Burg Sooneck

The first castle for kids in Germany's Rhine Valley run by the family from the nearby Burg Rheinstein.
This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience.
Here are the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy
Marco and Cora Hecher in Burg Sooneck
Familiar faces, right? I'm talking to Cora and Marco from Burg Rheinstein about their new project! The couple who spent so many years in the first castle on the Rhine to be restored in a romantic fashion back in the XIX century have embarked on a new project – to attract as many visitors as they can to Burg Sooneck, which is not so far away. Their plan is to make the castle a great attraction for kids, parents, and families. Could this really be the first medieval castle for children!? Well, the master plan is ambitious so it can well be the case very soon. We've talked about what it takes to lease the castle from the state and who Lady Anna Soon and the Knight Sir Eck really are!


Castles and Palaces (CnP): You have a lot to do at Rheinstein Castle - but you are dealing with yet another castle! It looks like you have an addiction, don't you?

Cora Hecher (CH): Good question indeed! Let's call it passion. Old buildings and old walls have a very special charm for us and we know our way around the castle. Marco grew up at Rheinstein Castle. But of course we also need a break from time to time.
CnP: How did Markus Hecher take the news that you wanted to take care of Sooneck Castle?

CH: He was surprised. Our parents-in-law were rather sceptical at first, they thought it would be too much for us. And I can say that it was indeed a lot at first - which is normal in the first few months when you start a new business. You have to get used to it, get familiar with it, and get the new processes right. But now it's running pretty smoothly, and most importantly, it's a lot of fun.
CnP: Tell me - why Sooneck Castle?

CH: Sooneck Castle is our Sleeping Beauty Castle - as my husband Marco always says. The Beauty wants to be kissed awake. After all, it was in a deep slumber for a year - because of the COVID19 pandemic. She is also an undiscovered wallflower among the castles of the Middle Rhine - which is a great pity! The castle is beautiful, but hidden from the public and therefore still an insider's tip. But the good thing is that more and more people are getting to know it!
CnP: You don't own the castle, so what's the deal with the state of Rhineland-Palatinate?

CH: That is correct. Sooneck is owned by the state of Rhineland-Palatinate and is managed by the General Directorate for Cultural Heritage (GDKE), which is responsible for all major conservation and structural measures and tasks. As a tenant, we are responsible for the day-to-day running of the museum, marketing and daily maintenance of the castle.
CnP: It seems that every year since 2015, when the castle's first blogger - Jessica Schobe - moved in to share Sooneck's stories, the local authorities have run some kind of PR project for Sooneck Castle. In 2019, it was Mareike Rabea Knevels who became the castle's blogger. Is your children's castle project a new approach to monetizing heritage?

CH: The primary task of the GDKE is to preserve cultural assets and, if possible, to make them accessible to the public. Of course, the approach of our concept plays an important role, because Sooneck, with its location and gardens, is ideal for our family treasure hunt.
CH: The castle blogger will probably reappear. The goal of the bloggers living in Sooneck was to report from the entire Middle Rhine Valley. The focus of this project was not the marketing of Sooneck Castle, but the Middle Rhine Valley in general.
CnP: Tell me more about Sooneck. I know it was closed during the lockdown. What was there before the pandemic? Just a museum?

CH: Well, you could say a museum, but that would be too little, because Sooneck Castle is much more than that. With the castle walls and the surrounding area, it has a fantastic setting with a lot of history, which makes imaginative "time travel" possible. This is exactly what we have done. Families and children can travel back in time with our riddle treasure hunt. The Castle Lady Anna Soon and the Knight Sir Eck, who have been created out of fantasy, take young and old on a journey through the history of Castle Sooneck.


CnP: Soon and Eck - sounds good! Your idea is to make it a magnet for children. Why do you focus on children?

CH: The phrase 'children are the future' sounds a bit trite, doesn't it? But that is exactly what it is. We want to inspire children and show them that learning can be fun.
CH: For us, history is a very important field of learning in life, because we - human beings - draw experiences from it for ourselves and our future, and it also explains our present and our identity. Sooneck is a perfect place for children - it offers the mix of space and time for the most important thing a family can have together - their shared experiences!
CnP:Why do you think it will be a viable model?

