Cleves (German: Kleve) is located along the Rhine River just by the Dutch border. In fact, many of the important historical personages of Cleves are generally remembered as Dutch rather than German!
The most famous of these is undoubtedly the very fortunate Anne of Cleves. If you remember your history lessons, you will recall her as one of Henry the Eighth’s numerous wives. And it was not usually a good thing to be married to this mercurial king.
Most of these women suffered sad and premature deaths at the hands of their cruel husband. But when the time came for Henry and Anne to do their separate ways, she kept her head (literally, that is!) and the marriage was annulled. Anne managed to outlive all of Henry’s other wives.
Cleves is notable not only for this famously fortunate woman, but for its legendary castle. The Schwanenburg, or Swan’s Castle, was immortalized by another legendary figure, the great Richard Wagner in his opera Lohengrin.
Lohengrin is the story of a woman, Elsa, who marries a mysterious knight after he saves her from false accusations of murder. In return for his bravery, the knight’s only condition is that Elsa must never ask his name or where he is from. Of course, in the traditional tragic storytelling, Elsa eventually goes back on her promise and leads them both into despair and death.
Apart from these rich tales of tragic women, Cleves has plenty of happier attractions too. There is the bath and spa resort that can be found in the surrounding woods. Many mansions — some restored, some in ruins — can also be visited.
And be sure not to miss Cleves’s impressive zoo and relaxing gardens which features an obelisk and amphitheater.