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.
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 Spiez (Spiez Castle)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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