Link -- Article by M. Christian of "Meine Kleine Fabrik" and Avi Abrams

A Man’s Home: Unusual Castles …and One Very Special Village

Arguably born the day that villagers -- and the people who profited off them -- decided that wood wasn’t strong enough to keep them safe, castles quickly became more than just edifices dedicated to security. Instead of repelling borders, real or imaginary, castles became THE status symbol of status symbols. Monuments to bravado, they were stone and mortal proclamations to the age-old idea that "mine is bigger than yours."

Pierrefonds - picture-postcard example of a castle

If you want an picture-postcard example of a castle, you don’t have to go anywhere but the Château de Pierrefonds in France. Although it may have started out as a structure designed to keep some folks out and others safely in, it was later partially sugar frosted by none other than Napoleon the 3rd, who was shooting for a true nobility status symbol: a iced cake that no one but the very rich and very privileged could eat.

(image credit: Frédéric Lavaux)

Pierrefonds is still a beautiful place, even if its fortifications were overly gilded –- or maybe because of it. It’s no wonder it's used to this day when central casting gets a call for a classic castle.

(photos by Ralph Gant and Benoit Stordeur, see more)

When fairy tale jumps from a landscape and hits you between the eyes

If you want a real Disney, fairy-tale, and totally insane castle, you have to visit the residence of one totally insane German king, namely Ludwig II of Bavaria. Look up gaudy in the dictionary and there’s a picture of his castle: Neuschwanstein ("The New Swan Rock").

Neuschwanstein Castle, gracing ten million over-saturated postcards and jigsaw puzzles, (image credits unknown)

Glitzed and filigreed, Neuschwanstein is like Ludwig’s twisted brain turned inside out and realized in stone and brick. It is also sublime and splendid, over-the-top and strangely fragile - all at the same time. We are going to devote a special article to it, truly a place not of this world.

photos by Avi Abrams

Monstrous chandelier? Check. Room made to look like a cavern? It’s there. Entire rooms dedicated to Wagner (with whom Ludwig was obsessed)? Absolutely. It’s all there, larger and more ornate than any life … unless, of course, you were the King of Bavaria.

photos by Avi Abrams

The Coral Castle - Nobody knows how it was built

One of my favorite castles, though, wasn’t the dream of a king realized in stone and mortar. Spurned at the altar back in his native Latvia, Edward Leedskalnin took his disappointment, and a case of tuberculosis, to Florida in 1923. There, in the land of oranges and sunshine, Leedskalnin began to build his very own castle, one he worked on until his death in 1951 (more info)

(image credit: sarahmizoo)

(images credit: Jim)

It’s still there and definitely worth seeing. It might not have the polish of Pierrefonds or the glimmer of Neuschwanstein, but Rock Gate Park, as he called it, is still a striking sight: monstrous slabs of coral skillfully balanced and beautifully positioned, all of them assembled without reinforcement or mortar. He spent over 28 years building the Coral Castle, refusing to allow anyone to view while he worked.

(The Throne Room, supposed to depict the Moon and the planets - photo by Claudia Domenig)

Leedskalnin’s construction genius is legendary. No one quite understands how he built his castle and then moved it ten miles away in 1936. Some people think he used a kind of perpetual motion machine or mystical methods to move his several-ton blocks. Whatever the means, his Coral Castle, is still a magnificent achievement -– the sublime result of his own two hands, his incredible inventiveness, and a tragically broken heart.

Portmeirion: a surreal village in Gwynedd, Wales

Stepping away from literal castles, but staying within the theme of very special men and the homes they created, one of the most beautiful is one you might not know the name of but one you’d recognize immediately. All I need to write is "You are Number 6."

(image credit: Richard Hagen)

Located in Wales, Portmeirion was created by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in 1925 (though some of it wasn’t finished until 1975). Although Sir Williams-Ellis wasn’t a king, he was obviously knighted, and certainly had help with his remarkable residence. Portmeirion deserves to stand with Ludwig’s vision of Germanic paradise and Leedskalnin’s eccentric coral castle because of its unique, and spectacularly beautiful, vision.

(image credit: Gavin D. J. Harper)

Williams-Ellis was so dedicated to preserving the tranquil elegance of Portmeirion that the filming location of Patrick McGoohan’s "The Prisoner" wasn’t revealed until the final episode of the series. Even with the careful hiding of the village’s identity, anyone who knew anything about architecture would have recognized the Williams-Ellis’s pearl-white cottages and the legendary green dome where, in "The Prisoner", the village’s rotating Number 2s had their office.

