Thursday, July 31, 2014

Oberhofen Castle on Lake Thun

On Wednesday it was going to rain. We've realized over the years that in these green German-speaking countries when they say 40 percent chance of rain, what they really mean is that it will rain for about 40 percent of the day. So we ditched our plans to hike in the alps and rode the train back down to the valley. We got in our trusty white Peugeot and tried to drive to Interlaken, which wasn't as easy as it looked. There were strange directions from Helga the GPS voice and construction, and at one point I led Rob down a very steep hill. It turned out to be a walking path, but bless his heart if Rob didn't try to make it work. He drove down there until we were inches away from a mossy fence on one side and a stone wall on the other. Two little kids came walking up it with their dog just as we decided we couldn't possibly fit down this thing. 
So Rob had to try and back his way up a hill.
In a stick shift.
With inches on either side.
And two kids and a dog in front of him.
So it was one of those times where the locals come out of their houses to watch. Yeah, we've had more than one of those -- haven't you?! We did make it out alive and mostly unscathed, and all I can say in my defense is that the sign did say "Interlaken detour" when we passed it. I just hadn't read the part about the "fussgang".
We decided to visit this castle on Lake Thun called Oberhofen. This is more of the castle than we could see from land -- this was taken by Dr Marc Dupuis over at Panoramio so you can see the setting.

If the rest of the castle had been a log cabin, I believe that a constant stream of visitors would still be assured just because of this little hunting room out on the lake. That's all it takes people when you're building your dream house: a winsome room with half timbering and a witch hat roof. On a lake. A few people have said that they recognize this from a movie, and I can't confirm or deny that. I will just say that it could have been added to parts of Hogwarts and not looked out of place.
It was charming. It was built originally in the middle ages, but was updated and rebuilt through the centuries.
For a while this was sort of a perk of the bailiffs of Bern. It was owned for several generations by the de Pourtales and von Harrach families. In 1926 a wealthy American attorney bought it in a crumbling state. He remodeled it and provided an endowment for its continued upkeep, then deeded it back to the city of Bern upon his death. Classy guy. 
The castle has been an outpost of Bern's Historical Museum, but they just struck out on their own two years ago. There are some exciting original parts (wooden paneling that was sold off during financial hardships was bought back 150 years later and reinstalled). They also had ties to the Prussian royalty which is always a draw for Rob.
Upstairs in the top of the five story tower was a Turkish smoking rooms with divans to try out.
It doesn't hurt at all that the castle has a great view of the Bernese alps. And the lake . . .
The grounds are magnificent too.
And again, the view of the lake and the mountains doesn't hurt either.
We were charmed by the shutters and the tiled roof and the fountains.
It turned out to be a beautiful place to wait for better weather.

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