Where Eagles Dare

Remember “The Good ‘ol Days”? I’m not quite sure when these “days” allegedly existed, but if you think the stories today’s media bombards us with about murder, theft and cruelty are some kind of fancy new 21st century abomination, you are a king’s fool!

There have always been good people, and there have always been bad. When you look back on medieval history, it’s often hard to tell which is which!

We visited Hohenwerfen Castle, originally built around 1060, added to by the church, burnt down by uprising peasant folk. Built mostly as a fortress, but also used as a prison and training camp, it has been in states of disrepair or of abundance ever since. It was a squally, chilly day, which made the visit all the more memorable. Clutching to the high rock walls as the wind made wooden shutters creak, and whistled through the dungeons was chilling in more ways than one!

There were all manor of spiky, shackley and scratchy instruments in the torture chamber, but the most horrid was the 9m deep pit the worst prisoners were pushed into, and kept there, in the dark, for weeks, months, and in their most notorious case, 7 YEARS. No light. Scrap food, and not-so-friendly rats to share it with. Horrific.

The castle dominates a steep mountain, about 20 m out of Salzburg, and was used for the Clint Eastwood flick “Where Eagles Dare”. Best get that one out when we get home!

The highlight of the day was the falconry show. We were a tad dubious about it, but then a couple of serious-looking chaps in Robin Hood style leather tunics and tight pants came out with falcons, and then enormous bald eagles perched on their gloved arms. They were stunning (and the birds were pretty good too), floating on the heavy streams of air, diving down at every whistle and yell of their owner, and swooping at the feather “toy” their trainers swung around them. Laying back on the castle grass and watching their majesty was a delight.

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