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Castles in Switzerland

The Château de Spiez (Schloss Spiez)


An early afternoon off from our hiking in the Swiss interior and another great step forward in our quest for Bubenbergs.

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

There we were, wandering along by automobile down the valley of the Simme in central Switzerland, still spiritually buoyant from our pleasant hikes near Iffigenalp and looking forward to our wiener-schnitzel-and-a-half at the berghotel in Engstligenalp, and the late morning dance-card seemed still to be free. And as we passed through Wimmis (where in 1985 the narrator waxed delirious after 15:42 hours of running from Leysin towards Interlaken and called in sick), one of us remarked "Why don't we stop in at Spiez and build up an appetite for Engstligenalp by viewing the Lake of Thun"?

Here's Spiez way back in 1980 -- it's time for an update!

The Lake of Thun is a lovely lake. Even on a cloudy day, the air shimmers.

On the other hand, the lake bottom is thoroughly littered with dumped-off excess World War Two munitions, crashed airplanes, and outdated military equipment, much of it slowly leaking out along the lake floor, but never mind. Not just the Lake of Thun. All the Swiss lakes. 'Whada we do with all these old chemical mortar shells, cap'n?' 'Over the taffrail, son. Nobody will ever notice.'

Kristin views lake steamers on the Lake of Thun and wonders about the Bubenbergs.

As we wander about the Spiez lakeside with an eye for a public WC and if we're really lucky a hot-dog stand, we feel watched -- there is a tower sort of thing hovering above the natural yacht-harbor of Spiez with a very Bubenberg look to it.

Impelled to find the castle redolent of Bubenbergs, we clamber upwards onto the little headland jutting out into the lake that must have made the folks in the castle feel so safe and superior.

In early times, the Stretlingens ran this franchise, but in the 14th and 15th centuries the Von Bubenbergs of Bern turned it into a real tourist destination.

And there he is, Adrian von Bubenberg himself, Thun's greatest footballer from that era, waiting to greet us.

Here's the splendid castle, the living quarters (right) built alongside the ancient tower and keep (left), on a fortified esplanade atop the headland jutting out onto the lake. That's a son-et-lumière show set up with the lights and scaffolding -- it doesn't ruin the medieval ambience at all, if you close your eyes.

The landward side of the castle, with all the 17th and 18th century fine touches laid on by the von Erlach family, who took over the portfolio in 1516 and held onto it until the late 19th century, when modern economic necessities intervened and, in 1929, the Spiez Castle Foundation took over and have done a exemplary job since.

This lovely garden, which looks like it might have served Adrian von Bub. well for his football practice, seems very 19th century and was probably mostly pigstys and muck in his time.

British hikers viewing the lay of the land in front of the "new castle" built onto the gatehouse, August 2005.

Kristin prepares to view the inside of the castle, passing a funky old luxury automobile, the 7th parked here so far today with more to come, awaiting the bride and groom and hangers-on from the next of the 21 weddings taking place here today, in order to speed them out at the head of a desperately-happy line of ordinary cars to the Roy Rogers out at the freeway interchange for a massive wedding reception with an open bar for the first 45 minutes, after that you're on your own.

The sewing room, apparently, from a more graceful era. From the top of the keep, we were blessed to observe the 7th wedding to be held here today. The bride and groom, standing bewilderedly in a giant heart made of flower petals on the lawn, received a long line of wellwishers forming up near the chapel across the green. The bride air-kissed everybody three times and chatted amiably, and the groom gave each male a firm handshake. Then they formed up and proceeded into the chapel to get married, god's-peace-be-upon-them, and shortly afterwards the bridesmaids darted out with baskets to scoop all the flower petals from the heart so that the next wedding could lay out its own flower petals and get under way.

And the kitchen in the old part of the castle. Extremely evocative of the old times.

The Romanesque church at the end of the headland protruding past the castle out into the Lake of Thun, 13 August 2005, from the castle keep. We were appalled and shaken to observe that the 7th-wedding bride, standing in her heart of flower petals and receiving her well-wishers, chatted meaninglessisms with her peers but entirely ignored the little girls tagging along with their mums, all decked out in their Sunday best, hoping more than anything else that the bride would stoop just for an instant to greet them, too. But she didn't.

Visit this schloss if you can, it's really really nice.
(There's a bewilderingly misguided Web site at http://www.schloss-spiez.ch/schloss/, but ignore that, visit the castle anyway.)


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 24 September 2005, revised 6 October 2008, 29 August 2014.


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