For overnight stays with medieval appeal, get thee to a nunnery
Castles built not only to house the titled gentry but all those lesser folk needed to keep a noble’s household up and running, lend themselves beautifully to today’s travelers in search of sumptuous touches and historical ambiance. Scattered throughout Europe is another type of Middle Ages lodging opportunity. Countless convents and monasteries that once housed the men and women of God nowadays rent rooms to tourists of all ages, interests and budgets.
A monk or nun’s life wasn’t necessarily all about prayer from sunup to sunset. As self-sufficient entities, the residents of convents and monasteries also had to somehow make ends meet. Monks could be brewers, wine-makers, bee-keepers, cheesemakers and farmers. To live off the land, there had to be land in the first place; for this reason, you’ll find a number of monasteries in such pretty settings as vineyards, mountain valleys or other off-the-beaten-track locations.
As is the case with castles-turned-hotels, the level of accommodation available to the traveler of today varies widely. Tiny cells that once housed humble monks and nuns have lent themselves well to conversion into modest single rooms, often with shared bathroom facilities. The wider, more open spaces in which the brothers and sisters once gathered proved ripe for transformation into stunning public spaces.
Which of Europe’s bountiful supply of converted monasteries is right for you? Here’s just a sampling of the choices which await:
Clean and simple for those on a budget: The Jugendherberge Leutesdorf in Leutesdorf am Rhein, Germany is a newly renovated youth hostel located in an idyllic wine village in the Middle Rhine Valley. Perched directly on the Rhine promenade, its amenities include a bistro with a fireplace and a large terrace with views of the river. All rooms are equipped with their own showers and toilets. The hostel makes an ideal setting-off point for hikers conquering the Rheinsteig, a 200-mile long trail running alongside the Rhine from Bonn to Wiesbaden.
Moderate: The Poortackere Monasterium Hotel in gorgeous Ghent, Belgium offers a variety of rooms across various price points. The property stands wherein 1278, a complex was founded for beguines, unmarried women who devoted themselves to good works and prayer without the formal undertaking of religious vows. The cloister rebuilt on the property in the latter half of the 1800s has since housed nuns, orphans, students and now hotel guests. Features include a spacious chapel with frescoes and stained glass windows and a cozy bar overlooking a peaceful green courtyard.
Quirky: In the rustic village of Mustafapaşa, in Cappadocia, Turkey, the family-run Monastery Cave Hotel offers 13 cave or stone arched rooms in the premises of what was once a monastery. The town of cave churches, wall paintings and ornately carved stone facades transports visitors centuries back in time. The tufa volcanic rock from which the rooms are hewn ensures nearly constant temperatures year-round, meaning cool sleeps in summer and warm ones in winter.
Luxurious: The Augustine Hotel in Prague offers discerning guests a pampered existence in the shadow of Prague Castle and a quick walk from Charles Bridge. An Augustinian monastery dating back to the 14th century offers a vault-ceilinged bar adorned with baroque frescos, a tranquil oasis from the city’s hustle and bustle in the form of its Sundial Garden, and its signature St. Thomas beer, first brewed by the premises’ original residents some seven centuries ago.
Have you ever stayed in a monastery?
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