Plesse Castle Ride – June 21 2019

Or following in Grandma’s footsteps and German Castles are just not ‘hard arse’ enough.

My image of castles was formed by visiting Wales where large and imposing castles were built to express power, deliver military dominance over and the subjugation of the Welsh by the English. Also ‘hard as nails’ castles built by the Norman invaders to do the same over the Saxons of England and the castles of Spain are similarly impressive. For me a ‘real’ castle is a straight forward no nonsense hard stone military machine with just one purpose: to force all to respect the authority of the mighty.

German castles meanwhile just don’t seem mean enough in comparison, which of course they are in their own way, but my image of them is prejudiced by King Ludwig’s the Second’s fairy tale castles, Ludwig being the ruler of Bavaria which was then just one of the 460 different kingdoms, principalities, dukedom’s etc. that made up the German speaking people of central Europe. I also recall visiting the forbidding Spandau Prison which, similar to many British prisons, was built in the 1800’s to resemble a castle, and it looked like a proper nasty structure. At the time Nazi Herman Hess was still a prisoner here guarded by British, French, USA and Soviet soldiers (it was the latter’s turn when I was there) and it was demolished on his death. Spandau, although not really a castle was a large cry from Ludwig’s fantasies and was much more in keeping with Castle Sababurg which provided the setting for the fairy tale ‘Sleeping Beauty’ by the Brothers Grimm who lived and worked in nearby Goettingen. The Castle Sababurg was too tough looking for the Disney Corporation who preferred to model their ‘Sleeping Beauty’ castle at Disney World in the USA on Neuschwanstein Castle, one of Ludwig’s creations.

The Plesse Castle (11 century) overlooks Bovenden and the Leine Valley near Goettingen and it has a military history having stood against siege during the calamitous Thirty Years War before falling into disrepair. Although it has been restored in more recent times you can see that it once was a proper military building. The Brothers Grimm would have known this castle and the local stories and would have been aware of the antics and history of regional feuding barons etc. including the ‘Lords of Plesse’.

There is something about the Plesse Castle to suggest a hint of Ludwig or Disney about it and I assume the Grimm’s took some inspiration from it, but like the now lost Grone Castle or the numerous watchtowers in the area, its job was to control passage along the Leine Valley and River. The last ‘battle’ to be fought here was in April 1945 when a Nazi Panzer force attempted a counter attack against the invading (or liberating) American Second Infantry Division of the First Army after it had occupied Goettingen before moving toward the Harz Mountains via Bovenden. SS Reichsführer, Heinrich Himmler had told the German army to make a last stand in the “Fortress Harz”. The Bovenden attack was repulsed by the Americans but the town was badly damaged in the process.

The Ride

Of the 50km we only touched public tarmac roads for maybe 5km, the route was a real mix with super long sweeping gravel trails. There were also steep ascents and what was great about this ride was that it connected up parts of the area for further reference.

Reflecting on the ride it became apparent that there was a military history theme to the ride; we rode up the cobbled climb through the old barracks at Zeiten, then onto the old military base at Kerstlingeröderfeld, we followed this with a visit to the ancient Hunstollen (pictured above), a place where citizens sought shelter in times of danger since the 500BC, next was the the Burg Plesse (castle) and finally the Die Rieswarte part of the defence network for Goettingen.

Our ride followed Grandma Oesterheld’s hiking route with its many gravel roads through the Goettingen Wald and Bovenden Forest.

GPS: (add a about 5km to the distance as I forgot to turn it on at the start)

Cycle Fahrrad Goettingen home page



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