Thursday, October 9, 2014

In The Valley Of The Seven Chateaux: Chateau De Vianden

The chateau, high on a hill overlooking
the town of Vianden
Here's part two of my Luxembourg / Valley of the Seven Chateaux adventure: the Chateau de Vianden in the picturesque town of Vianden. Located on the German border (you can literally look at Germany from the chateau), this chateau is the best known of all of the chateaus in the Valley of the Seven Chateaux. Even people who have never visited are probably familiar with it as Patrick Swayze's George and the Dragon and portions of The Three Musketeers was filmed here.

Dominating the skyline of Vianden, the chateau is perched on a hill 310 meters above the town. Portions of the castle dates back to the 10th Century but due to a series of expansions that took place between the 11th and 17th Centuries, the castle combines elements of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance architecture. As each occupant sought to leave his mark on this grand castle, the footprint enlarged and the style took on the trend of the day. It should all result in a mishmash of style but it actually makes the castle quite grand.

The changing of possession of the castle didn't always come about peacefully or easily. The castle was abandoned in the 16th Century before being reclaimed then confiscated by various branches of the Luxembourg's royal families. In 1820 King William I sold the castle to a local alderman who pillaged the castle, selling off ornate doors, paneling, tiles and other trimmings, thus hastening the castle's ruin. Restorations began at the end of the 19th Century only to be disrupted by World War I. During World War II's Battle of Vianden the castle was defended by anti-Nazi resistance members and survived intact. Restoration resumed in the 1960s only to be hampered by questions of ownership. In 1977 ownership was passed onto the State at which time the castle was gradually returned to its current restored state.

Another view of the chateau

Because I visited with a group, we were fortunate to have an English speaking guide who enthusiastically lead us through the entire castle and brought her long and storied history to life. We started at the bottom and worked our way up to the top before wielding our way back down to the very bottom and the chateau's hidden wine cellar. After years of neglect (which seems to be the story of so many of Europe's grand castles), the grand rooms had been painstakingly restored. Many were furnished with period, but not original, pieces of furniture, giving us a glimpse of what life had been like for those living in the castle. I am continually amazed at the ornate yet exceptionally small beds that filled the sleeping chambers. From the rooftop we could take in views of the valley below us and from the covered atria, the space where ladies could take in the fresh air without being in the sun, we were able to look across the river to Germany. We toured both levels of the in-house chapel; the ornately decorated yet stark one where royalty worshipped and the underground cavern that opened to the chapel above where the servants could hear the services above. One of the final stops on our tour was the small genealogy room where the royal lineage of Luxembourg was traced on the wall. We saw the family tree, complete with its direct lines and jags as well as portraits and photographs of each generation of the ruling family of Luxembourg. And of course, no castle would be complete without a company of knight's armor and corresponding weaponry. (Seeing the small stature of the knights made the afore mentioned small beds almost make sense).

Peak through the windows in Luxembourg......and you see Germany

How can you not love a chateau with its own wine cellar?

If you go, take the chair lift to the top then walk down. On the way up you'll be rewarded with sweeping views of both the chateau and the surrounding town and river valley. From the top of the chair lift there is a short walk down a wooded path to the chateau. This path is not handicapped accessible and should probably not be attempted if it is raining or the ground is wet.

A view from the chair lift

If you go:

Chateau de Vianden
Vianden Luxembourg
Open daily from 10.00 to 18.00 (high season) and 10.00 to 16.00 (low season)
6 Euro for adults, 2 Euro for children ages 6-12, reduced rates for students and seniors
There is an on-site cafe serving drinks and light refreshments

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