Saturday, May 21, 2016

#626 Kransberg Castle, Usingen, Hesse, Germany

In an unusual InterNations social event, Schloss Kransberg was opened up for an evening gathering. I thought it would just be a nice event at one of the many castles of Hessen, but little did I know that it would be at one of the few Fuhrer Headquarters that had recently been bought by a Turkish investor to use as a hotel and function complex.

This room was discovered only recently during the renovations and a wall was cut into the stone to access it.
 
First begun around 1170 it has circulated through numerous owners throughout the centuries, all of whom have added their personal architectural style and design according to their needs. From the noble families of Falkenstein, Koenigstein, Eppstein, Stolbery, Darmstadt, Mainz, and the Duchy of Nassau to being a society events location under the 1926 owner Emma von Scheiltlein until it was seized by the Nazi military for use as (among other things) the airforce headquarters under Hermann Goering from 1944, to being an interrogation center of high ranking intellectuals and scientists for "Operation Dustbin" after the war. Fifty bunks were in the bunker, apparently, and the metal bars are still on the interrogation room windows. A US military spy base (used for missions into East Germany), before being handed over to the German then Hesse governments, then later it was the home of an IT Entrepreneur and used as a business park.
The rooms used for high ranking discussion during WW2.
Named for Kranichsberg (Crane Mountain)It has seen illustrious visitors from the likes of Michael Jackson (as his European office), Elvis Presley (who someone on my visit mentioned performed here during his military service though I have no verification of that), the German intellectuals and scientists held for interrogation after World War II which included Werner von Braun (designer of the V-2 rocket), Ferdinand Porche, and Albert Speer (German minister for armaments, and ironically, the designer of the WW2 military complex itself ), among others, likely Eisenhower, Goering, Himmler and of course, Hitler (delivering his 1945 New Year's speech from the Pressehaus here), who didn't seem particularly impressed with it as a military headquarters. 
The architecture is quite a hodge-podge of eras with the stables being turned into a night club while we were there. Goering's office was empty in 2012 (see here) but has now been filled with antiques. Someone murmured on my visit that the renovations in the three years since purchase have already surpassed 4 million euro. The Officer's Club, a beautiful arched medieval hall with grand fireplace is now a banquet room. Apparently only the the outer walls and the central towers are of the original 900 year old construction. Some walls are gothic and others almost modern. Several of the other guests and I wandered through the partially finished hotel where beds were covered with candlesticks and other antiquities and walls were propped with paintings or spread with tapestries. They've created a pretty authentic feeling ambiance!
A view of the foundations of the castle from the road below.
Entrance to the unfinished tunnel to the town below.
What I didn't realise when I was there, was the extensive size of the Alderhost (the underground bunker system built during World War II) -- I saw just a few rooms and the start of the escape tunnel, but the entire hillside was a dedicated shelter, confidentially built and a pretty well-kept secret. The complex was hidden by a collection of seven cottages over a large bomb shelter, (Haus 1, no more luxurious, was of course the Fuhrer's). It was fascinating to see how the giant square structure with 3 feet deep concrete walls was just plonked down in the middle of what would have been the castle courtyard (between a medieval castle extension right next door) and a charming chapel on the hillside.

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