North Rhine-Westphalia is not only extremely lively in its urban centers. There is also plenty to discover in the countryside. In the midst of green landscapes, between rivers, orchards and half-timbered towns, sit the most magnificent cultural destinations. And many of them are real insider tips: Moated castles and monasteries, museums of medieval and contemporary art, Roman excavations and Westphalian craftsmanship. All you have to do is set off!
Typical North Rhine-Westphalia: You're cycling along the Ems cycle path through the green Münsterland region, following the cheerful meandering of the river through meadows and forests... and yet another castle peeks out from behind the trees! This time it's Bentlage Monastery, a 15th-century convent on the outskirts of Rheine that was later converted into a noble residence. With muntin windows and green-painted shutters, it sits invitingly under its steep roof. So what to do? Clear case: swing off the saddle, park the bike and go look.
And there is plenty to look at in Bentlage Monastery, which today functions as a cultural meeting place. Not only can you visit a lovingly furnished museum about the Knights of the Cross, who once founded the monastery. In the LWL Museum of Art and Culture, works by Otto Modersohn, the founder of the Worpswede artists' colony, hang alongside expressionist works by August Macke and works by Christian Rohlfs and Emil Schumacher. Time flies by with all the looking. Wait a minute: Didn't we actually want to go on a bike tour?
But that's just the way it is in North Rhine-Westphalia: Those who leave the urban centers are rewarded in rural regions with the most beautiful discoveries in terms of art and culture. A bike tour, a hike or a trip through the countryside by car quickly turns into a treasure hunt in a state full of surprises. Modern art museums and ancient monasteries, baroque parks and castles - everything is there, and always enticingly embedded in scenic beauty.
Just take the typical Münsterland water castles. Not only romantics melt away when Hülshoff Castle, ancestral seat of the noble Droste zu Hülshoff family for 600 years, appears in the green park near Havixbeck. The elegantly structured Renaissance facades are reflected in the water, as if time had stood still at some point in the 19th century. "Du Vaterhaus mit deinen Thürmen, vom stillen Weiher eingewägt" ("You father's house with your towers, cradled by the quiet pond") was the poem by Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, the great poetess who grew up in the castle and to whom a museum is dedicated there. A "Center for Literature" is also being built in the historic building. And here the circle closes: Because Jörg Albrecht, who is setting up the center, is himself a young writer....
A real discovery is the moated castle near Isselburg. Here you can not only visit the very impressive princely art collection with over 700 paintings, but also the landscape park adjoining the castle park with the name "Anholter Schweiz" (Anholter Switzerland) holds surprises: It was laid out in the 19th century with alpine rock and stone gardens. The highlight is a body of water in the shape of Lake Lucerne. Swiss wooden chalet included, of course!
It is often the combination of old walls and modern or contemporary art that catches the eye during a country trip through North Rhine-Westphalia. This is also true of the Lower Rhine vacation region, where numerous parks and castles have been built over the centuries. The uncrowned queen of all historic walls is, of course, Schloss Moyland in Bedburg-Hau. With its four massive, crenellated towers, the neo-Gothic moated castle sits like a true fairy-tale castle in the midst of historic gardens. More than 500 old hydrangea species line the paths and avenues with their colorful balls of blossoms, and the large herb garden is fragrant with kitchen herbs, medicinal and medicinal plants from all over the world. In between, striking modern art sculptures point the way to the castle's interior. For it is anything but old and traditional.
Because at Schloss Moyland everything revolves around Joseph Beuys, the exceptional artist and art theorist from the Lower Rhine region who died in 1986. The Schlossmuseum has the world's largest collection of Beuys works - almost 6,000 of his works on paper, sculptures and objects were collected here and are shown in changing exhibitions. Attached to the museum is the Joseph Beuys Archive, an international research institution that is part of the Düsseldorf Art Academy. This makes for an exciting audience in the castle. But no one has to be an art historian to be infected by the special atmosphere that arises from the combination of old walls and lively art research. Incidentally, Joseph Beuys would have turned one hundred in 2021 - reason enough to celebrate him throughout the Rhineland with numerous special exhibitions.
Incidentally, Joseph Beuys had one of his studios in the old Kurhaus in Kleve. You can visit it today, because it is part of the Kurhaus Museum in Kleve, which is distinguished by its extraordinary collection of Lower Rhine art. It ranges from the late Middle Ages through the Baroque to the Romantic period, which is particularly present in the works of the circle of artists around the Dutch painter B.C. Koekkoek, who lived in Kleve. The estate of the Rhenish sculptor Edwald Mataré, whose student Beuys was, is also exciting. And if you love photography, you can look forward to great works by Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth and other artists of the legendary "Düsseldorf School.
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