The tens of thousands of medieval castles found across Europe are a highlight for many visitors, but few of us actually stop and think about the enormity of building a castle in medieval times.
The Burgbau (Castle Building) in Friesach, Carinthia, Austria aims to change that. Through a multidisciplinary approach, that interweaves tourism, culture, experimental archeology and science, a modern day historical experimental is taking place to build a 12th century Alpine Castle. It’s being built as a Romanesque residential tower that was typical in Carinthia at the time.
Perhaps even more significantly, it’s being built using only medieval methods and tools with natural materials – wood, stone, sand, etc. That means no motorized or electrical equipment – nothing that wasn’t around in the middle ages. One of the goals of the project is to revive traditional trades that are being forgotten in modern day society. Visitors can see stone masons, blacksmiths and carpenters hard at work. It just takes a few minutes of watching them to become in awe of what a slow enduring process this is. All the stones being used for the castle are carried in a horse-drawn wagon, countless trips each day from the stone mason, up to the castle building site.
The project also has an employment initiative and aims to employ un or underemployed locals who have difficulty finding work with their dying trade. These are real craftsmen at work, not actors.
Admission to the Burgbau is only available with a guided tour, as it is a construction site, albeit a medieval one. The tour is absolutely fascinating and really gives you a glimpse into just how onerous a task building a castle was in medieval times. In this case, a 30-year task, if everything goes as planned.
This thought-provoking tour shouldn’t be missed when you’re in Carinthia, Austria. It was actually one of my travel highlights for 2016 because of how unique it is. It’s a place you could easily return to each year to the see progress of the castle, something I plan to do. Will you join me?
Note: This article is part of the Crossing Routes – Blogging Europe 2016 campaign, in the framework of the Joint-Programme between the Council of Europe and the European Commission aiming at promoting the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe, in collaboration with iambassador.