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Global Quest For Local LETS
Copyright � James Taris


16. Braunfels Castle

Fee Evasion: I got caught ... I got locked up ... such is life in Braunfels. :-)

Braunfels is a tiny fairytale-like village about 60 km north of Frankfurt. With only 6,000 population, it is a beautiful and peaceful location, much visited by Germans and international tourists alike.

Braunfels literally means "Brown Rock" which is due to the fact that it sits on top of a small hill.

Its history dates back about 1,000 years, and the highlight of the village is its castle which was first mentioned in a document (complete with plan of the castle) dating back to 1246 AD.

So Braunfels castle must've been built in the 12th or 13th century. And I found it amazing to find it's still owned by one of the descendents of a long line of German Counts. Recently the ownership was passed down one more generation to Count Yohannes Von Oppersdorf (officially Yohannes Graf Von Oppersdorf Braunfels � but simply "Hans" to his friends). In his late 30's, Hans now carries the burden of hanging onto the family estate in order to pass it on to the next generation.

And I use the word 'burden' purposely, because there's not much demand for Counts nowadays, and maintaining the castle in prime condition is a very expensive exercise. So although the value of the castle and its treasury of artworks must run into tens of millions of dollars, the thought of selling up and losing the family prestige would be unthinkable to the maximum extreme.

So the upkeep of the castle mainly comes about through income generated from castle tour entrance fees.

My visit through Braunfels Castle came about quite by accident. On my first walk into the village centre (only 100 metres from where I was staying) I found myself at the castle gates just as a German tour guide was unlocking them to let a group of tourists through. So I simply tagged along.

The first room we entered was a large hall with medieval weapons and suits of armour neatly displayed in a homely fashion. So much so, that I half expected to see the Count walking through the room at some stage, on his way to his study � or the bathroom.

But from then on, we were simply bombarded with room after room of displayed artworks. There must've been over 300 original oil paintings dating back many centuries, some of which were over 2 metres high. Most of them were portraits of previous generations of Counts and their families. But there were also many paintings of the Braunfels landscape. Hunting was also a popular subject, with many paintings of reindeer (alive, dead or dying) adorning the interiors of these massive castle walls.

As you can imagine, with so many tourists trudging in and out of the castle, the expensive parquetry floors run the risk of deteriorating very quickly. But the Count has solved this problem, and turned it to his benefit.

Because as soon as we entered the large castle hall, we had to put on felt slippers! There was a huge open topped box with perhaps 100 pairs of large slip-on slippers in it, so that we could wear them over our shoes. The end result was the parquetry floor got a fine polish as the we dragged our soft felt-soled slippers across the floor (much like roller-scaters in slow motion) which was the only way of ensuring they didn't fall of our feet while walking.

This article is taken from the ebook,
Global Quest for Local LETS

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