The dramatic 13th-century castle of Hochosterwitz crowns the top of a steep, isolated outcropping, looking as if it has just emerged from the pages of a fairy tale. You can hardly ignore the Disneyland effect, and in fact, this was the inspiration for Walt Disney's Snow White castle. Disney and his staff stayed here for many weeks studying it, and you will find Walt's fantasy to be nearly fact. The castle was first mentioned in 860, and, after a tumultuous few centuries, ended up in the possession of the counts of Khevenhüller (1571), where it has remained ever since. It was in this castle that the besieged "Pocket-Mouthed Meg"—Margarethe Maultasch, the original of Feuchtwanger's Ugly Duchess—slaughtered the last ox of the starving garrison and dropped it onto the heads of the attacking Tyrolese. The stratagem succeeded, and, dispirited by such apparent proof of abundant supplies, the Tyrolese abandoned the siege. The most recent fortifications were added in the late 1500s against invading Turks; each of the 14 towered gates is a small fortress unto itself. Inside, there's an impressive collection of armor and weaponry plus a café-restaurant in the inner courtyard. There's a glass elevator (accommodating wheelchairs) from a point near the parking-lot ticket office. The hike up the rather steep path to Hochosterwitz adds to the drama. Your reward at the summit is spectacular vistas from every vantage point. Get to the castle on the back road from Treibach or via Route 83/E7.
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