(image credit: Matt Buck)

Portmeirion is truly a beautiful place and completely unspoiled by its television appearance. It remains today just as Williams-Ellis intended it to be: a tranquil village with a tasteful dusting of nostalgia.

The Postman's Palace - another single-handedly built castle

Ferdinand Cheval has imagined his "Ideal Palace" and simply went on to built it - after all, why not? He spent 33 years with this project (located in the village of Hauterives in the picturesque Drôme region of Southern France) - but the results are nothing less than stunning:

(photos by Emmanuel Georges, Eric Devlies, Francerama)

Initially considered "the village idiot", he was suddenly hailed as a genius and a celebrity in France, upon completion of this intricate affair. But is it the "Ideal Palace"? Everyone seems to have a different opinion. More info and images are on this page.

Whether it's the gussied-up fortresses like Pierrefonds, the gilded dreams of a mad king like Neuschwanstein, the eccentric genius of Leedskalnin and his Coral Castle, or the whimsical grace of Williams-Ellis’s Portmeirion and Ferdinand Cheval's Palace, a man’s home can really be his castle.

More Fantastic Castles, to Visit and to Think About (Wistfully)

Eltz Castle, Germany: another fairy-tale location, this time completely surrounded (and in certain degree concealed) by the forest:

(image credit: frizztext, see more)

Germany (just like Switzerland and Austria) has many enchanting castles, big and small -

Castle-like mansion in Arnsberg and a large Buerresheim Castle, photos by frizztext

The stretch of Rhein between Cologne and Mainz has the especially high concentration of great fortresses, presiding over the quaint riverside villages:

This is a great site listing all the castles

Egeskov Castle, Denmark:

(image credit: Malene Thyssen)

Eastern Europe abounds in awesome castles. This is for example, Castle in Moszna, Poland:

Check out the sinister door handle from the Dracula's Bran Castle on the bottom right. Towers emerging from the mist in the photo below: this is Bragança, a walled town in northern Portugal. Very evocative image on the bottom left is Le Chateau de Nyon in Nyon, Switzerland:

(originals unknown)

The Chittorgarh Fort in India. This pool was often the only source of water during the numerous sieges by Mughal Emperors:

(image via)

Nestled in High Places:

The way to the Guaita Fortress in San Marino (more info) -

Try not to think of "Myst" and "Riven" while looking at the above picture... Here is the high cliff on which the fortress stands:

(image credit: Ricardo André Frantz)

Overlooking the Echaz Valley and the storybook village below, often shrouded in fog, Lichtenstein Castle comes close to being the perfect castle in Europe.

(image credit: Andreas Tille)

The Abandoned Castle in Rural Italy

Oh yes, still unclaimed by some luxury developer, nor touched by multi-million renovation... hiding in a valley in a tangled forest: Castello di Zena:
(here is a Google Earth location, but don't set your hopes too high - this is a guarded private property)

(image credit: cyberbiscottato)

A mystery. Falling to pieces. Splendor in the grass.

A View That Launched 10,000 Epic Fantasy Books

Another feature of fortified high places is the splendid view they often afford. We'd like to open up a sort of competition: The Best View From a Castle, but the winner already easily comes to mind - and it's the Neuschwanstein's Castle, again. The panorama of the towering Alps and a nestled gem of the lake, Alpsee, is enough to make you sigh and close your eyes... dreaming.

Photo by Avi Abrams

The ultimate castle, that was ever designed to grace the face of the Earth

King Ludwig, again. The planned Falkenstein - truly THE Lost Castle. The one that he was all set to build - but for the financial (and mental) meltdown he suffered.

Christian Jank's first High Gothic design for Falkenstein, 1883. (image via)

This is a start of our new series on castles... Send us tips about which castles to include in the next issue.

Continue to "Walled Cities"! ->

Also Read: Abandoned Castles of Russian Countryside, Potala Palace in Tibet, Miniature Crimean Castle, Mont Saint-Michel

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Category: Travel,Architecture


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally I know where that picture I've got as desktop background was taken (Chittorgarh Fort).

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out Rubel Farms Castle in Glendora, CA

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neuschwanstein was reconstructed on a ruined castle in the 19th century.
I suppose the original one looked much less dramatic.
Burg Eltz, however, is the real thing.
Constructed in the middle ages, never fell, despite being under siege serveral times, and still owned by the family who build it.
There's even a "siege castle" on the opposite side of the valley!
The siege castle is in ruins while the castle besieged is still standing...

Blogger Lisa G said...

What a fantastic post--I'd love to go visit each and every one of these castles....maybe someday. Have you been to these?

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Loveland OH

Blogger Italian Job said...

