If you have any sort of interest in castles, you’ll be able to indulge it in Germany. You are never far from a castle of some description, be it the ruins of a burg or a grandiose schloss. In Germany you will find, broadly speaking, two different kinds of castle.
A Burg (or burgruine if a ruin is what remains) will generally have been built for defence and often date to the Middle Ages. Think castles built with practicality in mind, to withstand seige. As such they would be built in a location that was difficult to access, or where there was a valuable resource like a water supply. The burgruine in my adopted home of Bad Lippspringe is a good example of this, being built on the Quelle spring. The novelty of walking past a castle ruin most days has never worn off. The burg was a workhorse- solid, dependable, built to protect and to last.
As Burgs go they don’t come much more interesting than Wewelsburg. Originally the site of a medieval castle, the three sided structure of Wewelsburg has been damaged and rebuilt time and again. It has been home to Prince Bishops, taken over by the Prussian state, a place of torture and execution for alleged witches , operated as a 1920s youth hostel and leased by the SS. Now, it welcomes visitors and hosts interesting exhibitions about its own history and that of the surrounding area.
The ruins of Sparrenburg give a good idea of how a defensive burg would have looked. The ruins are well-preserved and informatively signed. Stroll the old walls and explore the preserved bastion and armoury. A climb up the tower offers magnificent views across the surrounding area. Despite once being the regions largest fortress and withstanding much conflict, heavy bombing in WW2 led to extensive damage. A long term restoration project has delivered what can be seen today.
The schloss has more in common with the English stately home. A place of residence rather than protection, a schloss was built to impress, a visual demonstration of wealth and status. Ornate inside and out and often with impressive gardens and grounds, when designing a schloss too much was never enough.
That’s the basic differences, but of course there is a bit of a grey area. Some properties have features of both, some started out life as a burg and got a schloss style makeover as time went on. Some, like Schloss Neuhaus, were built for both protection and status. Originally built for the Prince Bishops of Paderborn, Schloss Neuhaus and its baroque gardens now form part of a large recreational area and park, hosting a range of events across the year. Including its own Oktoberfest, if one wishes to get sloshed at the schloss.
As a word of warning if you plan to visit a Schloss and want a peek inside, do your research. Many are still privately occupied and you wont get past the gates, let alone inside. Well not without getting into trouble anyway. In common with the English stately homes, a schloss is expensive to maintain and run and so many have been sold or converted to earn their keep. The beautiful Schloss Oesterholz, for example, sits on some lovely walking trails but is now an old folks home. What a place to see out your days though. If a night in a schloss is appealing, check out one of the many that have been converted into hotels. Schloss Waldeck looks beautiful and is on my German Bucket list.
Germany’s best known schloss must be Neuschwanstein. Despite looking like it has stood in all its glory since pussy was a kitten, Neuschwanstein was only constructed in the late 1800s. Following war with Prussia, King Ludwig II was stripped of his power to rule as a sovereign and cheered himself up by planning his own kingdom where he could rule with dignity. Reputedly rather shy, King Ludwig built the castle to give him a place to withdraw. Ironic that a place built to allow peaceful retreat now attracts so many visitors. This is also said to be the castle that inspired Walt Disney. Someone else who built his own kingdom.
Lets talk in the comments if visiting any sort of historic home or castle interests you. I d love to hear about your experiences or travel plans.
Until next time