Friday, April 06, 2007

Castles in the Air

My first exposure to romantic fiction was through fairy tales, all those stories (and their Disney movie counterparts) about deserving young women finding their princes and going off to live in a castle. I was lucky as a child to get to live in Germany for a while, where we had an actual castle (okay, a ruin) on the hill over our neighborhood. You can't beat a real castle as a playground for acting out all your fantasies about knights, princes, princesses and fair maidens (who also do their own swordfighting, of course). Even as an adult, I've got a thing about castles. When I travel, I can't resist visiting and photographing any castle I come across, and since the weekend is a free-for-all, I thought I'd share a few of my castles. These are from a trip I took back to Germany about ten years ago, where I visited some new castles and rediscovered some favorites from childhood.

This is probably the most famous German castle, Schloss Neuschwanstein, which apparently was the inspiration for the castle at Disneyland. It looks like the ideal medieval fairy tale castle, but it's actually relatively modern, dating from the 19th century. It also isn't finished and for the most part is an empty shell. To take this picture, I had to go out on an ice-covered, rickety wooden bridge suspended hundreds of feet above a rocky gorge. I'm glad it turned out okay.

This is the "real" castle nearby, Hohenschwangau. It really is medieval. I didn't get to go into this one.

Most of the true medieval castles in Germany are ruins, but this one, Burg Eltz, has never been conquered or damaged in war, from medieval times all the way through to WWII. When I was there in 1997, it was still privately owned by descendants of the original family that built it, and while parts of it are open to visitors, the rest of it remains a private residence.

Heidelberg Castle was one of the ones I visited in childhood. It has a fairly tragic history and was burned by the French at least once. Now they do an annual "burning" with a fireworks display that makes it look like the castle is on fire. Someday I'd like to be there to see that.

So, that's part of my German castle collection. If there's interest, I can also post some British castles. I've even started discovering American "castles" and visited one near New York during the PASIC conference last weekend.


Christie Craig said...


Loved the images. Tell me does just going to these places not spark your brain with ideas?

So much history, so many stories.

Thanks for sharing.


meardaba said...

I live in Germany, and if you ever want to see tons of castles in a short span of time, take the train from Koblenz to Mainz along the Rhein. Every two kilometers is a new castle! They're all gorgeous, as is the landscape.

Shanna Swendson said...

I've taken the cruise up the Rhine from Rudesheim to Koblenz, and then the train back, but that was when I was a kid before I had a camera. :-)

I want to do that again with a good telephoto lens.

We spent our weekend drives visiting castles around Darmstadt (where we lived).