Burg Eltz, Germany
Burg Eltz, Germany

Castles Overview

Castles are something that have captivated my imagination from my earliest days of reading fairy tale stories with illustrated pictures to more real world experiences of exploring castles built by the Crusaders in the Middle East. I have now had the privilege over the last few years to have visited 61 different castles in 20 different countries, this list will continue to grow as my fascination never diminishes. Castles in the modern era are now tourism money makers or examples of the symbols of power and prestige from a forgotten age.  However for centuries Castles provided protection and stability for those lucky enough to be behind their walls. Although a "castle" or protective fort has been a feature for humanity for thousands of years many medieval structures, particularly in Europe, originally spawned from the ancient city walls, battlements and fortified palaces of the Roman Empire. At first the castle was a wooden structure built on a raised mound and usually surrounded by a ditch. As medieval warfare gradually developed, castles became built of stone with thicker walls, then came the moat and inner keep, and finally huge outer walls with strategic battlements for defending. Initially the keep within the castle was rectangular because it was easier to build but before long people realized the circular style keep was much more effective to defend.
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Hohenweerfen, Austria
Hohenweerfen, Austria

The most ideal location to build a castle was on the edge of an impregnable cliff and even better if you could find it at the bend of a river where commanding views enabled not only a strong defensive position but also the ability to demand tariffs for passing trade. The best examples of such tariff extorting castles are along a stretch of the Rhine River in Germany between Bingen am Rhein and Koblenz. This winding part of the Rhine River, which takes just a one-hour to train or drive between the 2 towns, offers views of over 20 different castles. Castles were usually built as places of protection from an invading army or marauding bandits; they were a place to retreat and shelter from all the dangers of life in the middle ages. Eventually the castle became an offensive weapon used to control surrounding lands in hostile territory and impose the will of the conquerors on the general population. Prime examples of such castles are the ones built by Edward I of England when he conquered Wales in the 13th century or the castles built by the Crusader armies in the Holy Land. These structures are the true castles in my mind, built specifically to intimidate and be defensively functional when the expected populous rises up against the injustices of a foreign power. As warcraft evolved and gunpowder started to be used in battle, the castle was no longer the ultimate form of protection. By the 1500's constructing castles was no longer feasible solely for defense and these structures became residences for nobles and monarchs.

Castello Di Avio, Italy
Castello Di Avio, Italy

Often times a siege would destroy the once impenetrable stone walls or the castle might be abandoned due to its lack of protection and allowed to fall into disrepair. Though still often used as prisons, the castle became a place where knights and lords could entertain their guests and also provided that literal "step above" the commoners toiling in the town below. As more wealth was created in Europe, typically by conquest and vast inequalities between rich and poor, the castle became fashionable again as a place for royalty to spend extravagantly. If they were really wealthy some rulers even lived out their fantasies of building fairytale-like castles of old often on the ruins of previous structures. The best example of this being Neuschwanstein Castle built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria in southern Germany. This mad king spent 2 decades of the local economies resources in southern Germany building this outrageous castle and it was still never finished due to him changing his mind and tearing down completed portions. In today's modern world the castle is an example of a forgotten age in human history where to simply survive you needed a strong, secure, protective place to retreat from the perils and desperation of everyday life. Standing on the battlements of such castles as Krak des Chevaliers in Syria or Stirling Castle in Scotland you can't help but be transported back to a time when your skill at defending these walls would be the difference between life or death. Its that real historical aspect that keeps me coming back to these remaining pieces of history.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Krak Des Chevaliers, Syria
Krak Des Chevaliers, Syria

Füssen

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling, Mike Minckler and Footside

Schloss Hohenschwangau, Hohenschwangau Castle, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Schloss Hohenschwangau
St Mang's Basilica, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
St Mang's Basilica
Schloss Neuschwanstein, Neuschwanstein Castle, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Schloss Neuschwanstein
Inner Courtyard of Neuschwanstein Castle, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Inner Courtyard of Neuschwanstein Castle
View of Neuschwanstein Castle from cliffs, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
View of Neuschwanstein Castle from cliffs
Hohenschwangau Castle with Neuschwanstein Castle in the background, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Hohenschwangau Castle with Neuschwanstein Castle in the background

Füssen is a beautiful Bavarian town boasting two nearby castles, amazing mountain views, a picturesque old town and adventure activities for enthusiasts in both winter or summer. Located in southern Germany at the base of the Alps, about 5 km from the Austrian border, this quaint little town has been a settlement since Roman times. Today, the town boasts a 9th century Benedictine monastery, a small walled town and some of the warmest hospitality on offer in Germany. Visitors flock to this area to see the famous castles of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau which are a mere 6 km walk away or a few minutes drive. Neuschwanstein castle was built by the eccentric King Ludwig II who envisioned building his masterpiece in the authentic style of an old German knight's castle. Started in 1869, the castle remained unfinished due to King Ludwig continuously changing his mind and having finished sections torn down and rebuilt. By 1886, the King was declared insane by the state and mysteriously died only days later leaving the majority of his castle's interior rooms unfinished (only 14 rooms were finished before Ludwig's death). He spent 20 years of his kingdom's resources living his dream of romanticizing the middle ages.

