Schloss Spiez


Schloss Spiez

Spiez Castle (Schloss Spiez)

Spiez Castle (Schloss Spiez)

Medieval castles have their own mystery and intrigue.  Stone walls, bridges across moats, peaked towers, openings for cannons or archers to defend against invading armies.  The best castles are those where these features have been preserved to show their charm,  function, and craftsmanship

Schloss Spiez was that kind.  I discovered its wonders when a cold, drizzly morning made me think of an alternative to remaining in Bern.  I was up for an excursion.  The town of Thun had been recommended, only an hour train ride from the Bern bahnhopf.  I enjoyed the hour gazing out at the Swiss countryside of farms with modern homes, green, hilly pastures, and a cattle grazing in paddocks.

When I reached Thun, I walked across the town square to a ferry dock.   Spiez was a recommended destination, so I bought a ticket, boarded a paddle wheeler, and in minutes we were sailing out to Thunersee and Spiez.

Lakeside villa on Thunersee

Lakeside villa on Thunersee

Villa along Thunersee

Villa along Thunersee

We stopped at several lake side villages along the Thunersee, and arrived at Spiez after an hour boat ride.  A five-minute walk from the pier and you entered the schloss courtyard.

Schloss Speiz from Thunersee

Schloss Spiez from the Thunersee

Schloss Spiez (Spiez Castle)

Schloss Spiez courtyard; notice windows in tower

Schloss Spiez courtyard

I looked out from tower windows later in the afternoon for spectacular view of Thunersee

Small openings and larger ‘window’s at the top of the tower offer views of Thunersee

Patriarch Adrian von Bubenberg

Patriarch Adrian von Bubenberg

Inside Schloss Spiez

Schloss Spiez was a medieval fortress constructed in the 13th century which became a residence in the 17th & 18th century of the von Bubenberg and von Erlach noble families.  Over time, they added living quarters, banquet room, kitchen, library, bedrooms, armory, and chapel for religious services.

Schloss interiors were well designed with ceramic stoves, hand-crafted wooden furniture, family portraits, and stained-glass windows with medieval themes.

Restored central room, possible used for family gatherings

Banquet hall added in 1614, restored with polished wooden floors

Beautiful wood doors between large rooms

Beautiful wooden doors in banquet hall

Hand-crafted wooden trunk in banquet hall

Hand-crafted wooden trunk in banquet hall

Medieval-themed stained glass windows in banquet hall

Medieval-themed stained glass windows in banquet hall

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Family library; ceramic oven on left

Family library; ceramic stove on left

Ceramic stoves

During medieval times in northern Europe, ceramic stoves provided heat in castles.  Craftsmen designed them with colorful and attractive ceramics to camouflage their function.  The stoves were built into walls, and, in adjoining rooms, openings at the back of the stoves allowed logs to be thrown on fires and smoke removed through a ‘tower’ at the top of the stove.  Castle rooms were toasty warm and there was no smoke to deal with. Clever engineering and attractive designs.

Winters were long and brutally cold in medieval Europe.  Stone castles were drafty and had no insulation. But rooms with ceramic stoves provided a measure of warmth and comfort for noble families. We saw many ceramic stoves in the Landesmuseum in Zurich. You know how cold and snowy Swiss winters are.

Ceramic stove

Ceramic stove

Family portraits

The banquet hall had a portrait gallery, presumably from the von Bubenberg and von Erlach families.  They looked formal, stern and sour-faced; Swiss tend to be serious in manner and appearance. Their clothes appeared fashionable for the times and also  layered for warmth. It’s Switzerland after all.

Paintings of noble famliy children

Portraits of noble family children

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Schloss kitchen

The schloss kitchen had exhibits on the preparation and serving meals to noble families.  One wall had a primitive but functional sink carved from stone.  A small trough carved in stone drained water — and possible food wastes –  out a window to spill to a garden below. Or maybe there was a chicken coop or pen for pigs under the kitchen spout.

Stuffed fowl and rodents which provided fresh meat for the duke and family

Wild game provided fresh meat for noble families

Open fire cooking in the schools

Open fire cooking in the schloss kitchen

Schloss kitchen

Schloss kitchen

Watch your step! 

Six or seven levels of the tower could be reached by climbing stone steps and wooden staircases. At first glance, the reconstructed wooden stairs looked sturdy, but precarious.  They were!

Hands on railing, steep and narrow stairs, not OSHA approved

Hands on railing, steep and narrow stairs, not OSHA approved

Hands on both rails, as precarious as it looks. And early castle had stone stairs; how did they manage?

Medieval castles had stone steps, wooden staircases, and even ropes to climb

Schloss Tower

At each level there were narrow openings in the tower to allow defenders to spot possible invaders sailing on Thunersee or approaching over land.  But the openings were too small for arrows to penetrate or grappling hooks.

Narrow opening in tower

Narrow opening in tower

Schloss Tower Peak

We climbed several levels to the tower peak where there were wooden platforms to look over the Spiez landscape.  The views were spectacular.

Top of schloss tower

Top of schloss tower

Seven levels climbing stone and steep wooden staircases to the tower.  Anyone tired?

Are we done climbing?

View from Schloss tower

View from Schloss tower

Schloss courtyard from the tower

Schloss courtyard from the tower

Spiez landscape

Spiez landscape

Spiez Castle Foundation

Schloss Spiez was privately owned in the early 20th century.  In 1929, it was acquired by the Spiez Castle foundation which has managed restoration and included an armory with medieval weapons.

Schloss museum armory

Schloss museum armory

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* * * *

Next:  Murten

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2 responses to “Schloss Spiez

    • And more to come, Liz. I’m working on Murten on the Murtensee, another fascinating lakeside medieval city I visited on excursion from Berne. Stay tuned, and keep your postcards coming, they’re great!

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