Once upon a time, on lonely hillsides and windy moors, brave knights and beautiful damsels, went for long and pleasant walks in sublime gardens within the tall castle walls while outside them dreadful battles were lead. People think this is already fairy-tale stuff but no …. 🙂 These majestic castles still exist and if you let your fantasy fly, you will find yourselves in the land of dreams and history.
Which are some of the worthy and splendid, awe-inspiring and amazing castles on the Old Continent? Have you thought of them? Nope?! Okay, then, let us start from the North.
Sooooo … 🙂 I call it the country of castles. It’s a kingdom to the north where there are really a great number of royal castles and palaces. Yes, right. I have in mind the United Kingdom. Its four parts (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) possess one of the most incredible and famous castles in Europe and even in the world. Most of them like the Windsor Castle in the county of Berkshire in England are associated with the royal family. Can you imagine that more than 500 people live there? Yes, five hundred, you read well. And now other statistics. Wales has more than 600 hundred castles, a great number of them having been built by King Edward I, and for sure, it deserves its nickname “the land of castles”. Even in the Welsh capital city you can enjoy the splendor of Cardiff Castle that has 2000-year history. As to Scotland, castles (the most prominent being Edinburgh Castle) are always associated with windswept highlands, ramparts, battlefields, knights and bravery. Finally, Northern Ireland’s castles like Carrickfergus Castle, for instance, are mainly connected with war, expansion and siege.
Now let us move to the south, cross la Manche and reach France and its château forts. They are too many in the country but the most beautiful and opulent ones are those in the Loara Valley (e.g. Chambord, Chenonceau, Castle d’Amboise, etc.). They bring you back to the French history and most of them have been inspired by folklore and fairy-tales.
Speaking about fables and stories, we cannot omit another country and its most fabulous castle. It’s Germany and the castle is Schloss Neuschwanstein. It is a 19th century Romanesque Revival palace in southwest Bavaria that has been declared a symbol of an idealized romantic architecture. The castle was built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria who wanted to make real his own world of myths, legends and fairytales and he succeeded. Nowadays Neuschwanstein is one of the most impressing fortresses in the world and is known as “the fairytale castle”.
Travelling through two other German-speaking countries, you will likely be impressed with their castles. Austria has its Hohensalzburg Castle in the city of Salzburg. It’s located atop a small hill and it is one of the largest European castles from medieval times (250m long and 150m wide). As far as Liechtenstein is concerned, Vaduz Castle overlooks the capital of one of the six European dwarfs and it is home to the Prince of Liechtenstein.
Another microstate, but this time to the south, is worth mentioning as well. Exactly … I mean San Marino. The country is surrounded by Italy and San Marino Castello reveals a marvellous view of the Apennines and the plain, Rimini and the sea as far as the coast of Dalmatia.
Being close to Italy, I cannot miss the chance not to say a few words about the country’s castelli. La città eterna is home to the Mausoleum of Hadrian built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Later the building was used by popes who had a secret passage dug connecting St. Peter’s Basilica and the fortress. Nowadays Castel Sant’Angelo (as it’s better known) is one of the best sites in the Italian capital with bird’s eye view of the city. Now let us move from Lazio to Campania. The region was under the Spanish reign for quite a long time. That’s the reason why it’s greatly influenced by them and most of the castelli are Spanish-style. And if you happen to be in Napoli (i.e. Naples) you will be overwhelmed by the most picturesque and brilliant icon of the city – Castel dell’Ovo (i.e. Egg Castle).
Having mentioned the Spaniards, now have a look at one of the most distinctive castles of Spain. It’s the Alcázar of Segovia (or Segovia Castle) that is a fairy-tale fortress built on a rocky hill and beneath two rivers flow. Its sibling is the Alcázar of Córdoba. Unfortunately, it is often overlooked by tourists as the city of Córdoba is famous for another attraction – Mesquita (it is a Moorish Mosque that was transformed into a Christian Cathedral, just the opposite of Hagia Sofia in Istanbul). But let’s get back to the Alcázar of Córdoba. The castle has the fame of being one of the first sites of Inquisition. Christian monarchs began their proceedings to protect Catholic faith and that’s why the fortress had tunnels and strengthened walls to avoid any escaping of prisoners. There are two other alcazars that are still fully preserved in Spain – Alcázar of Seville and Alhambra. But I shall get to know something about them here. 😉