Hi there, fab article!!
Ever heard of "la scarzuola" the surreal and utopistic town created by architect Tomaso Buzzi. It's location is in Italy, in Umbria region.

More info about the history of this fascinating place almost unknown even to 90% of italians...

And here are some shots from flickr

It's truly another world!!

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

NurseExec - we've seen some of the castles in Germany, including Neuschwanstein. Switzerland castles, for example, around the Thun Lake, impressed us the most.

Great suggestions, everyone! Keep them coming.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another crazy castle is the Pena Palace in Sintra Portugal

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a poster of Neuschwanstein on my wall at the very moment...tho I believe the angle of the picture is different than yours posted here.

This one is taken from up the mountain looking back down at the castle into the lake, most likely during early or very late winter.

It is on my wall to remind me what a man's castle is supposed to look like. Didn't know the historical perspective, sorry poor bugger...lol.

Blogger quantum said...

These are awesome! Amazing what people used to be able to do with simple tools. Take a look at the Chateau de Chenonceau at www.chenonceau.com. It literaly straddles the Loire river in France. Also has an interesting history. It was owned also entirely by women throughout it's existence. Cheers.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The castle and white church tower emerging from the mist in the photo just below that of Moszna castle in Poland is not from a castle in Eastern Europe, but from 14th Century the castle and walled city of Bragança, a town in northern Portugal, in Western Europe.

And the Pena Palace in Sintra, near Lisbon, Portugal, as mentioned by the previous Anonymous, is indeed quite crazy and beautiful. No wonder: one of the architects was the german Baron of Eschweige, who was also one of the designers of Neuchwanstein Castle...

Pena Palace was rebuilt in the 19th Century over the ancient ruins of an old monastery by the german-born Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, the prince consort of Portugal.

It's well worth a visit, but do noto forget to visit «the real thing» in Portugal: the medieval towns of Óbidos (similar to Carcasonne, in France), Marvão, the small 12th Century village and castle of Sortelha, the Roman and Moorish town of Mértola, or the big Templar Castle of Tomar. Inside it, fully restored, is the center of Templar Europe in the 14th Century: the enourmous round fortified church, with quite strange inscriptions and icons, where it is said the Holy Grail was once kept.

Blogger Unknown said...

Wow! Absolutely Stunning!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "Unknown" bottom left castle (the one up the small street with the blue and red flag) is Le Chateau de Nyon in Nyon, Switzerland (right near Geneva).

I've been up that street, and from the castle's terrace you can see a beautiful panorama of the alps, Lake Geneva, and the city itself.

Voltaire used to live right beside it, incidentally.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

yea, just saw carcassonne on rick steves today :P it looked pretty cool!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

boldt castle on heart island, new york.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Krak des Chevaliers in Syria should definetly be on the list!

Blogger Tommy H said...

chateau de chillon in montreux, switzerland. small but beautiful location. http://www.flickr.com/photos/pearbiter/566128230/sizes/l/

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can you say disgustingly oversaturated?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you checked out Boldt Castle on Heart Island on the St. Laurence (sp) river near Alexandria Bay, New York?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to go! *sigh

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you didn't mention Castel del Monte. Talk about haunting.

"It has neither a moat nor a drawbridge and may in fact never have been intended as a defensive fortress."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Casa Loma in Toronto is a fasinating castle to explore for Americans who can't make it over the pond.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Traquair House, in Scotland, is quite picturesque. I also find it interesting because it is still in the family, and the family still lives there. I don't know if it qualifies as a proper castle or not, but it looks like one, particularly from the rear. Traquair also offers gorgeous, if pricey, bed and breakfast accomodations. www.traquair.co.uk Stirling is another lovely castle in Scotland, with a spectacular view of the town below.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I adore the Coral Castle (and apparently so did Billy Idol--"Sweet Sixteen" is about it). I would like to point out, though, that he quarried much of the coral from right behind where he built the wonderful place. I visited on a road trip to the Keys a few years back, and you can see the big hole behind the castle.

It may not be as gilded or gorgeous as the other castles mentioned, but it was a lovely place to visit, and I highly recommend it if you're nearby!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful pictures!

Prague Castle in the Czech Republic is gorgeous and fascinating.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is the Moorish Castle in Sintra, Portugal where i proposed to my now wife!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about a mention of Alcazar de Segovia, in Spain?
It's believed to be the inspiration for Walt Disney's Cinderella Castle!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of those castles would be very defensible in case of zombie attacks.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This view from Kumbalgarh reminds me of Myst.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to live in Prague, so we traveled to countless castles across Europe (the best years of my childhood!). Neuschwanstein is simply amazing! My parents live near there and go visit regularly, i guess because they get bored??? Schloss Linderhof is another amazing castle, built by the same king i believe. I'm looking forward to my next visit to Europe so i can go back and revisit my childhood. Everyone should go see the castles of Europe if given the chance.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take a look at the Chateau de Chenonceau at www.chenonceau.com. It literaly straddles the Loire river in France.

