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  • Writer's pictureChristine Nikander

Road Trip #4

Exploring three castles in Lower Saxony.

Last Tuesday, we got in our electric car and we made our way to Lower Saxony again. We made pit stops in three small places called Aerzen, Hastenbeck, and Emmerthal — and in each of these we went to go see a castle. Two of the castles were built in the style of the Weser Renaissance and one was built in the neo-Gothic style.

Schloß Schwöbber

Our first stop was in Aerzen, where we went to see the Schwöbber Castle. Built in the 1570s, the Schwöbber Castle is a three-wing moated castle, built in the style of the Weser Renaissance. In 1562, the colonel Hilmar von Münchhausen acquired a monastery called Leitzkau. He began reconstructing the former monastery into the current Schwöbber Castle. The construction of the castle was planned by the Hamelin master mason Cord Tönnis.

The Schwöbber Castle was once famous across Europe for its gardens. Around 1700, a Renaissance style garden was laid out at the castle. In the early 1700s, the garden had the largest collection of plants in Europe and an orangery with were pineapples were cultivated. In 1715, the Russian Tsar, Peter I the Great, was even a guest in Schwöbber – as he was interested to see the garden and the orangery! Later, in 1750, the castle park was converted into one of the earliest English landscape gardens in continental Europe. At this time, the park had some of the rarest foreign plants from East and West India – from pineapples, coffee trees, date palms, mastic trees, to two hundred different types of bitter orange trees! The Schwöbber Castle park was home to one of the most important tree nurseries of its time. It was also one of the first tree nurseries in Germany to have trees from North America.

In 1908, a wing of the castle burned down due to lightning. Until 1919, the castle was owned by the Münchhausen family. In 1920, the castle and the estate were then sold to Eduard Meyer, who rebuilt the burnt-out wing and redesigned the interior of the castle. During the Second World War, the castle was used to house some of the art of the Kunsthalle Bremen. After the war, it was used for a time as a teacher training facility. From 1985 to 2002, the castle served as a club house and a hotel to the Schloss Schwöbber golf course. In 1992, there was however another major fire, which built down the central wing of the castle. In 2002, Ursula and Friedrich Popken acquired the castle, which was by then in danger of collapsing, and restored it for 35 million euros. As of 2004, the castle has housed a 5-star hotel called “Schlosshotel Münchhausen”.

Schloß Hastenbeck

From Aerzen, we continued by electric car towards the city of Hamelin. In the outskirts of Hamelin, we went to see the Hastenbeck Castle. Built between 1862 and 1869, the Hastenbeck Castle is located at the side of a small village. While the castle is tucked away between a number of tall trees, it towers over the town and it is an impressive sight already from afar.

The castle was built in the neo-Gothic style by Adelbert Hotzen. It was built on the site of a former manor, which was first mentioned in the 13th century. The estate was originally owned by a noble family of knights called von Hastenbeke (and later on Hastenbeck). Yet, when the family died out in 1550, the ownership of the estate changed several times – until it came into the ownership of the von Reden family, in the 17th century. In 1635, the von Reden family built a manor on the estate, which was later demolished to give space to the current castle.

In 1952, the farm buildings surrounding the castle were destroyed by a fire. Two years later, in 1954, the von Reden family thus built a new residential building with farm buildings on the site. The Hastenbeck Castle and its park served as a film set for the Edgar Wallace film “The Sinister Monk”.

The castle is still owned by a descendant of the von Reden family today, but it appears to be largely abandoned. The castle has fallen into what Germans would describe as a Dornröschenschlaf (a sleeping beauty slumber) and its park is now heavily overgrown.

Schloß Hämelschenburg

From Hastenbeck, we made our way to Emmerthal to the Hämelschenburg Castle. This moated castle is located on the “Road of Weser Renaissance”. There have been a number of castles on the site of the current Hämelschenburg Castle. The construction of the current castle was commissioned by Jürgen Klencke and Anna von Holle. The castle was built in the style of the Weser Renaissance, but the builder is sadly unknown. Its construction began in 1588 and it was only completed in 1613.

The castle is surrounded by gardens and farm buildings, and there is an old water mill close by. Moreover, in 1563, one of the first Protestant churches in Germany was built on the estate. The estate has been in the ownership of the von Klencke family since 1437 and the family still owns the castle today. Since 1973, a part of the estate and castle have housed a private museum.

The Hämelschenburg Castle is sometimes referred to as the birthplace of “Frau Holle”. Anna von Holle was supposedly the real-life model for the famous German fairy tale character “Frau Holle”, from the Brothers Grimm’s tales that were first published in 1812.

It took me a bit longer than planned to get this post up. We were already on another road trip earlier today! I will posting about today's trip in the coming days.

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