Yikes, Bears!

Bear on the move

 When we were in Germany last month, we visited a castle that had a unique way of defending itself since 1425. Instead of filling the moat separating the castle from the city with water, the duke living in the castle was protected by a bear pit.

When the enemies were approaching the castle, the duke could raise the drawbridge and have the enemy face a moat with bears in it. I'm guessing that the threat of a bear attack kept most enemies from climbing down the twenty foot wall to cross over to the castle walls. 
The bear pit




Drawbridge to castle
Protected by the bears, Schloss Hartenfels was located in the city of Torgau along the Elbe River in eastern Germany. Over the 500 years of its existence, the castle has seen many phases of construction. Today it is a beautiful fortress with a spacious courtyard in the center.




Art on the tower
Castle tower



One of the unique things about the castle is the tower protruding into the inner courtyard. It was built between 1533 and 1537.  The highly decorated tower holds a spiral staircase, leading to the entrance of the ballroom on the second floor.


Spiral staircase in tower

Window casings





They have done a wonderful job of reconstructing the fortress, including the painted decorations around the window casings.




Hausmannsturm


The corner tower with the observation viewing platform completed the four-walled castle. We didn't climb the 163 stairs to have a view of the city, however.



The bear plays in the pool area 
Despite the beautiful fortress, the main attraction for families with small children is certainly the deep moat under the drawbridge. There aren't too many bears in Germany living in the shadow of a castle. The playful bears are basically a zoo attraction for visitors.


Today, the three bears living in the moat have pools to play in and rocks and logs to climb on. Somehow, I doubt that was the case when the duke used the bear pit as a defense against attacking enemies.

Information taken from Schloss Hartenfels.de

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