Kleve, one-time home
of Anne of Cleves
Kleve means ‘cliff’
and its castle, die Schwanenburg, sits atop that
It rises majestically
above the surrounding land on a
ridge which was pushed up
by glacial movement during the Ice Age. Actually, in comparison to the
Alps, Rockies, Sierra, Himalayas or other ranges of serious mountains,
the rise would not be called majestic. The castle is, though. And the
elevation is certainly higher than
the flatlands to the north and west that extend through Dutch and
German Frieslands to the North Sea.
‘Schwanenburg’ — Swan Castle — dates only from the 19th century. The
was previously known by its Dutch name, ‘het Slot van
Cleef,’ or the Castle of Cleves. Its smaller tower has been
known as Schwanenturm since the Middle Ages.
story of Percival’s son, Lohengrin — the mysterious
knight who arrived in a swan-drawn boat to defend a noble damsel and
later to become her husband — is centered here according to
local legend. Accordingly, there are lots of local references to swans
and the swan knight. As in olden times
and apparently aloof to it all, real swans
paddle around the Spoykanal.
Kleve is farther
from the Rhine than it was in the Middle Ages, before the river changed
its course. There is today a spur off the current riverbed known as the
Altrhein, or Old Rhine, which goes as far as
Griethausen. At least one small passenger ship — De Duffelt from
Millingen aan de Rijn — comes up the Altrhein and turns through a lock
the Spoykanal, which leads to Kleve.
Kleve is very Dutch,
as German cities go, and in mentality one could say it is still the
independent Duchy of Kleve. Walking down the main street,
Großestraße, Dutch and the closely related local Plattdeutsch are heard
as much as is High German. The Queen’s birthday (April 30) and other
Dutch festivities are enthusiastically celebrated. And on those
occasions, unlike Holland,
all the stores are open.