Already from quite a distance Marienburg Castle is clearly visible on the Marienberg Hill, about 20 kilometers south of Hannover. It is probably one of the most impressive buildings in Germany. It looks like an old medieval castle, but surprisingly it isn’t. The story behind it is romantic, but at the same time quite a sad one.
Queen Marie of Hannover (1818-1907), the wife of King Georg V, longed for a summer residence outside of Hannover. As a surprise for his wife’s birthday, Georg had a romantic, neo-Gothic style castle designed. On her 39th birthday on 14 April 1857 Marie received the hill on which it was to be built, as well as the design itself. Because Georg himself was blind, he had a model of the design created so he at least could feel it. The model is displayed in the castle hall. The designer was Conrad Wilhelm Hase. The construction work started in 1858 and ended in 1867, when the building was still far from complete. Hases pupil Edwin Oppler had taken over the work in 1864. The first stone was laid on 9 October 1858 in presence of the family. In the Summer of 1865 the family spent a few weeks at the castle. However the castle could never been finished. After 1867 for almost 80 years the castle was uninhabited. After 1945 it was inhabited by refugees, including the family, as the head of the family Duke Ernst August III and his wife Viktoria Luise with their family returned to the Marienburg after having to leave the Blankenburg Castle – which was situated in the Soviet zone. Until today the castle is the property of the Royal House of Hannover.
Everything changed in 1866. War broke out between Prussia and Hannover, and Prussia annexed Hannover. King Georg had to fled the country and left for Austria. Marie, together with her daughter Mary and her staff, lived at the castle from 1866 to 1867, when she followed her husband into exile. She sadly never saw her fairytale castle back. Because she owned the castle and the hill personally, Prussia couldn’t disposses the castle. Marie used the opportunity to transfer the treasures of the family to her castle, including the crown jewels. In 1867 they were secretly taken to Great Britain, and afterwards to the family in Austria. In recent years the crown has been exhibited at the Marienburg. Unfortunately in October 2005 the Hereditary Prince Ernst August and his brother Prince Christian had to sell huge parts of the inventory via Sotheby’s. More than 10.000 items were auctioned off, including furniture, painting and silver. 44 million Euros was the result. Part of the money was used for a foundation to keep the Marienburg.
The interior of the castle can only be viewed on a guided tour. The best thing to do is to book the tour in advance or arrive early and book when you buy your ticket. You can visit the exhibition “The Path to the Crown and/or the historic rooms and even climb the tower and enjoy the gorgeous views from the top. All three of them are different tours that you can take seperately. Part of the castle tour is also the castle chapel.
The castle has a restaurant and a shop. The shop at the same time was the ticket office the last time I visited the castle in August 2014. It was rather small, but I heard something about a new ticket office with much more space outside the castle walls. I am not sure it is there already.
The easiest way to get to the castle is by car or bus (from Hannover). You can also take the train to Nordstemmen – originally built as the royal railway station (not that it shows) – but then you have to call a taxi to get you to the castle. A friend and I once walked, but it is a three kilometer walk and the last part is quite a challenge as it goes up hill.