In society today, could you imagine having to build a castle to protect hunting grounds? Yeah, it’s not exactly something that would come up in modern day conversation. However, when Emperor Otto III did it, it wasn’t present day; it was the late 10th century in what is now the town of Ilsenburg (Harz).
Otto’s castle is gone in a sense, but the area where it was built is now what attracts many visitors. Why? Thanks for asking, but I was gonna tell you anyway. The castle Otto built (sounds like the name of a book) is now where you’ll find the Ilsenburg Monastery.
This Kloster (so called in German) was established back in 1003 by King Henry II. Abbey Ilsenburg might not be as active as it once was; and it has certainly seen a good deal of war (during the Peasants’ War the abbey was totally plundered).
Its Romanesque Abbey Church is really beautiful. I’m glad it’s still standing like a thousand years later.
The castle that was here, however, was destroyed in 1107; and there is a memorial stone (called the Ilsestein) indicating there was a 10th century Burg on the spot.
Just so you know, there is a memorial by the order of some Ilsenburg Count who commissioned it in honor of his friends who died during the Napoleonic Wars; and one to the soldiers of World War I (at the St. Mary’s Church), and one more at the cemetery for the forced laborers of the Dora-Mittelbau sub-camp that was here.
One set of stones isn’t because of any medieval, 19th or 20th century history. It’s called the Froschfelsen, or Frog Stones, because the granite rock formation looks like…. Wait for it. Wait for it. A frog!
Tell me you didn’t see that coming. ;-)
The Froschfelsen is within the Harz National Park. There are many other hiking trails within this park, so find one you like & have at it. Ilsenburg is surrounded by forested mountains on three sides, so rest assured the view is wonderful.
When a museum is what you’re after, the Museum Ilsenburg is just the thing. It’s all about four centuries of iron production; open Wednesdays to Sundays from 1pm-4pm. The gift shop, however, is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm. Don’t you just love shopping?
Just as I think you’ll love the medieval sites and natural beauty of the area. Let’s thank Otto, this all started with him — even if it was just to protect his hunt.