Wandering Around Ein Feste Burg

One of the places we used as a “home base” this past June was Bad Pyrmont. It is a town with fascinating geology, in the Weser River Valley, tucked away in some hills. It has limestone around it, and a great deal of natural faulting, probably related to the Rhine Graben, or rift-valley, not too far away. Because of the faulting, there are a number of mineral springs that bubble up, and some sinkholes of interest, and a CO2 cave where people used to go and “dry bathe” in CO2 up to their chins. In 1556-1562, it became a princely seat, and a Baroque hunting lodge was added in 1706, and then a spa developed. Goethe and a few other minor German cultural figures spent time there, as did Peter the Great of Russia, and today it is a very nice, quiet, city with good historical guides, lovely parks, and several spa hotels. And a water-castle.

Water castle. A palm-garden is on the right side, and a Kurpark, or spa-park surrounds the moat on two sides.

The water-castle has a little museum in it, a concert and theater venue, a restaurant, and lots and lots of tunnels. One Sunday morning, early, I wandered over to see what could be seen. The museum has the usual hours, but the castle part opens earlier and closes later. There were swans on the moat, and it turned out that someone had left the gate open into the castle, or had opened it early, over half an hour before “official” opening.

Hello! Anyone home?

The first thing I saw as I entered the open gate were tunnel openings leading off each side of the entry tunnel. Because this really is a fortress, despite the nice rococo addition in the front. look again at the overhead view. Where those trees are, inside the water? They are growing on the wall of the castle. It is 15-20 feet thick. There are all kinds of passageways, ramps, stairs leading down to the water level, stairs leading below water level (I didn’t go that far), chapels, bakeries, an infirmary, all kinds of spaces tucked inside the heavy stone and brick walls.

You actually go through the main gateway about 100 feet or so and enter the first small courtyard after passing under the main palace part of the castle. Then you go under a second, smaller palace, into a secondary courtyard. The cafe is in the first courtyard, the theater stage and a fountain are in the second courtyard. Each courtyard has ramps leading up to the walls. The ones in the first courtyard are open, but steep. The second courtyard’s ramp requires you to double back into the wall and climb up through the darkness, emerging at a small bastion overlooking the far corner of the palm-garden.

The palms are in boxes and get moved in winter.

Same place on the wall, facing inward, to give you an idea of how thick the walls are. Vauban would be pleased. The trees would not have been there back in the day.

Heavy fog had drifted in overnight with a cold front, and it was still ghosting between the trees two hours after sunrise (sunrise was at 0530. It got light at 0415). There were fish leaping in the moat, and swans being scenic. The air inside the castle walls was cool and still, like the other fortresses I’ve been in. I had the place to myself and so I wandered, poked my nose into all sorts of nooks and crannies, followed every stairway that looked safe, meandered the ramps, sauntered on the wall, and enjoyed some early bird song. And then the music from the worship service in the Kurpark began.

No, it wasn’t “Ein Feste Burg” (A Mighty Fortress, AKA the Lutheran National Anthem). It was “Lobe den Herren” (Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation). What was especially intriguing was that a week and a half before, while poking around an old church in a small town, the organist had started playing variations on that choral as he got ready for something. And the members of another group who were visiting the church started singing along, so I chimed in.

Yes, every so often, everything turns into pure magic. The rest of the day, Hameln for the rat-catcher play, and a few other old towns, was pretty good, too.

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19 thoughts on “Wandering Around Ein Feste Burg

    • I’m thinking about 250-300m/side, possibly a little closer to 300m. The books I have on hand are not really clear, and I can’t quickly find numbers on-line. There are traces of a secondary defensive perimeter on the side opposite the palm garden, but development and gardens have eaten most of the older out-works.

    • Looking at it from Google Earth, it is an irregular quadrangle rather than a proper rectangle. Using the measurement tools it is about 782 feet on the longest side and 584 on the shortest. The island/castle looks to be about 484 by 370 feet, but again irregular quadrangle (this time with a small extension on the northeast corner). The moat averages about 120 feet between island and “mainland.”

  1. If you were singing hymns while overlooking the moat, would that make it a moat in God’s eye?

    (With apologies to Niven and Pournelle . . . 😀 )

      • No, do it quick – I’m sure your reply would be better without the caffeine – or at funnier to us mere mortals who are blessed with the writing gene 😉

  2. Your description was so vivid that I almost snarfed coffee when I got to “The cafe is in the first courtyard,” because by then I was well back into an era when the castle was used for defense, not for tourism.

    • No, I didn’t take any because I was having too much fun roaming without adult supervision. And my phone’s camera doesn’t do well in that kind of dim light. I was having problems with my converter, so I didn’t want to run the iLeash’s battery down with the flash.

  3. Interesting, and on a real tangent a friend of mine passed through your neck of the woods this morning (actually spent the night there last night) and said that you guys needed moats or someplace for all the water to go.

    • That is a problem when flat places get rained on. Back in the day the drainage was better, somewhat. Then along came pave and filling in the rainwater-lakes. Or building in them… The city is trying to get funds to do some drainage improvement, but we’ve been attacked by orange road cones that seem to be intent on ripping out the interstate and every other major street in town. (No, I’m not annoyed with all the construction, why?)

      • Funny how they want to do construction on all major roads simultaneously, rather than leaving work on some of the alternate routes until after the work on the others is done. (Yes it is construction season here to)

      • There are local streets and roads around me that were long-neglected and in need of work. I’m glad work is finally being done to correct that situation, but not so much that they’re doing so much at the same time. There are seven projects causing delays and intermittent closures of roads and through streets within just a couple miles of my house. Did nobody think of staggering this work?

        • I suspect the money finally came in and now that I-40 and Soncey is back up and running, they decided “sic’ em!” before a grant vanishes or something. Personally, I’m waiting for the first collision on the new I-27 on-ramp from I-40 west bound. And it’s been over a year since they tore up 45th, so it’s probably due, just in the spirit of “let’s block ALL THE THINGS!!!!!”

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