, or to go on gourmet tours.
It is suggested that the Castle Road should really be travelled in both directions – firstly concentrating on its scenic beauty in one direction, then discovering its treasures in the other direction. Cyclists will be pleased to know that the route is also a designated cycle trail.
Today, many of these magnificent castles and palaces are popular settings for classical concerts, operas and other entertainment.
History of the Castle Road
The Castle Road began in 1954 as a collaborative effort amongst the cities of Mannheim, Heidelberg, Heilbronn, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Ansbach and Nuremberg to promote tourism along what was then the only west-east route through Germany.
Because of the number of castles and palaces along this route, the road was aptly named the “Castle Road”. German Railways then established a coach route with the same name and soon “The Castle Road” became known internationally as a tourism road.
The original route was only 320 kilometers and in 1990, with the opening of the borders with the East, negotiations took place to extend the road to the Czech Republic, making the road 1, 200 kilometers in length. The Castle Road is being improved all the time and it seems the ongoing development of the route remains a never-ending process – a boon for the traveller.