Apology to Merlin fans: I won’t have time to do a “Merlin” review of the last three episodes until Thursday this week with more Merlin fan fiction to follow next week…the usual client work gets in the way of the far more serious business of Merlinian shenanigans, I’m sorry to say.
While over on Willow the Vampire’s blog (http://willowthevampire.com) I’m discussing the mysterious and ghostly presence of the Petermännchen (Little Man Peter) in greater detail, here at Maria Thermann’s blog we are taking a closer look at the Petermännchen’s once and future home: romantic Schwerin Castle, my favourite of all the homely northern castles.
Schloss Schwerin or Schwerin Castle in Mecklenburg is seemingly floating in the centre of a lake right in the heart of the beautiful town of Schwerin. For a very long time the castle served as residence for the Dukes of Mecklenburg.
The castle’s history dates back around 1,000 years and its present circumference harks back to a hill fort that was erected on the small island in the centre of the lake in the year 965. For over one thousand years generations of architects and builders reshaped the castle but hardly any trace remains of their “blue prints” until in around 1500 the first generation of organised builders and architects start collating a plethora of pictorial and documented construction plans. Just as an aside, the terracotta used to build the castle came from my home town Lübeck, no doubt supplied by a happy merchant who was a member of the Hanseatic League.
The castle as it stands today owes its appearance to the considerable refurbishments and restoration works carried out during 1845 and 1857. No fewer than four architects worked on the castle, using French Renaissance castles as their guide.
Travellers familiar with the architecture of Castle Chambord will probably spot some similarities, as the at the castle along the Loire River in France was one of the examples used by architects Georg Adolf Demmler, Gottfriend Semper (the same chap who was responsible for the Semper Opera House in Dresden), Friedrich August Stüler and Ernst Friedrich Zwirner to create the romantic effect we see today.
I won’t bore you with all the various people who tried to get their greedy paws on Castle Schwerin and the fertile lands of Mecklenburg (King Henry the Lion being one of them in 1160). The first time I clapped eyes on this magical castle was a few days after the Berlin Wall fell. My parents took me across the then still existing East German border, which ran just about 8 or 10 km inland from where I grew up.
I’ll never forget the truly awful state in which nearly all of the historic monuments in towns and cities like Rostock, Schwerin and Wismar languished. Castle Schwerin was in a pretty rotten condition and when I saw it nearly a decade later, restored to its 1857 glory, I have to admit I looked upon it with swimming eyes.
At the end of 1989, when the German “Democratic” Republic was finally consigned to the history books and declared to be part of a united Germany once more, a consortium of 25 companies in and around the city of Kiel created an emergency trust fund with which important monuments like Castle Schwerin should be rescued from total collapse.
Whole armies of dedicated and hard-working restoration experts are responsible for the amazing transformation world heritage treasures like Schloss Schwerin have undergone since April 1990, when the first workers arrived to deal with the many problems of the domed roof alone.
When I visited the castle last, there was talk of connecting the seven lakes in the area up to Lake Schwerin, as tourism from canoeists, cyclists and walkers is vital for the economies of the area. The castle is home to the State Museum and a major tourist draw.
The castle gardens were still “under construction” when I visited last, but I see that in 2009 they underwent considerable restoration and reconstruction, too, in order that UNESCO World Heritage status could be applied for on behalf of the whole castle complex.
It is an absolute MUST see destination for anyone travelling around northern Germany and, of course, for anyone thinking about writing a story with a romantic castle setting. I would like to thank the armies of workers who have tirelessly restored this treasure to us after decades of shameful neglect by the so-called government of the so-called German Democratic Republic which, as we learned after the fall of the Berlin Wall, was as rotten and in need of urgent restoration as the castle in Schwerin itself.
For more detailed historical information, please visit Castle Schwerin on Wikipedia or go to
http://www.museum-schwerin.de/orte/schloss-schwerin/ , if you’re fluent in German and to see the lovely pictures there. Click on the left hand side on Museums Schloss Schwerin for a picture gallery of the castle and visit the webcam for a view across the gardens from one of the castle’s highest towers.
For information about the little castle ghost, the Petermännchen, just head to http://willowthevampire.com, where I’m explaining what the ghost is and why it still haunts us today.