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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

So Many Castles, So Little Time

by Mauverneen

Americans are fascinated by castles. Probably because we don’t have any. While there may be a few structures that might qualify, for the most part castles are not an American thing.

View of Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Driving through Europe it seems there are castles, or the ruins of castles, every few miles. For someone like me, who wants to stop at every bend in the road and take pictures, it makes it hard to get anywhere. Although I can't begin to name all the castles and all the countries that have these treasures, Germany has it's Nekar Valley and it's Burgenstra├če (castle road), which starts in Mannheim and goes all the way to Prague, in the Czech Republic. France  has the Loire Valley. Of course the UK has it's share, with tiny Wales having more castles per square mile than any other country.
As a child, I enjoyed my fairy tales, most of them centered around the castle inhabitants, and the Disney versions of those tales only enhanced the mystique. Then there are the tales of King Arthur and his knights and Camelot. The Crusades. El Cid, William Wallace. The English Kings and Queens. Tyranny and intrigue through marriages, infidelities, treason and beheadings.

Inside Caerphilly Castle, Wales
There is a difference between a castle and a palace though. One is built for protection – the other for comfort (Buckingham Palace and the Palace at Versailles, for instance, illustrate the difference quite well). Most of the fairy tales dwell in the palaces but I think it’s the castle that most intrigues me.

Palace at Versailles, France
Kensington Palace and gardens, London

Castles are fortresses, with thick, stone walls, ramparts and towers where enemies were locked away. They are big and cold, with moats with drawbridges and narrow windows for shooting arrows through when the enemy attacks. They are high on hills or perched on the edge of the sea or the river – the better to spot approaching armies. They are mysterious ruins with ghosts that inhabit the darkness. And there are some where you can get a room for the night and a delicious meal with maybe a ghost or two thrown in for good measure.

 I don’t really think I would have liked to live in a castle, back in the day – a palace would probably be more to my liking, but visiting them is certainly a valuable experience and can set the imagination soaring. It’s a step back in time, into history – all you have to do is bring your imagination. And I think, if you listen well, the walls can tell stories.

The Great Hall, Caerphilly Castle, Wales
Playing at soldiers

Castell (Welsh)
Chateau (French)
Schloss (German)
Castillo (Spanish)

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  1. Have you ever heard of Khust Castle? I included a reference of it in my young adult vampire novel, "Bryony," because it had a tempestuous history and is little known. It still stands, I believe, although in ruins.

  2. I would say that, as an Australian, I am fascinated by castles too. We don't have any! I couldn't get over the age of buildings when we were in Europe a few years ago. And yes, the decadence of some of them!
    Thanks for stopping by my blog today, and have a wonderful week.