What comes to your mind when you think of Germany? I’ll tell you what comes to mine. Cars! Beer! Beethoven & Bach! Oktoberfest! Gingerbread! Sausages! And? And, castles! Yes, when we say Europe and castles, Germany is rarely ever the first answer – Scotland and Ireland are more famous, at least in India. But German castles are what dreams are made of. The kind of dreams one wouldn’t mind living in, and never waking up! So next time you plan a vacation to the country, don’t just hang around the cars and the beer, but include visits to at least a few of these castles!
Built in the 19th century in honour of the medieval knights of Lichtenstein, the Lichtenstein castles is a new-Gothic structure in the Swabian Alps near Honau. There used to be a different castle in the place of the current one but it was destroyed and a new one was built at a distance of 500 m. Owned by the Duke of Urach now, it is open for visitors. You can see a large collection of historical armour and weapons. While the castle has been featured on stamps several times, it was also used as a set in the movie Dornröschen (Sleeping Beauty) in the year 2009.
As the name suggests, this palace is situated in the city of Schwerin which is the capital of the German state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The city has a lake which is so huge that there is an island in it and on it resides this palatial structure. A World Heritage Site, the oldest records of the Schwerin castle date back to 973 AD. Currently the inside of the castle has been converted into a museum and the palace grounds are extremely beautiful. Well-maintained and recently renovated, the palace is an excellent place to spend the day, finding out more about the culture of the area. Leave your car in the city and walk through the foot bridge to reach the castle, and eat some German food – you will come back refreshed and armed with a lot of knowledge.
A landmark in Heidelberg, the ruins of Heidelberg Castle happen to be Renaissance structures located on the north of the Alps. The castle was demolished a couple of centuries ago and a part of it has been rebuilt, but the earliest structure goes back to the year 1214. Synonymous to romanticism along with ravages of war & forces of nature, these ruins attract millions of visitors every year. The interiors of the palace can be seen only as a part of a guided tour and it is closed on December 25. For timings, concessions and disability access, check the website mentioned below.
Hohenschwangau castle was officially the summer residence of King Maximilian II of Bavaria and his wife, Marie of Prussia. You will need to buy tickets individually for visiting Museum of the Bavarian kings, Hohenschwangau Castle and Neuschwanstein Castle. Mary´s bridge (Marienbrücke) which is the bridge over the Pöllat gorge is closed for visitors till May 2016 because of restoration work.
Located in Cochem, this beautiful and breathtaking castle is the largest hill-castle on the Mosel. When you take a guided tour through the castle, you also get to be a part of rustic medieval banquets, medieval castle festival, sparkling wine gala, cultural events, gourmet festival and even the Cochem castle Christmas if you are visiting from now till Chrsitmas. You can have a one of a kind experience if you go with Cochem’s night watchman in his evening round through the old town. He will have his halberd, horn & lantern with him, and all you will need to do is join him around 20:30 hours right outside the tourist information office. This tour will be an hour long and will be charged.
Eltz Castle, or as known in German – Burg Eltz reminds one of the fairy tales we’ve grown up with. Thirty three generations have lived in the castle since the 12th century and it is still owned by the Eltz family. On three sides, the castle is surrounded by the river Elzbach with the Eltz forest behind it. The castle along with the forest in the backdrop, give the feel of the enchanted castle and forest. General public is allowed inside only from April to October, and they can also see the castle’s treasury, artifacts and weapons. The castle is more of a home than a Medieval fortress. It is actually three castles in one, belonging to different section of the same clan. Each section of the clan built their own buildings at different times, hence the architecture differs a bit too. It was in 1815 that the structures were unified.
About 50 kms south of Stuttgart Baden-Württemberg, Hohenzollern Castle is a very popular destination amongst tourists. Located at the height of almost 3,000 ft, Hohenzollern Castle is actually a combination of three castles. The first castle doesn’t really exist any more as it was attacked and later completely destroyed in the year 1423. Three decades later, a second castle was built. It went through a lot of history and by 1798, it had started to fall into ruins. The third castle is the one we can see now. It was built between 1850 and 1867. Since then no one has actually take residence in the castle so from 1952, it is being filled with art and historical artifacts from the collections of the Hohenzollern family. In 1978, a major earthquake had damaged the castle and it was being repaired till about 1995. Prince Hubertus of Prussia, Princess Kira of Prussia, Louis Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia, Grand Duchess Kira Kirillovna of Russia, William, German Crown Prince and Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin have their burials here.
These are the seven of my favourite castles. There are many more to explore and find out about. I’ve put this post together to urge travellers to travel into the country’s history and know the real Germany. Because, what is point of travelling to another country if in those few days, you haven’t spent a lifetime there?
Note: Click on the photographs (except header pic and unless mentioned) to be taken to the source.