In the town of Winterthur, there are two castles. The more well-known is Schloss Kybourg. It is a bit confusing to get there by public transportation, so while it is on our list of places to check out, we’ve not exactly been there yet. A fun little castle that is very easy to get to is Schloss Hegi. It is on the north-east finger of the city of Winterthur, and I can walk there from our flat pretty easily. I first noticed it while taking a hike along the overlook above Oberwinterthur. In the picture below, it is that cluster of very old-looking buildings on the edge of the town.
Once I figured out what the buildings were, I was determined to check it out. I mean, come on, as an American, when will you ever live within a 15 minute walk of a castle? I went there twice this summer (once with my visiting friend and former boss, Sharon, and once with a group of our local friends), and it is really a unique castle and museum. It was only opened to the public very recently. Schloss Hegi was first built in the 1200’s with later additions in the 15th and 18th centuries. This odd clash of time periods makes for a fascinating set of buildings. From what little information I’ve dug up, it seems that the main tower was built first, with the rest of the buildings added on later.
What makes a castle unique? They are a dime a dozen here in Europe, right? Well, this castle is more like an estate house or a very tiny palace. Perhaps in the 12th century it was meant to be a fortification, but the additions from the 15th and 18th century show a more pastoral lifestyle. When the castle was made into a museum, it wasn’t extremely well-thought out. The only way in most areas or floors is the way you came out. Narrow cramped staircases (in some cases ladders!) lead you between floors. If you aren’t careful, you’ll miss a whole section of the castle or a room. There’s dead-ends and locked doors. It sounds completely nuts, but really that’s part of its charm.
The objects in the museum are completely random as well. On the first floor and in the basement you can find a collection of small cannons, ancient fire-fighting wagons and buckets, and a hearse (the kind which would be drawn by a horse). More fire buckets line the first set of stairs. Interesting tidbit about the buckets: each family in the area had their own. When a fire was discovered, each family would fill their own bucket(s) and come running. Each of the buckets in Schloss Hegi has a different family crest or symbol on it. The buckets are all made of leather, too, and kind of an odd elongated narrow shape.
We also encountered a tiny landing full of odds and ends leftover from the kitchen: copper pans, and utensils and a big cast-iron pot. It looked like a mish-mash of things left behind for the past few centuries. There are several large sitting rooms or possibly dining rooms, cozy little bedrooms, and tiny maid’s quarters. There were rooms with no obvious original purpose, each filled with things like armory, antique children’s toys (which, in my eyes were very creepy), and even farming tools. Every room had something new and interesting to look at. Kids will like it, too, but very young ones like ours had to be watched at every second. Still, everyone had fun.
While possibly not the gem of Winterthur, if you are in the area, Hegi Castle is worth a visit. The caretaker that was there both times I visited was extremely nice and helpful, making sure we didn’t miss any parts of the castle, and even helping us take a group picture in front of it. The first time I visited, he was popping out of random windows as we were leaving the castle, like some sort of bizarre Monty Python character. Hegi Castle (aka Schloss Hegi) is only open March through October, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 2PM to 5PM and Sundays from 10AM to noon, and in the afternoon from 2PM to 5PM. You can find out more about visiting Schloss Hegi here.