Facts About Castles
Facts About Castles - Or At Least A few Of Them
One of the more fascinating hobbies has to be traveling the world and visiting and learning facts about castles. When we think about castles, we think about princes and kings, towers and moats, great halls, dungeons, and very thick walls. Most castles have some or all of these. Castles were originally built with defense in mind. People could gather safely within the walls of a castle when invaders or other troublemakers were about. Castles were generally built on hills from where the surrounding countryside could be seen. To make the view of the surrounding scenery, and invading armies, even better, most castles had one or more towers or turrets. Castles build in low lying areas very often had a moat and drawbridge as a means of protection.
Although defense was the top priority, the owners of castles, usually a member or family of royal background, also decorated the interiors with vast banquet halls, great rooms, and especially from the Middle Ages on, with works or of art. Many castles reflect somewhat narcissistic characteristics of the landlord, others reflect a genuine taste for the arts. Most, though not all, of the world's more well known castles are to be found in Europe, and a goodly percentage of these are in Germany. One of the best ways to learn facts about castles is to stay a few days in them, and that is a distinct possibility in many cases. Otherwise, one simply takes a tour, which, for a good sized castle, can be an interesting all-day affair.
Beautiful Neuschwanstein - Arguably, the most famous castle in the world is Germany's Neuschwanstein castle. This beautiful castle has to be the most photographed of all of the better known castles. Even from several miles away, it is an imposing sight, perched on a Bavarian mountainside, not far from Munich. As castles go, it is one of the more modern ones. Many European castles are well over 1,000 years old. Neuschwanstein is a relative newcomer, build by a Bavarian king, Louis II in the late nineteenth century. Louis II is better known as Mad King Ludwig. If he was indeed mad, he certainly had his act together when it came to designs of artistic grandeur. If you visit Neuschwanstein it is a bit of a trek uphill from the parking lot and tourist shops, but a pleasant walk nevertheless. You can take a horse-drawn carriage if you prefer. It costs nothing to walk around the castle on the outside, or even venture into a courtyard. Pay a fee and you can tour the interior.
The most famous view of Neuschwanstein is from suspended footbridge about 1/4 mile from the castle. On a foggy day you might not even see the castle or only catch occasional glimpses of it. If you should meet with such a misfortune, there is a large full color poster of the castle near the parking lot, and you can take a picture of that. Looks exactly like the real thing!
Another Frankenstein - Another famous German castle, though primarily due to its name, is Frankenstein castle. In reviewing facts about castles, one might expect Frankenstein castle to be a home of monsters. This castle has nothing to do with the monster, who is totally a work of fiction. Frankenstein castle is a beautiful castle in Germany's Rhine-Main district, and features outstanding views of the surrounding valley. Its claim to fame lies in being the home of Sir George von Frankenstein, who was mortally wounded while fighting a dragon to rescue his secret love. The dragon fared no better. Thus was born the legend of Sir George (or St. George) and the Dragon.
Magnificent Hradcany - Across the Southeastern border of Germany lies the Czech Republic, with the capital, Prague, a little more than an hour's drive from the border. On a hill atop Prague is the magnificent Prague Castle, also called Hradcany Castle. This castle takes up a huge area overlooking Old Prague, with its centerpiece being a Gothic masterpiece, the St. Vitus cathedral (which also by the way, has a statue of St. George and the Dragon in the courtyard). Walk around the outside of the cathedral for a view of quite a collection of gargoyles. Hradcany is the home of the President of the Czech Republic.
Dracula's Castle - Facts about castles are intertwined with myths about castles. If you are disappointed in not finding monsters in Frankenstein castle, you might travel to Romania and visit Bran Castle, the supposed home of Dracula (Vlad The Impaler). The truth is, this is a touristic gimmick. Dracula did not live in Bran Castle, and in fact lived in what was at the time another country.
Hamlet's Castle - Yet another mythical figure in the world of castles, is the supposed inhabitant of Kronborg Castle in Denmark, Shakespeare's Prince Hamlet. If there ever was a real Prince Hamlet, and that is doubtful, he did not live in Kronborg Castle (still referred to at times as Hamlet's castle). It is a beautiful castle however, located an hour's drive north of Copenhagen on the northeastern tip of the island of Zealand. The castle has a moat, complete with swans and a drawbridge, towers, a large banquet hall and several cannon pointed menacingly over the Sound, towards Sweden. There is an interesting legend connected with the castle however. In the dungeon (it has one of these also) is a stone statue. It is a statue of a sleeping Viking, Holger Dansk. The legend is, in times of great trouble, Holger Dansk will awaken to defend Denmark.
Facts about castles are more difficult to come by in the United States. There is the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California, which is reputed to be a very interesting place to visit. And, if you can't afford to travel to Bavaria to visit Neuschwanstein, try Disneyland, California. Sleeping Beauty's Castle was modeled after Neuschwanstein, but is on a much smaller scale. Still impressive with the fireworks.