Kronberg's castle is perched on a steep hillside halfway up the Taunus mountains. Its prodigious Burgturm stands above Kronberg like a beacon, advertising the castle and the difficulty of reaching it. It was in its day a formidable obstacle for any would be conqueror, and probably, just by its existence, saved the town from the armies that marauded over German soil for centuries.
But for all its gnarly ruggedness, the castle has over the years evolved into something quite beautiful - a liveable castle complete with a more rounded, residential Prinzemturm and mysteriously well kept gardens with astounding views over the old town. You can see clearly from the grounds of the castle all the way to its once dangerous neighbour, Frankfurt.
The centre of the town is the Schirn and here you will find a fountain dedicated to one of Kronberg's most important and oldest associations: The Shooting Society (Schützengesellschaft). Guns weren't readily available at the time of its founding in 1398, so it's likely that the society was formed by archers or crossbowmen - nobody is really sure. It's a certainty that a well organised society like this would have been vital to Kronberg's protection, and an early form of it would no doubt have participated in the famous victory over Frankfurt in the Battle of Eschborn in 1389.
The Altstadt makes up only a small part of the entire town of Kronberg, and while beautiful it's not entirely practical. The main part of the city centres around Berlinerplatz, a former Mayor's House and car park that has been transformed into a wide square with a modernist city hall, fountain, colonnade and an attached park built on a former school dotted with ancient thick-trunked trees. It does a sterling job of competing with the Altstadt with graceful elegance to compensate for its lack of old world charm.
The original city walls stretched along the south side of Kronberg, not surprisingly forming a solid barrier between the town and Frankfurt down in the plains. Some of that medieval wall remains today, and evidence of it can found Altes Stadttor (Old City Gate) at Eichenstraße 35, down Steinstrasse and the suitably named An der Stadtmauer (On the City Wall) to the now non-existent and largely symbolic Frankfurter Tor.
The house in the picture is in the middle of An der Stadtmauer.
The Hellhof marks the original yard of the castle Kronberg, which lay beneath its walls. The building was a residential quarters of some of the Knights that defended the town. It is around 600 years old, dating back until at least 1424. Today it is owned by culinary personality Dieter B. Schmidt, and hosts cultural and gastronomical events.
Within the hillside fortress, overlooking the old town and Frankfurt, are the castle gardens - beautifully maintained squares of freshly cut grass, neatly trimmed hedgerows, vine tunnels, secret passageways and shady benches to enjoy the views.
There's a strong British connection in Kronberg, and it's not just its popularity with expats. The park is named Victoria, in honour of a beloved British royal. It's not Queen Victoria, but her daughter, fathered by the German Prince Albert, who was married off to Emperor Frederick III of Prussia. Despite the forced nature of the marriage, the pair shared a passion for liberalism that drove Germany into the 20th century. When her husband died, she lived out the rest of her years here, in Kronberg. There's a statue of him in the park, but the park itself is now named after his wife.
The park is a beautifully maintained landscaped garden featuring fountains, sculptures, bridges, artificial lakes, tree lined paths and follies.
The church dates from the 14th century, but all that is left of the original building is the choir, after the fire of 1437. It was at the behest of one of Kronberg's great Knights, Frank "der Reiche", that the nave was built and the church restored. The church became a resting place for the knights and their wives, symbolised by the epitaph of Walter Reifenberg kneeling before the helmet with the unusual donkey ears crest. The donkey ears come from the legend regarding the Battle of Eschborn, the greatest battle the knights won against the leagues of Frankfurt. In the legend one of the Kronberg knights, lacking a horse to ride into battle, took up on a donkey and led a charge so devastating the soldiers of Frankfurt fled in terror.
Kronberg's Altstadt is a steep climb from the plains to the cool air of this mountainside respite. It was once encircled by formidable medieval walls, and some of these remain in good condition. The cobbled streets of the Altstadt are narrow and lined with half-timbered buildings. It retains a lot of its old world charm, yet there's plenty of shops, bars and restaurants.
The Opel Zoo is about 10 mns from Koenigstein, in the town of Kronberg right in the middle of the Taunus hills. And about 20 mns from Frankfurt. Unlike other zoos the Opel Zoo is less about fenced in animals but like enbeded the Taunus hills & forest animals. The cages are not really cages, but large enclosures where the animals can live in a more suitable, comfortable environment. Within the zoo, there are two special sections. The first section contains a petting zoo where children can feed and pet the animals and the second section contains various play areas. These areas include slides, trampolines and a miniature railway system.
A fun castle, easy and amusing tour.
As Wikipedia relates, "When Kronberg Castle was built (about 1220) it was shared by the Knights of Askenburne (Eschborn), who owned a towered castle there."
A century and a half later though greatly outnumbered the forces of Kronberg castle with assistance from Hanau and Electoral-Palitinate routed a huge attacking force from Frankfurt, taking 620 prisoners.
Again as related by Wikipedia, "The story is told in Kronberg that during the battle one of the knights of Kronberg was unhorsed, and because he lacked a replacement mount, he returned to battle on a donkey. Legend has it that it was the unearthly noise the donkey made in battle that made the Frankfurt army run, and this gave birth to the third 'stem' [a group of knights] - the Ohrenstam (Earstem) - with a pair of donkey ears on its coat of arms." Read more of the fascinating story of Kronberg on Wikipedia's "Kronberg im Taunus" entry.
Just like in most cities in Germany - Kronbeg has its' Christmas Market. In case of bigger cities it lasts for the whole month before Christmas. In Kronberg it's just one weekend. And exactly this determines that the people make sure everything goes perfect on this weekend. The market is quite big and the situation in Kronberg's narrow streets makes the ambience unforgettable. And don't forget to visit the part located at the castle - it's worth seeing as well!