August 21, 2009 / 8:37 AM / 9 years ago

Stimulus a boon for Germany's crumbling castles

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - Dozens of crumbling German castles are getting a makeover thanks to cash from the government’s economic stimulus package.

A general view shows the Orangery at the park of Sanssouci Palace in the eastern German city of Potsdam July 2, 2006. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

The government made 150 million euros ($213 million) available for the preservation of UNESCO World Heritage sites last year and earmarked an extra 20 million euros for the restoration of historical buildings in a stimulus plan agreed in January.

“We’re happy. This is a positive development,” said Gerhard Wagner, Secretary-General of the German Castles association. “Repair work we might only have got round to in 20 years can now be done in the next five.”

From the Baltic Sea to Bavaria, government grants are helping to spruce up ancient properties.

About 14 million euros in total has been awarded to projects up and down the Rhine Valley, where more than 40 fortifications overlook the mighty river.

The 13th century Marksburg Castle is one of many to have benefited from the extra cash, receiving a grant of 700,000 euros to carry out vital renovation work.

Nearby bastions, the medieval Burg Eltz and the Palladian Schloss Malberg, nestled in the hills above the Mosel river, were each granted about one million euros.

Work is already underway to stabilize a 40 meter high tower at risk of collapse with iron anchors at Burg Eltz and Malberg is about to restore its vast roofs and walls.

In January, Germany extended its fiscal stimulus package by 50 billion euros in the hope of pulling the country out of its deepest recession since World War Two.

Cash for the castles makes up a small part of the overall sum, but Wagner said the investment was already having a positive effect on the local economy.

“There’s scaffolding up on a lot of castles already,” he said. “It’s keeping local craftsmen very busy — There are four or five different firms at work on the Marksburg alone at the moment.”

Earlier this week, Culture Minister Bernd Neumann and the state premiers of Berlin and Brandenburg secured a separate deal to allocate 155 million euros to polish up Prussian palaces.

“Without urgent investment, parts of the UNESCO world heritage site would be irretrievably lost,” said Hartmut Dorgerloh, director of the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation, referring to properties around the Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam.

Germany has an estimated 15,000 preserved fortresses, palaces and ruins. Perhaps the most famous is the 19th century Neuschwanstein castle, which has featured in numerous films and was used as a model for the fairytale towers at Disneyland.

Editing by Noah Barkin

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