The five castles incorporated in the network entitled “Mittelalter und Renaissance auf Burgen” offer exciting exhibitions, in addition to old halls and thick walls. Some have been specially designed for families. We interviewed the director of Passau’s “Oberhausmuseum” on this subject.
Fascinating Middle Ages
Bavaria’s castles are usually located in particularly exposed places and, therefore, tend to offer an impressive panoramic view. “At the same time, many of them are considered to be cultural treasure chests,” says Stefanie Buchhold, the museum director at the Veste Oberhaus in Passau. “I probably enjoy something of a fateful connection to castles,” she says with a laugh.
Born in Nuremberg, she studied, among other things, modern and contemporary history. She finds castles exciting because they tell so many stories from the past – and because some of the things that were important then still have the ability to move us today. We talked to her about the sense of fascination with castles, life back then and the “Veste Oberhaus”, and asked her for a few special tips.
Knightly Romance in Passau
You enter, close the door behind you and find yourself in a completely different world: the so-called “Kälteraum” (cold room) at the Veste Passau is particularly impressive for most visitors. That’s because there, Buchhold and her team try to give guests an idea of what life in a castle used to feel like: And quite dim: the glass panes in the Middle Ages did not let so much light through.
But the cold room is only one interesting stopping point in the museum as a whole. Buchhold explains: “There’s a lot you can do and try out here, our medieval exhibition is designed to be an interactive experience.” And it’s not the only exhibition available at the Veste in Passau: guests can also view contemporary art, among other things, and experience what it was like in a historical pharmacy.
In addition to the cold room, the “Rittersaal” (Knights’ Hall) and St. George’s Chapel are particularly worth seeing in the exhibition on the Middle Ages. From the Knights’ Hall, a magnificent view of the three-river city of Passau opens up in front of visitors’ eyes. Buchhold explains that the love of panoramic views became increasingly important, especially during the Renaissance.
“The Italians invented this in Tuscany: that buildings and viewpoints are designed so that the eye has plenty to see. Then, as now, it was about personal enjoyment on the one hand, but also about prestige, and about seeing and being seen, on the other.”
The same today as it’s always been
We want to know if castle lords would have used Instagram? She laughs and nods. That’s because, on Instagram, it’s all about showing who you are and what you have. And pictures – of the old town from the Knights’ Hall, for example – would have made a big impression even back then. “I can think of some great rulers who would have loved Instagram. They would have photographed everything immediately: my kingdom, my castle, my garden.”
St. George’s Chapel
The historian’s personal favourite exhibit is St George’s Chapel with its ribbed vault and Gothic fresco paintings, complete with motifs from the life of St George. “They are so vivid and colourful,” says the museum director: “When I have time, I like to come here and immerse myself in this work of art.” The exhibits have been so well preserved because most of it was under plaster until the 1960s – and because, unlike the medieval city of Passau, the castle did not fall prey to fire.
A completely different picture
We cross the relatively quiet castle courtyard. Buchhold explains that it certainly used to look quite different here. “We tend to forget that today,” says the expert, “a castle was a real living space in itself, like a small town – with lots of people bustling about, utility rooms, with staff, vegetable gardens, huge kitchen rooms, where roasting and frying was incessant.
Today, we also love castles for their sublime peace and emptiness,” Buchhold says. “But they didn’t exist at all in the past.”
More information on the Oberhausmuseum in Passau
... by Stefanie Buchhold
Time out from the city stroll
I like spending time at the “Kaffeewerk” on Kirchenplatz in the Innstadt. The coffee and cakes there are truly wonderful.
Roman Museum Kastell Boiotro
In my opinion, the city’s “Innstadt” or “inner city” is the real winner to behold in Passau, and from there, you can also enjoy a beautiful view of the city’s meandering river and cathedral. I also recommend a visit to the “Kastell Boiotro” Roman Museum there. This is the second important museum in the city next to our castle. It is also beautifully situated, right in the middle of Passau’s alleyways.
Römermuseum Kastell Boiotro (only in German)
I recommend a hike along the Ilz River to the ruins of Hals Castle. You can start directly at the foot of the castle, experience nature at its best and yet you’ll also quickly find yourself back in the city. The tour is great for families, and you can also stop for a bite to eat along the way.
Burgruine Hals (only in German)