Dachsen Youth Hostel
History - Schloss Laufen
Perched majestically on an outcrop of rock just below the Rhine Falls at Dachsen sits the thousand-year-old Schloss Laufen castle. Despite its romantic situation, it owes its location first and foremost to strategic considerations. Because of the raging waters below the Rhine Falls and the strong current above, it was well-nigh impossible to capture the castle by water.
The Barons of Laufen
Laufen is first mentioned by name in the documentary records in 858 in a property transfer involving the Wolven family living in Thurgau. The name “Laufen” originates from “grosses Lauffen” as the Rhine waterfall was known at that time.
Ownership of the castle frequently changed, and was not always clearly recorded. In the 12th century, the castle was presumed to belong to the bishop of Constance, while at the same time ownership was also documented in Laufen by the Monastery of All Saints in Schaffhausen and the Counts of Kyburg.
Even the noble lineage of the Barons of Laufen who take their name from the castle, only owned it for around a hundred years.
The Old Zurich War
After a period in which the castle changed hands several times, it was the property of the Fulach family during the Old Zurich War (1439–1450). The fact that since the departure of the Barons of Laufen, the right to live in it with their successors, the Barons of Tengen, made the castle enemy property from the Zurich perspective. During the siege and conquest of the castle in 1449, it was reported that the defenders protecting the Fulach family endeavoured to escape by lowering themselves from the rock outcrop on long ropes and swimming to the other bank. A single occupant, who regarded the turbulent waters of the Rhine as the greater danger, remained behind and allowed the besiegers into the castle. Just one year later, however, soldiers loyal to the Fulach family succeeded in reconquering the castle. With diplomatic foresight, they gave up their Schaffhausen citizenship and applied for that of Zurich.
The property of the city of Zurich
Despite the endeavours of the city of Schaffhausen to gain a foothold on the left bank of the Rhine through the acquisition of Laufen Castle, Hans Wilhelm von Fulach finally sold the property together with the surrounding bailiwicks of Uhwiesen and Dachsen to the city of Zurich in 1544. Zurich thus gained a welcome territorial expansion to the north and had the acquisition converted into a residence for its chief bailiff shortly thereafter. It remained unchanged in this building condition for almost three centuries and the ring wall with its striking rectangular gate tower constructed at that time remains largely in existence to this day. Domination of the countryside by the city through the bailiwicks was consolidated and still produced feudalistic traits until the end of the 18th century. This came to an abrupt end with Napoleon’s invasion in 1798. The bailiwicks were deprived of their status and the castle, like many others, remained uninhabited for some years. It was only from 1804 that the castle was occupied again by a series of tenants. One of these was the landscape painter Ludwig Bleuer, who relocated his school of painting to the castle in 1833, with the intention of creating a great work above the Rhine. In 1845, he was able to purchase the castle. Around 100 years later, in 1941, the Canton of Zurich acquired the castle from his descendants. It was put to use as a youth hostel which opened officially in 1946.
Dachsen Youth Hostel today
Laufen Castle. View from the north-east 1840
Laufen Castle. View from the south 1840