Guests can spend the night like noblemen at Rabenstein in Franconian Switzerland. In addition to the castle’s stunning ambience, they also enjoy the varied evening programme comprising a mystery dinner, fire dancing in the castle courtyard, and classical concerts in the Baroque Hall
SPONSORED STORY Like birds of prey nesting high above, Rabenstein Castle has been perched on a fossilised sponge reef high above the Ailsbach valley for at least 800 years. From the castle terrace, the view opens up to the narrow river valley with its deep incisions and rugged rocks, and to the broad and breathtaking Ahorntal valley.
Location, location, location, as a real estate agent would praise today, especially since this fortress – poised within the city triad of Bamberg, Nuremberg and Bayreuth – is easily accessible for visitors via the nearby A 9 motorway.
A Very Special Mood
The knights could not have foreseen that it would come to this. They were not keen on strangers in any case, and they rarely came with good intentions. Although the castle was difficult to conquer, only some parts of the medieval buildings have survived; the present main building dates from the 17th century.
“There are real ‘castle collectors’” says Sabine Dess, the lady of the castle mistress at Rabenstein. “This includes not only medieval fans, such as those who come to our large medieval markets, but also travellers who are generally interested in art history and culture. They travel from castle to castle, looking for that very special atmosphere in a building steeped in history.”
Chatting By the Fireplace
The changing architectural styles of Rabenstein can be seen in the state rooms, which can be visited during a guided tour when concerts, business conferences or weddings are not the only things to take place.
The Baroque salons shimmer in gold, while the Renaissance hall offers views of both valleys, the Armoury Hall boasts plenty of sheet metal, and meetings are held in smaller circles under the low vaults of the Hunting Room. The cosiest room is, without doubt, the fireplace room, where guests enjoying an overnight stay meet after an opulent breakfast in the Margrave’s Hall, or in the evening by the fire.
Sabine Dess, the lady of the castle, also sits in sometimes. “We don’t have TVs or minibars set up in the rooms,” she says, “with the TV running, you can feel everyday life creeping back in.
You would be giving away the opportunity to let that unique castle feeling sink in.” She is happy when her guests start chatting with each other in front of the fireplace, while the men like to put logs on the fire.
Culture at the Castle
How does one actually become a lady of the castle? This question comes up regularly. Sabine Dess then smiles mysteriously. “It’s just something that came into my life”, that’s all she wants to reveal for now. Then she gives in: “I married a noble knight. He conquered the castle from the Rabensteins to give it to me as a gift”. By the flickering fireplace, one gladly accepts this narrative.
“What I care about most is our cultural programme,” she says, “I book great artists like violin star Iskandar Widjaja, a klezmer group and a harpist performing Celtic songs.
Art and culture have always been important to me, as well as a cosmopolitanism vibe – I studied languages and lived abroad for a long time before coming to Franconia.”
Events in the “Tropfsteinhöhle” – Stalactite Cave
“The picturesque castle as a backdrop is great, but my events follow the spirit of the times,” as the hostess describes her programme: “From light entertainment like a mystery dinner, a magic show or a fire dance at night, all the way through to concerts, I want to offer experiences for all moods.”
The picturesque castle as a backdrop is great, but my events follow the spirit of the times
Magnificent events are a tradition at the castle. The banquet that the castle lords hosted in a cave for King Ludwig I in 1830 is legendary. The cave known as “Sophienhöhle”, which was discovered three years later, is only a ten-minute walk away.
It is one of the most beautiful dripstone caves in southern Germany. Back then, hundreds of candles flickered between stalagmites and stalactites when high-ranking visitors arrived; today, colourful spotlights illuminate this subterranean wonderland.
Concerts are among the highlights in the Sophienhöhle cave, which can be anything from jazz to a romantic guitar solo. Afterwards, Franconian specialities and a tankard of wine will be served in the Knights’ Hall.
Wild Boar or Veggie Bowl?
Other than that, guests dine in the rustic-elegant castle restaurant, which draws on the region’s culinary wealth. Modern interpretations of classics such as venison sausages, wild boar saddle or Franconian catfish stewed in beer broth with root vegetables and roasted sesame would have made any knight’s heart beat that much faster, but maybe not the crunchy veggie bowl.
Guests embark on a journey through time when they move into their rooms. The exposed ceiling beams and deep window lintels are attributable to the massive, old walls, but don’t worry: modern bathrooms, finely crafted furniture, comfortable mattresses and canopies of velvet and brocade satisfy every stately wish – be it the wish of today’s guests or that of the castle lords of yesteryear.