When Charlotte proposed to write a guest post about Kleve, I was intrigued. It is a pretty obscure corner of Germany even I had never heard, but now I have an urge to go see it. It is so untouristed that finding Creative Commons pictures was a challenge.– Andrew
The district of Kleve is not the most popular of regions when deciding where to travel to in Germany, indeed it most probably won’t even be considered by the majority. While most choose to visit the larger cities such as Berlin or Dusseldorf there is still a great deal of Germany to be explored without the heaving crowds and high prices and if like me you choose to visit these less well known places you are sure to experience far more than the usual tourist traps can offer.
Situated in the North-West of North Rhine Westphalia, the district of Kleve sits adjacent to the Dutch border. Although many of the low cost airlines now fly directly to Weeze Airport which is just 30 minutes drive from the district’s capital, Kleve town, when I visited I choose to fly into Schipol Airport, Amsterdam and drive the rest of the 150km journey which takes around an hour and a half and allows you to experience some of Germany’s and the Netherlands’ most scenic landscapes.
The town of Kleve itself is home to a population of 50,000 and is largely untouched by tourism, there are however some excellent hotels and restaurants to be found specialising in both traditional German and Dutch hospitality. The most prominent tourist attraction in the town is the Schwanenburg, translated into English as ‘The Swan Castle’ situated on a steep hill that can be seen for miles around in every direction. The castle was once home to the Dukes of Cleve (Interestingly Cleve was spelt with a ‘C’ up until the 1930’s when spelling reforms meant it changed to a ‘K.’) The old castle has an extremely large tower, the Schwanenturm which stands at 180ft high. For those who are interested in opera this was the tower immortalised in the work of Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin which was based upon the legend of ‘The Knight of the Swan’ which is believed to have originated in Kleve. A very enjoyable afternoon to be had in the town is to climb the tower and enjoy the uninterrupted view for miles around, after scaling the tower it is also fun to enjoy a celebratory German beer in one of the nearby traditional taverns for all of your efforts! The castle is also home to a museum which shows the rich history of Kleve and do have a stroll around the beautiful Tiergarten garden and explore the surroundings of the castle. For those with an interest in history, you may have guessed that Kleve was also the birth place of Henry VIII’s fourth and very fortunate wife, Anne of Cleves and there are many references to her throughout the town. Of course Kleve is not just a fascinating place to visit because of its rich history; there are plenty of exciting more modern activities to enjoy. Kleve zoo is fantastic for a day out if visiting with children and for some relaxation a great way to spend the afternoon is too head to the historic 17th century baroque garden, once owned by Prince Johan-Maurits van Nassau-Siegen of Kleve and take a picnic made from the delicious fresh produce that can be bought in the towns market.
If venturing out of the town of Kleve itself there are plenty of other events to enjoy throughout the region, the most notable perhaps, the hot air balloon festival in Kevelaer, the international competition for street painters in Geldern and the Lower Rhine Carnival.
However you choose to spend your time in this beautiful and historically rich region you are sure to have a unique and hugely enjoyable time.