On a recent trip to Germany, my dear friend, Jenny, took me to see her old university. I was staying in Münster, the capital of the North Rhine-Westphalia state of Germany, in the northwest, and the day trip to Nordkirchen sounded like an excellent idea.
Nordkirchen is a tiny town located in the Coesfeld district of North Rhine-Westphalia, and it is about an hour to an hour and a half away from Münster by bus. Schloss Nordkirchen is the palatial castle that is at the heart of the town.
Built in a Baroque architectural style between 1703 and 1734, the castle was constructed to be a residence for a family of a prince-bishop from Westphalia; Prince Bishop Friedrich Christian von Plettenberg started the construction, and his nephew, Prime Minister Ferdinand von Plettenberg, completed it. Today the local government owns the lands of the castle, and now the grounds and buildings are the home to the Fachhochschule für Finanzen Nordrhein-Westfalen (the College of Finance of North Rhine-Westphalia).
For more, check out our Germany destination guide.
The castle and its grounds exude this idyllic beauty of the German countryside. As I was there during the middle of a “school day” as class was in session, Jenny and I had the grounds practically to ourselves. When you first enter the premises, you walk along a path under trees that have bent over the trail in a symmetrical fashion, almost as if you are royalty and they are alive and bowing as you head towards the castle ahead. It’s fantastic, and I felt as though I might be hiking through forests similar to ones which characters from the Brothers Grimm had.
Continuing through this, we reached a large, round fountain, where about a dozen Chinese statues were spaced around it; the fountain was not functioning while I was there, though it didn’t detract much from its beauty. Finally we came to the edge of the moat (a real moat!), and there were several administrative buildings directly on the other side.
Instead of going across straightaway, we decided to head around the outer perimeter to catch the full majesty of the castle. Walking along the edge of the outer moat (there’s actually two moats with a slender path between them), which still had remnants of ice in it (it was January), we turned the corner and there was the schloss itself, standing on the other side of the moat in all its splendor.
Before crossing over the moat onto the castle’s ground, we quickly took in the vast garden at the castle’s front. It’s no wonder that locals call the Schloss Nordkirchen the “Versailles of Westphalia,” as the castle and the garden in front boasts a strong visual resemblance. The garden is called the Broderieparterre, a term that comes from the French word for embroidery, and that’s the perfect description of its design. Broderieparterre are exclusive as gardens to Baroque architecture, it seems. Also situated around the castle’s outer grounds are perhaps over a hundred, weathered statues; several immediately-recognizable ones were apparent, such as ones of Saturn, Venus, Mars, Faunus and Flora, as well as droves of others.
Finally, we were to head over onto the castle itself. From across the moat, the castle looks enormous and imposing, but once you walk over the bridge, you see that there is a large courtyard at its center; the buildings wrap around it and create the illusion of a size larger than it really is. Most of the grounds of the schloss are open to the public, though several of the buildings are not. There is a tourist office accessible from the courtyard, one of the few indoor areas allowed entry for visitors. The funny thing was that we were offered a guidebook of the castle, with some history and facts; however, the German version given to my friend Jenny was free, but the English one they had to offer me was 3 euros! I declined, asking Jenny simply to translate some key points from her copy.
Visitors aren’t allowed in much of the castle, but I was lucky enough to be with Jenny, a former student of this university. We went to the administrative office, and Jenny informed them that she was a former student and requested to step inside briefly with me to show me around. We were admitted, though the guy didn’t seem thrilled. The interior is something else – gorgeous paintings were hanging everywhere, the stonework was pristine, and the walls were actually covered in an embroidered cloth! It really was a royal residence, and I was quite fascinated and delighted that they kept much of the original decor intact and in great care.
After the few hours, it was time for us to head back to Münster. We took a different path on the way out, lined with several other statues, and thus completed our tour of the Schloss Nordkirchen. The schloss is a perfect day trip for anyone visiting Münster; the scenery from the bus offers a pleasant transition to the beauty of the castle and its well-kept grounds.
If you have the time, take a trip into the past and check out the schloss!