Stuttgart, Germany, boasts many trappings of a big city: a great zoo, first-class museums dedicated to its famous automotive industry and a venue to host world-class operas and ballets.
For all its cultural richness, what Stuttgart might lack, however, is notoriety for something that is featured so prominently on to-see lists of visitors exploring so many other German towns.
When in Stuttgart, don’t miss checking out the tucked away Burgruine Hofen.
While the centuries-old castle ruins — seven centuries, if one is counting — might not be able to compete with the likes of the Hohenzollern castle (31 miles south of Stuttgart), the modest Burgruine Hofen is interesting in its own right.
The ruins stand atop a hill overlooking the Neckar River on the northern side of Stuttgart, near the village known as Hofen.
Hofen castle was built around 1250 to defend a trading route that crossed the river, according to a sign in German posted at the ruins that also provides visitors with a brief history.
The castle once was owned by a knight named Luithart of Mulhouse, whose son took the name of Von Hofen.
Ownership of the castle and its grounds passed through several hands after the death in 1369 of Luithart IV, the last of the Von Hofen family.
A fire destroyed the castle sometime between 1618 and 1648, during a series of wars, known as the Thirty Years’ War, involving most of Europe.
In the late 1700s, the castle was partially torn down and its stones were used to construct other buildings in neighboring Hofen village, including the St. Barbara church, which still stands today near the ruins.
In 1999, Stuttgart city officials bought the ruins from a private collector and opened it the next year, though the ruins are still in the process of being restored.
Now, all that is left are a few walls and the remnants of a moat.
While Hofen castle might not be the only castle, of sorts, in Stuttgart — there also is the Old Castle downtown that houses a history museum — it is unique in that it is the only castle ruins. And since it’s only a 10-minute drive from Robinson Barracks, it makes for a quick and easy day of exploring.
ON THE QT
DIRECTIONS: From Robinson Barracks, take a right after exiting the gate. After nearly a kilometer, turn left onto Löwentorstraße. After another kilometer, turn left onto Neckartalstraße/L1100. After a kilometer and a half, turn right onto Raingärtlesweg and immediately turn left onto Scillawaldstraße. The ruins are about a half kilometer directly ahead. Parking is available along the road that flanks the castle.
TIMES: The Hofen castle ruins are always open, though it’s best to explore them during daylight.
FOOD: A walking path that runs along the Neckar River near the castle leads to restaurants and picnic areas.
INFORMATION: Timetables for mass transit to the castle are available at www.stuttgart.de/item/show/305802/1/dept/117752