It’s all in the family at Berlepsch Castle

It’s all in the family at Berlepsch Castle

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

High on a hill and framed by forest, the 14th-century Berlepsch Castle lords over the Werra Valley with an air of surety and a sense of place. The eye-pleasing timber-framed structure at its top adds a touch of grace to its thick stone walls and an all-but impenetrable foundation. Adding to the atmosphere of this formidable structure is its bucolic and out-of-the-way location. Berlepsch Castle sits in the northern reaches of the state of Hesse, close to the border with Lower Saxony and roughly equidistant to the fairytale cities of Kassel and Göttingen.

Like most castles, it’s seen its fair share of rebuilds and renovations over time. In 1400, the original castle was destroyed by Hessian troops, and in the 15th century its owners converted it into a fortress. The mass destruction wrought by the Thirty Years' War saw the castle ravaged many times between 1623 and 1632. One of the best-known guests of the castle was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who visited in August of 1801.

What’s perhaps most remarkable about the castle is how it has remained in possession of the same family line since it was first constructed. For more than six centuries, Berlepsch Castle has been the seat of a family of noble knights, robber barons and counts. In the castle’s current iteration of restaurant, hotel and historical premises, members of the Berlepsch family work diligently to ensure its steady stream of visitors leave satisfied.

The castle’s recent history is as fascinating as its past. The conversion of the premises into a hotel and restaurant dates back to shortly after the end of World War II. In 1980, Sittich Graf von Berlepsch, inspired by his encounter with the Eastern mystic Osho, founded a commune here by the name of Arvind. After the Gut Hübenthal farmsteads were given over to a group of sannyasins, holy men in Hinduism, they renovated many of the buildings and established a community. Parimalis, consisting of lodging for its some 70 residents, a seminar house and a meditation center, hosts groups and organizes numerous activities to date.  

For the past decade, the castle has once again operated as a hotel, restaurant and host of annual events. In the competent hands of a seasoned guide, thematic tours transport visitors back in time. Tours by candlelight have a mystical air befitting of such a storied location. Private tours, including those conducted in English, can be organized upon request. Public tours cost 8 euros per adult and are free for children under the age of 12. Private tour prices are based on the number of participants. Even when time’s too tight for a guided tour or one isn’t available, it’s possible to enjoy a wander through the castle’s atmospheric garden, and possibilities for longer hikes in the vicinity abound.

An on-site café serves coffee, cake and snacks, while the restaurant offers full-fledged meals centered around seasonal ingredients as well as dishes based on recipes from the Middle Ages. Poetry and horror-themed dinners are offered several times throughout the year. A knight’s battle, the Berlepsch Cup, typically takes place in October.

For a real splurge, consider an overnight stay in one of the two themed rooms. Both are lavishly decorated in period style, and the Graf Sittich, named after the current owner, offers an exquisitely carved wooden canopy bed dating back to the time of Napoleon. Although tall guests would struggle to stretch out in it, shorter guests with vivid imaginations can drift off wondering about all the colorful characters who’ve laid their heads to rest in that very same bed.

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