Saturday 30 June 2012

Falcons and coolers

I stayed in a holiday flat in Falkenberg. The basement of a lovely couple's house. We chatted while I paid the pittance the night had cost.

I mentioned the castle. The magnificent castle on the rock. "Would you like to see inside it?", the husband, a tanned and nimble 50-something, asks.

"I thought it wasn't open to the public?"

"It isn't. But my brother's the mayor. He has the key. We can pick it up on the way there."

This sounded good. I cautiously said about being in town for Zoigl.

"I know who's got the key to the brewery, too. Would you like to look in there as well?"

See the advantages of a small town? Everyone literally knows everyone else.

My host is remarkably well-informed about Zoigl. 20 years ago the tradition had almost died out in Falkenberg. Only three families still brewed and there was talk of giving up the communal brewery. Luckily, they didn't. Interest revived and now there are around 30 brewers, though only 3 sell their beer. The others brew for their own consumption.

As we enter the brewery, he tells me that they don't brew in the summer. The wort won't cool quickly enough when the night-time temperature is over 15º C. Autumn and spring are the most favourable seasons, brewing-wise.

The equipment is charmingly rustic, with the exception of the stainless steel cooler (coolship). That was installed pretty recently. The copper is fired directly by a wood-burning furnace. All the machinery is powered by belts and wheels driven by an electric motor. I guess in the old days a steam engine was at the heart of the system. (As is still the case at Brauerei Schmitt at Singen in Thüringen.)

Some brewers ferment their beer in cellars cut into the rock under the castle. Unfortunately, my host doesn't have the keys for these doors. I'm sort of surprised. He seems to have the keys to everywhere else.

The key for the castle's front door is suitably massive and rusty iron affair. This is exciting. Unlocking a castle.

Having already heard somerthing of the castle's history, I know it won't be stuffed with armour, swords and four-poster beds. It lay derelict for centuries after being burned by the Swedes during the Thirty Years War. In the 1930's a German diplomat bought the ruin with the intention of restoring it and turning it into his retirement home. The jammy bastard. Getting a castle of his own.

Most of the rooms are bare. Just the few used for occasional functions are furnished. When the family living in the castle left, they took most of the contents with them. God knows where they'd find room for so much stuff. The castle has dozens of rooms.

Since 2008 the castle had been owned by the town of Falkenberg. They plan opening it to the public, but need to install an emergency exit first. Bloody health and safety.

A lot of effort was put into renovating the building in an historically accurate way. You can see that up in the attics, where the solid craftsmanship of the rafters is plain to see. But what's that funny screeching noise outside? I notice when we get back down to the bottom of the rock. Falcons circle the castle. I suppose it is called Falkenberg, after all.

Back to the lucky owner of the castle, diplomat Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg. He was German ambassador in Moscow when operation Barbarossa kicked off. Being more connected to reality than Hitler, he'd tried to prevent the invasion. He wasn't quite so lucky after all. Implicated in the 1944 plot to kill Hitler, he was executed. He never got to retire to his dream castle.

"Would you like me to drive you to Windischeschenbach?"

"Yes, please." I said, remembering the hill up to my hotel there.

Lovely people, these Bavarians.


Martyn Cornell said...

Interesting bond used for the brickwork around what I assume is the copper, in the bottom pic - header bond, used, presumably, because it's easier to make a tightly curving wall with that than any bond using stretchers.

Ron Pattinson said...

Marty, you're as bad as me.