Wednesday 19 October 2016

Mirow: A Village Full of Castles

I'm delighted to welcome Julia Meister, who is your guide to Mirow!


The Lower Castle
The Lower Castle
Mirow is a small, sleepy German village located in the Southern part of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. With its 4000 inhabitants and rural atmosphere, all one expects to find there is nature and, since it’s located within the Mecklenburgische Seenplatte (a region famous for its many lakes), a lake or two. There is – albeit in a positive way! – nothing regal about Mirow, until, that is, one approaches Mirow’s very own Castle Island. Before one even sets foot on it, one is surprised to discover that the building located right next to the island was once a beautiful castle. Beautiful enough even to be deemed appropriate as the place of birth for a princess belonging to the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who ruled a small duchy in the North of Germany (another famous member of the Mecklenburg-Strelitz clan was Louise of Prussia, to whom we’ll come in another blog post!). After all, the little girl, born as Sophia Charlotte on May 19th, 1744 in the aforementioned castle (called the “Lower Castle”) in Mirow, was to become one of Britain’s royal leading ladies as the wife of King George III. Looking at the castle as it is now, it is hard to imagine its grandeur during the 18th Century. From the early 19th Century until 2006, it was used as a school. Sadly, it is now vacant and in dire need of renovation!

Moving on towards the actual Castle Island, one passes through a beautiful English landscape garden full of lush green trees. Hence, even judged by its surroundings, the Upper Castle seems much more worthy of royalty. This is due to the fact that a lot more care and effort is put into it, with lots of renovation going on inside. Built at the beginning of the 18th Century, it was mainly used as a widow’s seat by Duchess Elisabeth Albertine of Saxe-Hildburghausen, who was also a Duchess of Mecklenburg-Mirow. The Upper Castle is open to visitors, who can take a look at Mirow’s famous hand-stitched tapestry from the 18th Century, as well as its magnificent Baroque hall. The castle also features in-depth information on its former inhabitants, as well as, of course, Queen Charlotte. Since the castle is located in a small village, one can often pass through its halls without the distraction of many other visitors: I had this experience one, and it made me almost feel like the hostess of the castle myself! 

The park and the bridge connecting Mirow's Castle Island to Love Island
I highly recommend visiting the so-called Love Island, which can be reached via bridge, and from where one has a beautiful view of the Mirower See (the Castle Island’s very own lake). What makes it even more special is the grave of Adolf Friedrich VI., who was the last Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. He died in 1918 under mysterious circumstances: To this day, no one has ever really managed to find out whether he was murdered or committed suicide. This lack of clarity regarding his end lends a very special atmosphere to Mirow’s Love Island (and also makes one think that the name ‘Love Island’ and the fact that his tomb was placed here make for an interesting juxtaposition!).

The grave of Adolf Friedrich VI

Another gem to be found on Mirow’s Castle Island is the Protestant Lutheran Church, once the castle church of the House of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Make sure you visit the so-called Fürstengruft, the crypt where members of the Mecklenburg-Strelitz dynasty were laid to rest. One can catch a glimpse of 22 coffins, and it really gives one the shivers to be stood there in front of (unfortunately, deceased) royalty! The coffin of Duchess Elisabeth Albertine of Saxe-Hildburghausen, Mirow’s longest inhabitant, can be found here. Another famous figure that can be found amongst the dead in the crypt is Landgravine Charlotte of Hesse-Darmstadt, who was brought up with Marie Antoinette at the Imperial Court in Vienna. The two of them kept up a lifelong correspondence as pen pals.

The steps leading up to the church

Mirow is very old-fashioned when it comes to public transport, and that’s what makes it even more charming: To get from Neustrelitz (the last train station you can reach via Deutsche Bahn) to Mirow, one has to travel by lovely little trains, known to insiders as railbuses. They have quite a cult following, and are still used by a train company in that area. While these railbuses may not date back to the times of Queen Charlotte, they certainly make getting to Mirow a rather nostalgic experience! 

Mirow Castle
Mirow Castle

About the Author
Julia Meister is an 18th/19th Century enthusiast, and is especially interested in the social history of women. She has a vast knowledge of royal mistresses and is fascinated by their political power. Whilst she loves British and French history, her main passion is the Habsburg Empire: When on holiday, she can most likely be found visiting a castle in within the former Austro-Hungarian region that has once been inhabited by Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Buda Castle, Gödöllő Palace and Vienna’s Hofburg are among her favourites). In 2016, Julia wrote and recorded the texts for Marienfließ Convent’s audioguide – the first female Cistercian convent in the Brandenburg area of Germany, founded in 1231. She is currently seeking new ways of indulging her passion for history and writing.

All content of this post copyright © Julia Meister, 2016.


Unknown said...

Many Greetings from Mecklenburg-Strelitz and we are happy that you like to know more about our little country :) . One user on our facebooksite like to tell you that Mirow has 4000 inhabitans and not 400 . Much more you can finde on our side. We wsh you all the best. Martin Blaczejewski

Catherine Curzon said...

I've made that correction; thank you for visiting the site!