Mespelbrunn Castle - Germany
Germany is the land of fairytales and castles and I was fortunate enough to live a fairytale year in Wurzburg, Germany in the 1980's. I was a teacher for the Department of Defense Dependents' Schools and I taught in Wurzburg, Germany, teaching the children of servicemen stationed there. Naturally, I traveled all over Germany during my stay there and Germany is truly the "land of castles." There are so many, but the one I loved the most and will always remember was the quaint, romantic Mespelbrunn Castle.
Nestled deep in the Spessart forest, between Frankfurt and Wurzburg, in the Aschaffensburg district of northern Bavaria, is a beautiful, original castle with a moat, and members of the original family are still living in the castle today. During the months of April through October, the Ingelheim - Echter family open up the castle for tourists. They do charge admission - a few euros - and the admission money goes toward paying the property taxes. You can imagine what property taxes would be if you owned a castle in Germany!
What has always drawn me to this castle is its beauty, quaintness, and charm. It is not huge, but just large enough to count as a fortified castle. The round tower was built in the 1300's as a watchout tower for roaming bandits in the Spessart forest. In medieval times the Spessart forest was thick, dark and dangerous. Bandits hid in the trees and bushes to attack and relieve traveler's of their money or to kidnap fair German maidens and hold them for ransom money. The Grimm Brothers didn't have to go far into their imaginations to create German fairytales - it literally was all right there in the Spessart forest, and complete with a castle and moat.
At first, a house was built around the round tower during the late 1300's and early 1400's. Then in 1427, Hamann Echter, son of the first owner, began to rebuild his father's house by building fortified walls and adding a moat. He turned the house into a castle with moat and a beautiful one at that. What is amazing and why I like this castle so much is because it is all the original construction from the 1300's and 1400's and has never been disturbed by warfare because of its remote location.
Peter Echter and his wife, Lady Adelsheim
Carved above the portal in the inner courtyard of the castle, are the likenesses of Peter Echter and his wife, Lady Adelsheim, completed in 1564, and also includes their coat of arms. This portal is the main entrance to the castle and when you step inside the portal there is a winding staircase that takes you up to the living quarters of the castle. Of the Echter family, Peter and his wife were the most well - known of the family, leaving quite a history at the castle and becoming the leading citizens of the town of Mespelbrunn not far outside the castle grounds. Their son, Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn (1545-1617) was the most famous and powerful of all the Echter family. He became Prince-Bishop of Wurzburg, Germany and ruled there in the Residenz and was also known as the Duke of Franconia. While bishop of Wurzburg, he founded the Juliusspital, the first hospital in Wurzburg and he refounded the University of Wurzburg in l583, both of which are still standing and working in that city. But, as a child, Julius grew up and played in this castle.
Downstairs, off the inner courthard, is the Knights Hall, filled today with various suits of armor, swords, knives, and other various weapons used during the middle ages. There is one long table with nearly sixteen chairs and places for the knights to the Echter family who protected them from the bandits and soldiers that roamed the dark forest. It is said that the relatives of the Echter family will live in the castle until the day comes that the wooden pillars that hold up the ceiling in the knight's hall come down. That has not happened since the 1300's.
Today, generations later, the Counts of Ingelheim-Echter own Mespelbrunn Castle and live in the castle today. It is so cute to see a swing set and sliding board in the back yard of the castle for the Ingelheim-Echter grandchildren to use when they visit. Today, the grounds are manicured and kept beautiful for the many tourists that come by to visit the castle. Tours of the castle can be taken to see the public rooms and tours are given in both English and German. The private living rooms of the Ingelheim-Echter family are not shown. It is wonderful of them to share the beauty and the history of their ancestral home.
There is an inn on the property before reaching the castle that visitors can stay in. There are many trails for walking in the Spessart forest. The bandits and soldiers no long haunt the trails and it is a beautiful natural forest surrounding to the castle today. This is one castle that must be seen when traveling in Germany. It is a peaceful, tranquil, day or afternoon spent at Mespelbrunn Castle.
It is very easy to get to the Mespelbrunn Castle. Just take the A3 autobahn north from Wurzburg or south from Frankfurt, and get off at the Mespelbrunn exit. Turn right off the exit and drive through the main street of Mespelbrunn and you will see the entrance to the castle grounds on the left as soon as you leave town. Everything is clearly marked by signs once you get off the autobahn.
Descriptions of castles to visit and see all over Europe.
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