Friday Morning, June 7

Seehof Castle resembles a lot of the older highways in the United States in that its design was obolete before it was completed!  But that is where the similarity ends, as Seehof's architecture and decoration fully live up to its Baroque name.  From the wonderfully symmetrical exterior with its four onion-domed towers to the spectacular fountain and grounds and exquisite interior, this palace is the epitome of the over-the-top age that was the Baroque.

Unfortunately, due to the castle's having become private property for a time in the 19th and 20th centuries, it was allowed to fall into a heartbreaking state of disrepair; the majority of the furnishings (as our guide Barbara put it, "everything that wasn't nailed to the walls") were sold to museums and other private parties.  When the state of Bavaria ultimately reclaimed the property, they did their utmost to find and reclaim art and furniture that had been sold off and return them to Seehof, but many of the rooms on the tour have a rather bare appearance as a result of the impossibility of tracking such a large number of objects.  Interestingly, quite a few of the best pieces can be viewed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, which was kind enough to loan back some of the pieces that weren't up to its standard of quality and/or preservation(!).

That being said, some monumental efforts were made in re-creating the original wall coverings, which endow the rooms with an air of the magnificence that was once theirs.  In the Prince-Bishop's audience room, for example, 5 Chinese art students hand-painted a reproduction of the birds, fruits and flowers that were his favorites onto gorgeous green silk.  Other cloth wall-coverings were painstakingly researched and brought back to life in French mills. Ornate plasterwork and frescoes by Italian masters on the high ceilings transport one back to a time when nothing was left unadorned and even the most utilitarian object was transformed into art.

The hundreds of acres of gardens are still home to ancient plane trees that have been sculpted into an esthetically pleasing design, and the smaller bitter orange trees in their individual pots are arranged in perfect rows for their summer growing season.  These latter are the source of "precious oils" that were and are used by perfumers, expecially in the "4711" brand that originated in Cologne in response to Farina's creation of "Eau de Cologne."

All of the sculpture that currently adorns the grounds of the palace is but a small sampling of the numerous pieces that once occupied the gardens, arbors and a (now sadly non-exsistent) labyrinth that were the summer playgound of the Prince-Bishops of Bamberg and their peers.  The statues that one sees today outside the Seehof are reproductions of originals that escaped the sell-off; these can be viewed in the small museum in one-half of the "orangerie" (greenhouse for the bitter orange trees) that does double duty as a gateway to the palace grounds.

Only a fraction of the castle is shown to the public; most of the remainder houses offices connected with Bavaria's preservation of historic sites like the Seehof.  Even so, Petra (our guide to the interior of the building) allowed us to take as much time in each room and graciously answered the many questions posed to her.

We enjoyed a brief sojourn in the coffee shop with Barbara and our companions from the Skadi before returning for lunch on the ship.  Our beautiful sunny morning has evolved into an overcast and rainy afternoon, which lends itself to the completion of yet another blog entry!

Until later,


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