Cash for Castles in Germany

Financial crisis fairytale: German castles cash in on stimulus programs.

ByABC News
August 24, 2009, 8:54 AM

August 24, 2009 — -- The economic crisis is like a fairytale come true for Germany's romantic castles, baroque palaces and historic town squares because the government is spending millions of euros on sprucing them up, not just to protect the country's heritage but also to boost the construction sector.

Visitor numbers have also been increasing at many sites because Germans have been shunning foreign holidays in the recession.

Three separate programs totalling more than €320 million ($452 million) have been announced this year -- a tiny fraction of what it costs to bail out an ailing bank these days -- in the biggest program of investment in historic monuments in decades.

The latest cash injection was announced on Tuesday when the federal government and the states of Berlin and Brandenburg pledged €155 million for the Foundation of Prussian Palaces and Gardens for the period through 2017. The money will go towards projects in and around the capital such as refurbishing the roof and facades of Berlin's Schloss Charlottenburg palace as well as repairs to the Neues Palais-- the 18th century baroque palace in Potsdam's world-famous Sanssouci royal park.

"This money was exceptionally necessary, this is not just about cosmetic restoration but about essential repairs to the structure of these buildings," Ulrich Henze, the spokesman for the foundation, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "We're delighted that the funding is being made available."

It's a joy being shared by castle lords and town mayors across Germany who have been scrambling to claim funds from two other government programs. Some €150 million is being made available for the country's 33 UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the historic town center of Quedlinburg and the castles of the Rhine, and a further €20 million is coming from the government's second economic stimulus package launched this year.

While only the €20 million program is directly linked to the economic crisis, it is striking that the government is stumping up hundreds of millions of euros at a time when the country is suffering its biggest downturn since the 1930s.