CH: The feedback we get for the work we've put into the concept is wonderful. Very often new guests come to us because their friends have told them they had a great time. That is one of the most important signs that we are doing something right when people tell others about us and encourage them to come. Marketing is very important, of course, but word of mouth is important.
CnP: Could you please share your master plan? Is it going to be some kind of an escape game or something?

CH: It's a riddle treasure hunt. There are eight stations in the garden and in the castle, each with a treasure chest that can be opened with a code. Since it is designed for children aged 5-14, the level of difficulty is variable, and the youngest will certainly need adult help. For us, this is part of the concept, because for safety reasons, children should not and must not go through the castle alone, and at the same time it encourages and challenges the family.
CnP: How much work did it take to make this happen? Did the castle really need to be adapted or renovated to welcome young guests?

CH: We started in May 2021 - in the middle of the pandemic. That was the biggest challenge. At the same time, our landlord - the GDKE - announced renovations and so on. Most of them have already been done. Now we have a jewel of a castle in front of us and we are looking forward to open it again for curious and interested visitors.
CnP: How many people are on the castle team and how do you share the responsibilities?

CH: Marco and I are of course part of the team, we have one full-time and several part-time staff and a gardener who helps us part-time in the beautiful rose gardens!
CnP: I'm sure you've explored the castle thoroughly - any interesting discoveries or surprises??
CH: Alas, there are no secret passages. Oh, I wish we could find one! Actually, the upper area in the tower of the castle is very interesting, but for many reasons it is not suitable for everyday use.
CnP: What is your favorite place in the castle?

CH: Clearly the roundel towards the Rhine - from there you have a fantastic view all the way down to Bacharach. And in summer you have sun until late in the afternoon and you're surrounded by red roses and Virginia creeper.
CnP: Sounds very romantic! Let's say a family wants to celebrate their child's birthday and rent the castle for a few days - is that possible?

CH: Yes, you can celebrate children's birthdays at Sooneck Castle. The children invite their friends and spend a wonderful day with us, dressing up in different costumes, playing castle games, our riddle treasure hunt and much more in our castle tavern, which can be rented for this purpose.
CnP: Where will they be able to stay in the castle?

CH: Unfortunately, there are no overnight accommodations at Sooneck Castle, except for the small castle blogger apartment in the south tower, because as I said, a new castle blogger is planning to move in. We are excited to see who we can share Sooneck Castle with.
Photo courtesy @Thomas Weinsheimer
CnP: Both Rheinstein and Sooneck were in ruins when they were discovered by the German aristocrats and restored in the trendy neo-Gothic style. How is Sooneck different from Rheinstein?

CH: Rheinstein was the first of the dilapidated or destroyed Rhine castles to be rebuilt. With the chapel added at that time, the many gardens with fountains at different levels, and the interiors with murals and valuable stained glass windows, the romanticism of the reconstruction period is clearly recognizable. Rheinstein Castle was the summer residence of Prince Frederick of Prussia. Sooneck is rather simple, at least on the inside. It has always been a hunting lodge, so that is the reason. But you can't help feeling romantic, especially in the gardens. Both castles are beautiful and each is charming in its own way.
CnP: Is there anything from the Middle Ages in Sooneck?
CH: As in most castles, unfortunately not so much anymore. It was destroyed several times and eventually fell into disrepair.

CnP: Will you move from Rheinstein to Sooneck to live there permanently?
CH: No. On the one hand there is no capacity for that in Sooneck Castle, on the other hand Rheinstein Castle is and will remain our home. Marco grew up here and we decided together to live in Rheinstein Castle and we love it.
We very much hope that you loved the story told by Cora Hecher, who together with her husband Marco have made the dreams of so many children and parents come true!
Don't miss new stories by other castle owners!

Photo credits: @Burg Sooneck

You can always get in touch with us via castlesandfamilies@gmail.com