By Karen Pasold

Setting & History

Chevron patterned bricks lead visitors over a bridge through iron-gated arches alongside moats with swimming ducks. Rhododendrons proliferate beside the castle walls. Ahead is one of the most architecturally perfect examples of a Westphalian Wasserschloss.

Lembeck sits on two islets of land in a lake, thus forming natural moats and accounting for its unique three-winged Baroque shape. The castle is flanked by slate-roofed, onion-dome spires, creating one of the most alluring hotels in all of Germany.

Earliest mention of Lembeck is 1077 when the land was given to the bishops of Paderborn. The castle got its name from Adolph von Lembeck, a knight who was witness to the bishop's papers, and also owned a house in the territory.

This romantic, beautiful castle remains today after withstanding centuries of military occupation and war. Between 1200 and 1700, Lembeck was mostly a castle of defense. Spanish troops invaded around 1600 and during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) the castle was plundered. Reconstruction began in 1670, though it was not completed as we see it today until 1692. In 1757, 15,000 French soldiers occupied a night camp here during the Seven Years War. There was more war damage when 10,000 Cossacks took up quarters in the area during the Napoleonic wars in the early 17th century. In 1919, the Red Army bivouacked here before a fight with Marxists. Finally, at the end of WWII, the Schloss was damaged by bombs, gunfire and again pillaged. Trenches from the last war can still be found in the adjacent woods.

Rooms & Decor

The castle has an official museum of heirloom furniture, hand woven tapestries, oil paintings, porcelain and china and various decorative objects. It is difficult to distinguish the museum from the hotel. All ten castle hotel rooms are authentic relics of antiquity.

The style of Lembeck remains constant since ownership has been in the same family since 1708. Wide, darkened wood plank floors line the halls and are protected by red sisal runners. Classical paintings and portraits of noblemen gaze down on polished chests that are bathed in sunlight which streams through the mullioned windows. Original ceiling beams, ceramic stoves, majestic fireplaces, canopied beds, oriental rugs, damask chairs and sofas, mellowed writing desks and bulky armoires grace the enormous high-ceilinged bed chambers. Even the most conservatively priced rooms are of generous proportion. One room occupies a tower, another is the Hochzeitzimmer or bridal suite, but all are unique and charming with modern bathrooms and television.

Food

Lembeck includes a wine cellar, art gallery, disco, outdoor café, Schlosskapelle for weddings and a forested park. A dining hall in the red brick vaulted cellar, with tiled fireplace and ladderback chairs, serves regional wild game and Westphalian specialities. Game dishes include pheasant, venison, wild boar, guinea hen and quail and average about 30 DM ($18). More traditional tastes can choose from fish, chicken, roasted meats and even Züricher Geschnetzeltes with Rösti. Most are under 20 DM ($12).

Despite these tempting main courses, I will always remember the most divine dessert; Vanilleeis mit heissen Himbeeren (vanilla ice cream served with a gravy boat of hot red raspberry syrup). Brombeeren or blackberry syrup is also available, 6 DM ($3.50). As I look back through my travels, Lembeck is one of the most irresistible and memorable places to stay.

Rooms*

Städtezimmer (shower) 128 DM ($75)
Hautelisse (shower) 138 DM ($81)
Moses (shower, ceramic stove, French canopy bed) 148 DM ($87)
Napoli (4-poster bed, tub and shower) 148 DM ($87)
Wiesenturm (tower room, shower) 148 DM ($87)
Baroness (shower) 148 DM ($87)
In der Motte (shower) 148 DM ($87)
Fürstenzimmer (Princes Room, tub and shower) 148 DM ($87)
Herkulesblick (tub and shower) 168 DM ($99)
Jan und Gret (bridal suite, 4-poster, fireplace, tub and shower) 198 DM ($116)

(*Prices are for two persons.)

Getting There: North of Essen take A43 out of Recklinghausen. Exit Haltern. Take B58 to Wulfen and head north towards Reken.

Contact: Schloss Lembeck, D-46286 Dorsten-Lembeck, tel. 2369/7213 or 7283, fax 2369/77370
Daily Rates: Doubles 128 to 198 DM ($75-$116), singles 89 DM ($52).
Rating: Quality 15/20 Value 17/20

April 1997