06 July, 2015

Blast from the Past: Schloss Marienburg

Final exams are looming (I have two exams next week, yikes!) so while I've been alternating between studying (a little bit) and trying not to think about studying, my blog has taken a back seat. I don't have any recent developments or insights into German culture to share today, but I realized there was one part of my travels from several months ago that I forgot to write about: Schloss Marienburg.

Schloss Marienburg, or Marienburg Castle, is a castle located outside of Hildesheim. It was built in the mid-1800s as a birthday gift from King George V of Hanover to his wife Marie (the name "Marienburg" comes from her name). I've forgotten a lot of the history now, but as far as I can remember from the tour guide's explanation, the castle served as the home of several members of King George's family, including Marie, even after King George's reign ended.

I visited the castle with Maxim and his parents in early April, just after moving to Hildesheim. It was, in a word, beautiful! I love visiting old castles like this; despite their tendency to be drafty and sometimes dark, I love the architectural style and the clearly painstaking attention to detail that went into building old structures like these. There's just a charm about old castles that modern architecture can never replicate.

This is the view that greeted us as we walked up the long driveway to the castle. I was instantly enchanted! It looks like something out of a fairy tale or a Disney movie. I immediately fell behind the rest of the group as I stopped to take pictures.

The view from the inner courtyard was also stunning:

This area now serves as the castle restaurant. We didn't eat here so I can't say how good the food is.

The castle even has its own chapel. Very fitting for a castle this grand.
Something that I really liked about this inner courtyard, and about the castle in general, is that it is different from every angle. No two walls are alike, so everywhere you turn you get a brand new view to enjoy.

We took a tour of the inside as well, but I didn't take any pictures (we probably weren't allowed to, but I don't remember anymore if that was the real reason). Although the decoration inside was beautiful, the most interesting things for me were the things that made the building particularly "modern" for its time. Most buildings from this era were heated with fireplaces or wood stoves, but Schloss Marienburg also had an early version of modern radiators. Hot water was pumped through pipes that were laid into the floor and the heat came up through metal grates placed over the top. The castle is so large that this form of heating couldn't be relied on exclusively to heat the whole space, but you can tell that the architects attempted to incorporate the latest state-of-the-art technology. We also got to see the kitchen, which I was not expecting and which I thoroughly enjoyed. The hallway leading down to the kitchen in the basement was a bit creepy, but what's a castle without a creepy hallway here and there?

Comparing this castle tour to the one at Schloss Neuschwanstein, which I visited around Christmas 2013, this tour definitely wins! It was much more informative, we got to see more of the inside of the castle, including the entry area, public visiting rooms, private sitting rooms, bedrooms and kitchen, and we got to spend more time in each of these areas. At Schloss Neuschwanstein it felt like we were being herded in and out like sheep, but since Schloss Marienburg is not as overrun by tourists as Neuschwanstein is, the tour guides can take more time to let the visitors explore and enjoy the castle. If you ever get the chance to visit Schloss Marienburg, I highly recommend taking the tour. (Even without the tour it's a great place to visit, but the tour is definitely worth it!) And if you are the type of person who doesn't like overly hyped and overly touristy places, Schloss Marienburg could be a good alternative to the very touristy Neuschwanstein. Schloss Neuschwanstein certainly has grandeur on a larger scale, but Schloss Marienburg is more of an authentic and peaceful experience (at least it was in early April. I can't speak for the summer season).

I couldn't help but stop for another photo on the way out:

I was sad to have to leave, because I wanted to spend the whole day wandering around this beautiful masterpiece. The cold was a factor, though, and when we got back to the car I was glad to escape the chilly air and warm up my hands. If I have the opportunity to visit this castle again, I most certainly will, and I recommend it for anyone else who is visiting this area of Germany.

For more information, visit the Schloss Marienburg website (available in English and German).

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