On the Staufer Circuit you can conquer peaks, enjoy views and walk through valleys - and at the same time follow in the footsteps of the most powerful Swabian noble family.

Eleven kilometers of history lessons of the most beautiful kind

Who on the path of the good eleven kilometers long Staufer-Runde, you can not only enjoy the cultural landscape of the Swabian Alb, but also take a short journey through time. The route starts at the Wäscherschloss castle in Wäschenbeuren, continues through the romantic Beutental valley and finally on a narrow path via the Spielburg nature reserve up to Hohenstaufen. From there, it's back downhill again, almost without any effort.

The Staufers were a powerful noble family and shaped the Europe of their time
The Staufers were a powerful noble family and shaped the Europe of their time © Oliver Raatz

The Hohenstaufen - who were they again?

In a nutshell, one could say: The Staufers were a powerful Swabian noble family that gained power in Europe in the middle of the 12th century. Several Roman-German emperors were descended from the family of the Staufers. A certain Frederick of Beuren is considered to be the progenitor. His son Frederick was appointed duke and built the castle on Hohenstaufen. Frederick's son became the first German Hohenstaufen king as Conrad III. Even today, Conrad's nephew Frederick I has a resounding name: he became world famous as Emperor Barbarossa and is probably the most important scion of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. In his time, the Staufer empire stretched from southern Italy to Denmark. However, the fall of the Hohenstaufen followed just as quickly as their rise: only about 100 years later, they disappeared again from the world stage of history. By then, however, they had long since left their mark on the Europe of the time: they founded cities and universities, promoted courtly culture and created a new legal system.

On the trail of the Hohenstaufen

Even before the start of the hike you can dive into the time of the Staufers at Wäscherschloss Castle. Castle administrator Krisztina Mutter enjoys chatting with guests about everyday culture in those days: what crops were grown, what people ate and how they slept. The castle dates back to 1220 and was part of the fortification of Hohenstaufen. From here one could overlook the ancestral castle on the mountain and warn of intruders. The interior is surprisingly homely: on the second floor there is a hall with a large fireplace and leaded glass windows; on a wooden board there are deceptively real medieval dishes - you almost expect the master of the house to appear right away and ask to table.

Who runs the Staufer circuit and climbs the Hohenstaufen, a world full of far-reaching views and symmetrical gimmicks lies at your feet. Some of them were formed by natural erosion: The cone-shaped witness mountains, for example. In others, people - or rather, the Hohenstaufen dynasty - had a hand, as in the case of Wäscherschloss Castle, to which beautiful views open up along the way.

On the way to the summitl, the path leads to the natural paradise around the play castle. This is, contrary to what the name might suggest, a huge boulder. It was once part of the summit, but that was millions of years ago. It broke off, sliding down the Hohenstaufen until it stopped at its current position. Around the rock today is a beautiful nature reserve full of gnarled trees and flowering meadows. A pleasant walking path leads to the summit cross - a good place to gather strength on the bench overlooking Göppingen for the highlight of the hike. It is not far to the ascent of the Hohenstaufen.

The way up to the Hohenstaufen Sometimes it is flat, sometimes it winds steeply uphill. Along the way it becomes greener, quieter, cooler. Almost unexpectedly, you step onto the clearing at the summit. So this is where it was: here stood the ancestral castle of the Staufers, of which only a few ruins remain. The view sweeps over the Swabian Alb and the district of Göppingen. Two other mountains rise from the landscape: Rechberg and Stuifen. Together with Hohenstaufen, they form the group of the three so-called Kaiser mountains. On the summit of the most famous of the three mountains, you can enjoy a magnificent view of the other two. Everyday life seems far away, one feels somewhat removed and untouchable. Perhaps it was not least because of this feeling that the Staufers chose this place as their seat.

Even more Swabian history

Who has acquired a taste for, for example, will find even more Staufer history(s) at Lorch Monastery. Important family members are buried in the monastery built by the Staufers. On a huge modern circular painting by the artist Hans Kloss, who died a few years ago, one can visualize the fateful Staufer years.

The Lion Trails are 16 from the German Hiking Association certified trails in the district of Göppingen. They are named after the coat of arms of the Staufer dynasty and the symbolic figure of the Swabian Alb, the 40,000-year-old lion man. Short and long trails, sporty tours or barrier-free paths - here you can combine hiking pleasure with exploring historical places in the most beautiful way. If you prefer to travel by bike, take the 55 km long Staufer Route between Göppingen and Schwäbisch-Gmünd.

Cover photo: The nature of the Swabian Alb is wildly romantic and varied © Gregor Lengler

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