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Schloss Schönberg

July 31, 2009

Written August 6

Friends and Families ,


In our visits to German towns and villages, it seems we always hit at least one castle or palace and this trip to the Vogtland region was no different. The Schloss Schönberg turned out to be palace visit with a difference: an owner tour.

Here's our picture and our story.

Schloss Schönberg was owned by the von Reitzenstein family from 1484 until the end of World War II, when the Soviet East German government took it over for a variety of proletarian uses: school, post office, summer camp, theater, etc.

After the fall of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany, the schloss was a ruin looking for a savior. Up stepped the Rubner family. Since 2000, they have labored to restore the glory of this place. Today, the outside of the main building is wonderful and even the old barn and smithy looks presentable.
The main building, showing the top of the original 14th Century water tower and the palace that grew around it in the centuries after.
The barn and old smithy across from the palace.
Our tour started at 4pm. Led by Mr. Rubner himself. His enthusiasm in describing the family's labor to restore the huge place came out in every stop along the tour.

The sundial on the building front. A tricky piece of geometry since the building is not exactly on an East-West setting.

One of the first floor rooms, with walls repainted in the style that was used centuries before. Mr. Rubner explained how this room, and most others in the old palace, was a complete ruin when they arrived eight years ago.

The center of the building is formed by the old water tower. This spiral staircase provides access to the rooms of the palace and to the upper reaches of the tower.

The climb to the very top got less and less elegant as we went higher and higher.

The view from the upper windows was spectacular. Much of the land we saw from here is in the Czech Republic as Schloss Schönberg lies in the narrowest part of this small German triangle.

Back down the stairs, we went into the second floor rooms, the rooms where the past glory of the palace revealed itself. One room has been finished, including restoration of its very ornate ceiling. The "Blue Room", originally the grandest of the grand salons in Schloss Schönberg, was still being worked on. Mr. Rubner described the grueling process used to remove centuries of dirt and paint from the ceiling's surface and the difficulty of finding a way to do this without going bankrupt. He said the first bid for cleaning the ceiling was 100,000 euros, well beyond his budget. In the end, he has found local people to do the work, slowly but with manageable costs. (Having restored a room or two from much smaller places, we sympathized.)

The lowest levels of the old building may have been the most interesting. Mr. Rubner proudly showed off the "new" wine cellar, describing the tedious process whereby he and his wife joined the small work crew in scrubbing centuries of dirt and mold from the stone floors. We could tell from his tone, he'd done the work himself and was proud of even this, a bare floor.

Nearby, we saw the stairs leading down from the royal bedroom into the royal bath. That was interesting enough, but leading down from the bath level we saw the stone stairs modern owners had discovered. The stairs in fact led to a passageway that provided an emergency exit from the center of the castle. Ever since they were discovered twenty years ago, people have looked for the treasure that MUST be buried along the path. Mr. Rubner admitted that, while he does not believe there is lost treasure, he still looks for it.

In the end, we understood the Rubner family had indeed found treasure. Schloss Schönberg itself is a treasure and their dedication and fight to restore it is truly inspiring. Mrs. Rubner estimated that, after eight years working, they had at least eight more years to go. We very much appreciated their struggle but, no, it did NOT inspire us to take on something new.

So, if you are in the corner of Vogtland, drop by the Rubner's place. It's worth the detour.


John and Marianne


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