We travel to all sorts of places. But ever so often we dream of traveling to a castle far away in the woods- where high wooded doors are opened by tall mysterious strangers- leading to banquet halls whose cold walls are warmed by dim overhanging lights, and to high-ceilinged bedrooms where beds are made with soft sheets and downy pillows. Indeed, I daresay, half of the reason behind Count Dracula’s popularity was his eerie castle that both entranced and frightened visitors, all at once..
Though we may not have the good fortune of being treated like royalty at a castle, we can definitely saunter in the halls of one. Here is the list of famous castles around the world:
Hohenzollern Castle, Germany
The Hohenzollern castle stands on top of a hill overlooking the immense grim vastness around it. Emperor William II had proclaimed, ‘The panorama from the Hohenzollern castle is truly worth a journey.’ The castle is the seat of the Prussian Royal House and of the Hohenzollern princes. It has been restored, and is a thriving cultural center that sees hundreds of visitors throughout the year. The Hohenzollern Castle gives you a chance to stroll through the royal chambers of the castle at leisure- just like a king. Guess what? We are thinking it would be a good idea to wear a cape and carry a scepter as you take a kingly stroll here. And yes, you get to see the Prussian king’s crown.
The castle is an artistry of military architecture with civil architectural elements thrown in over the years. The royal family has painstakingly preserved the castle over long decades spending huge amounts on its renovation and in turning it into a house for arts. The castle however has considerably damaged by the earthquakes of 1970 and 1978. Proceedings from admission fees continue to fund maintenance work for the castle.
Windsor Castle, England
The Windsor Castle is the official residence of the Queen of England and is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. The Windsor Castle is 1000 years old. This motte and bailey castle was built on a chalk cliff on the southern bank of the Thames river by William the Conqueror, to defend the western frontier of the capital.
The Windsor Castle is not just an awe-inspiring relic from the past, but continues to be the official residence of the Queen where she holds her Easter Court during March-April.
At the Windsor Castle, you will find several other attractions. The various State Apartments in the Castle house royal treasures. Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House is again a marvel in miniature where tiny shot guns fire and cars the size of your palm have running engines. St George’s Chapel, a beautiful ecclesiastical building is the burial place of several English monarchs.
If you a big fan of everything royal, take a tour of the Drawing Gallery that houses paintings by members of the Royal Family.
Burg Eltz, Germany
Expect the Burg to spring on you from nowhere as if popping out from the magician’s hat. As you take a long walk through the winding road leading to the castle, immersed in views of the green vista surrounding the road, suddenly, at a sharp turn, the castle appears, just like that.
Though the outside of the Burg Castle is impressive to say the least, it is nowhere near the vast fortified royal mansions that appear found in countries. The Eltz Palace is strategically built on a rocky crag, that is encircled almost entirely by the Eltz River. This area was an important commercial area back in the day when the meeting of the Rhine and Mosel rivers formed a very important trade route.
It will surprise you to know that even royalty can be prudent when it comes to money matter, especially when the money is needed to build a huge castle. The Burg Eltz is actually three castles constructed at three different points in time, by three branches of the Eltz family.
The castle has 8o rooms-a ll with their own fireplaces. Exotic animals are designed on tapestries. The kitchen has a medieval form of a refrigerator- a cupboard cut into the cool rock.
If you do not know German, two English language tours are conducted in a day.
Conwy Castle, North Wales
The Conwy Castle is the most formidable castle of the ‘iron ring’ of castles built under Edward I. The castle is simple in design and dramatic in its location. In the old walled town of Conwy the castle stands on a high rock overlooking the Conwy estuary. From afar, the strong castle looks like it has been embossed on the beautiful Snowdonia sky behind. The castle is cloistered on all sides by a high curtain wall. The wall joins eight circular towers that are further mounted by four turrets. Inside, the walls not much remains of the rest of the castle. But given Conwy’s military history, historians consider the castle well preserved. The best part about the Conwy castle is the fabulous view of the walls that ring Conwy. These walls are further guarded by twenty two towers.
Catherine Palace, Russia
The first reaction when you take a look at the Catherine Palace of Russia is- it is nothing like the fortified castles of the English, or the massive German citadels. The second thought you will have is- I will need a small car to get from one end to another. Yes, the Catherine Palace is the longest palace in Europe. Built along the circumference of a circle, the Catherine palace is 1 km long. Catherine I was the wife of Peter the Great, who had built his wife a small stone house in Tsarkskoe Selo. However, when their daughter Queen Elizabeth came to power, she had the palace enlarged by Rastrelli. The palace gave Elizabeth just what she needed- lots of space to store the thousands of dresses and hats she had made for herself every year, and lots of rooms wherein she could throw gala parties where she flaunted those dresses. Elizabeth’s rooms were done in fine French furniture and yards of silk. After Elizabeth, it was Catherine the great who went to great extents importing rare and precious materials to embellish the palace rooms. The rooms of Catherine were extravagantly decorated- with violet glass columns capped with bronze capitals, and Wedgewood plaques.
Guest visiting the Catherine palace get the rare chance to see the blend of different styles of architecture and interior design. The Golden Enfilade of State Rooms form the focus of the guest tour. Also look out for the State Staircase and the Great Hall of Light. While one dates back to the 1860s the other houses gilded stuccos and frescoes- all looking splendid in natural light.
Image Credit : A. Kniesel, Andrew Hurley, paweesit