Chenonceau actually straddles the Cher, a major tributary of the Loire. The fact that it spans the river may have spared it -- French revolutionaries resisted sacking it partly because it was a river crossing and thus valuable to them. It's a gorgeous castle with a fascinating (and slightly soap opera) history, and definitely should be included. The grand ballroom over the river is something to be seen. And so is the room of Louise of Lorraine, who turned the castle into a convent as she mourned her husband, King Henri III. The room is decorated in symbols of mourning and of her faith.

If the Coral Castle is included, a rather more modern (and considerably more bizarre) "castle" could go on the list: the House on the Rock. This strange residence started out as an artistic retreat for the architect, who began construction by hand, hauling materials up a natural stone pillar in Wisconsin. Eventually it mutated into a very surreal tourist attraction. I suppose in a way it was his own Neuschwanstein.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fantastic Post!
Thank you DRB-Team for the great time I always have on your site, it just so amazing what you are collecting and presenting us 365/year!

Keep up the amazing work!

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Thank you Lukas... encouraging.
Great info, everybody!

Blogger mycutepetpics said...

If only I had 10 million dollars to spend. Keep taking my dollar and a dream to the grocery store to play the lotto but still no luck. Lol.

Another awesome post and spectacular pictures. Thanks for always finding a way to awe me.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. Spain has many beautiful spots and there are endless palaces and castles and monasteries in picturesque locations. Try the Alcazar in Segovia or the Alhambra in Granada or the sights in Cuenca.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

portmierion is NOT a castle it's a whimsical collection of various styles of italian architecture.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful! I love old castles.

I was surprised not to see Heidelberg, which is gorgeous.

Another fascinating one is Slain's Castle, in the northeast of Scotland. Bram Stoker stayed there and it is apparently the inspiration for Dracula's Castle. It's not so pretty to look at, but the precipitous and isolated location make it a dramatic and eery example.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I visited about 20 castles during some eight years in Europe.... none in this article, and usually small unrenovated ones, free to visit on a serviceman's pay. But Heidelberg is one that would deserve to be in the next article. And I visited that one several times....
'Walled cities' might be a good topic for another series.

Blogger Unknown said...

The Czech republic has some great castles like Krumlov and Sternberk.

Also Austria the most spectacular castles are definitely the Hohenwerfen and Hohensalzburg.

The great teutonic fortress of Marienberg made of red bricks is definitely worth seeing too.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The view from Neuschwanstein "that launched 10,000 epics" and Maxfield Parrish's most famous painting are definitely more than coincidence.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an absolute castle-lover living in the middle of Europe, I was pleasantly surprised to see some real gems in your article.

I have added some of your examples to my 'must visit' list for my next vacation, so thanks for inspiring me!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dracula's Bran castle????the bran never been dracula's castle actualy is in Brasov-Transylvania,and Tepes was the ruler of Wallachia,he only born in Sighisoara in Transylvania and returned only when asked the hungarian king's support(btw.Transylvania was hungarian kingdom those times,Tepes was romanian ruler and the Bran castle was a post at the border where the merchants paid when they passed the borders),i live in Transylvania,to 44 km where Dracula born

Anonymous Andy Jarosz said...

Great pictures and some good ideas for travels too - there's something magical about wandering around the towers and tunnels of an old fortress.
I would add Crac de Chevaliers in Syria; an old crusader castle, and without doubt the best preserved one that I have ever seen. In parts it's in such good condition it's almost as if the crusaders were still living there!
Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasnt Bran castle the castle of the female ''vampire'' ?

Anyway a nice picture is Hohenzollern.

Ekzt castle is actually used by several families.

Blogger Hobittual said...

How about Bishops Castle in Colorado. Admittedly it is not like old Ludwigs castles, but a castle no less.

Blogger Cynthia I Maddox said...

I had the priviledge of visiting both castle in Bavaria depicted in your photo. To the right of Neuschwanstein is Hohenschwangau, which belong to Ludwig's father. It is a small lovely gem and well worth seeing.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget the Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, BC Canada. I've taken a tour of it before. Absolutely amazing.

Anonymous Hector said...

Templar Europe in the 14th Century the castle into the lake, most likely during early or very late winter.


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