A HOUSE LESS ORDINARY: TOUR TNT’S EXTRAORDINARY FAMILY CASTLE by ELISABETH VON THURN UND TAXIS from VOGUE MAGAZİNE...
From an early age, I knew my childhood was a little different. None of my classmates, for instance, made their way to school past tourists and a museum guide in their courtyard. When I had my tenth-birthday party, the hot topic among my friends was not how much candy we’d eaten but how many rooms the castle had (“Really? 500?”) and the racy contemporary art my mother hung everywhere. Some said they were too scared to come back for a sleepover (a painting of a decaying corpse hung on the wall of my bedroom).
But I’m not complaining—and I understand how incredibly fortunate I was. Schloss St. Emmeram was an amazing place to be a child. There was hide-and-seek in the courtyard, pinball machines tucked away in the entrance hall, and the nursery was a long corridor overflowing with toys. I loved the amazing Jeff Koonslobster painting outside, and my mother’s office had another Koons, my all-time favorite: a Popples sculpture (conveniently, neither scared my friends). One Christmas, to our greatest delight, my mum even had two little Shetland ponies awaiting us in our entrance hall, grazing on some hay underneath a Christmas tree. Oh, and parked here or there would be the odd Harley-Davidson—my mum being a big biker and friendly with the local rockers. Occasionally she even picked us up from school on a Harley, revving the engine and causing a scene in the schoolyard. I was torn between pride and mortification (but on the whole I loved it).
And I loved my mother’s guests—many of them artists like George Condo, who played ice hockey with us on the frozen pond, or Keith Haring, who became a hero of ours when he decorated our nursery door with a black felt pen and then passed the pen to us. My mother was appalled, but what could she say? Keith started it!
When I became a teenager, I found things to complain about (would I have been a teenager if I hadn’t?). Like the fact that there was a porter guarding the castle around the clock. Boyfriends and late nights had to be meticulously planned, and secret escapes required careful logistics (sometimes these involved leaping the fence that ringed the park behind the castle. Only later did I realize there were cameras watching over us there, too).
All along, I was enchanted by my parents’ parties. We’d sit down to dinners in the rococo ballroom, with enormous crystal chandeliers bathing us in a golden light. Later we would pass along a string of beautiful rooms—our favorite being the one with a golden four-poster bed with deep-green curtains and a golden swan on each side. I adored that bed even though my siblings and I told each other that an ancestor had passed away on it and that her ghost never left.
I would borrow pieces from my mother’s couture collection for these occasions and, later, for the yearly boar hunts, too. Did my sister and I fight over dresses? Of course! I always wanted to be the first to wear, say, a flower-embroidered Lacroix but never seemed to get the chance, as she had already gotten there first and danced in everything till the wee hours. Many of the best pieces were, alas, a little worse for wear. The one we both were most attached to, though, was a simple, slightly worn-out gray cardigan belonging to our late father. We took turns with it traveling between home, boarding schools, and, later, Madrid, Paris, and beyond.
My mother recently had the idea of having the castle photographed by our friend Todd Eberle, for a book (to be published by Rizzoli in October). Todd wanted portraits of my sister and me wearing gowns, jewelry, and tiaras. I was hesitant at first, but the whole thing was incredibly fun (and as for the tiaras, it was the only time in my life Mum let me wear these heirlooms, so why not?). Todd later confided that my sister was initially photographed without a tiara and, seeing my images, pleaded to be reshot. “That’s what I call a case of tiara envy,” he joked. I didn’t quite believe him, but it made for a good laugh.