View of the town of Füssen at the base of the Alps, Bavaria, Germany
View of the town of Füssen at the base of the Alps
View of Neuschwanstein Castle from the neighbouring cliffs with Hohenschwangau Castle in the distance, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
View of Neuschwanstein Castle from the neighbouring cliffs with Hohenschwangau Castle in the distance
View of the beginning of the Bavarian Alps and the town of Füssen in southern Germany, Bavaria, Germany
View of the beginning of the Bavarian Alps and the town of Füssen in southern Germany

Neuschwanstein is the most photographed building in Germany and is the country's most visited tourist destination. For the keen photographer, whether amateur or pro, climbing the ridge above the castle offers stunning views and no crowds to appreciate this extravagant marvel. The other castle in the area is Hohenschwangau and although it is overshadowed by its nearby fairytale neighbour, it offers a glimpse into where King Ludwig grew up. It was built on the ruins of a 12th century fortress by King Ludwig's father, King Maximilian II of Bavaria, in 1833. Hohenschwangau was more of a royal palace than fortress although it still has the look of a defensive castle in some respects. It was just been made more luxurious and livable for Kings and Queens during the 1800's. Although crowds can get very congested at all times of the year in this fantastic location below the Alps, make sure you don't miss the unique German fairytale experience to be had in Füssen and the surrounding sites.

Neuschwanstein Castle side view, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle side view
View looking out of Neuschwanstein Castle, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
View looking out of Neuschwanstein Castle
Hohenschwangau Castle Main Tower, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Hohenschwangau Castle Main Tower
Neuschwanstein Castle, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle
Hohenschwangau Castle, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Hohenschwangau Castle
Front Facade of Neuschwanstein Castle, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Front Facade of Neuschwanstein Castle
Backflip overlooking Alps and Castles, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Backflip overlooking Alps and Castles
Neuschwanstein Castle from the bridge, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle from the bridge
Neuschwanstein Castle Backflip, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle Backflip
Neuschwanstein Castle Dragon Mural, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle Dragon Mural
Hohenschwangau Castle Gate, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Hohenschwangau Castle Gate
Inside Neuschwanstein Castle, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Inside Neuschwanstein Castle
Hohenschwangau Castle, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Hohenschwangau Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle
Team Picture on the cliffs above Neuschwanstein Castle, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Team Picture on the cliffs above Neuschwanstein Castle
View of Neuschwanstein Castle from the viewing bridge with a helicopter lowering tools to workers below, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
View of Neuschwanstein Castle from the viewing bridge with a helicopter lowering tools to workers below
View of the Bavarian Alps with Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle at the base of the mountains, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
View of the Bavarian Alps with Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau Castle at the base of the mountains
View of the front facade of Neuschwanstein Castle from the inner courtyard where the tour starts, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
View of the front facade of Neuschwanstein Castle from the inner courtyard where the tour starts
View of Neuschwanstein Castle from the cliff line that runs up the mountain, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
View of Neuschwanstein Castle from the cliff line that runs up the mountain
View of the inner courtyard at Neuschwanstein Castle, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
View of the inner courtyard at Neuschwanstein Castle
Inside Neuschwanstein Castle, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Inside Neuschwanstein Castle
Clock Tower in the town of Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Clock Tower in the town of Füssen
Hohenschwangau Castle courtyard, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Hohenschwangau Castle courtyard
The town of Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
The town of Füssen
Neuschwanstein Castle, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle
Travelling Backflip Team in 2004, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Travelling Backflip Team in 2004
Neuschwanstein Castle Tower, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle Tower
Neuschwanstein Castle Backflip, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle Backflip
Trails above Neuschwanstein Castle, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Trails above Neuschwanstein Castle
View of Neuschwanstein Castle from the viewing bridge over the waterfall, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
View of Neuschwanstein Castle from the viewing bridge over the waterfall
View of the town of Füssen and the rolling hills leading up to the Alps, Bavaria, Germany
View of the town of Füssen and the rolling hills leading up to the Alps
Hohenschwangau Castle Main Tower, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Hohenschwangau Castle Main Tower
View of the Bavarian Alps from the mountains above Neuschwanstein Castle, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
View of the Bavarian Alps from the mountains above Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle from the cliffs above the castle, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle from the cliffs above the castle
Path to the viewing bridge, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Path to the viewing bridge
Tree view of Neuschwanstein Castle, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Tree view of Neuschwanstein Castle
The town of Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
The town of Füssen
Hohenschwangau Castle, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Hohenschwangau Castle
Inside Neuschwanstein Castle, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Inside Neuschwanstein Castle
Front Facade of Neuschwanstein Castle, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Front Facade of Neuschwanstein Castle
Hohenschwangau Castle, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Hohenschwangau Castle
Jumps on the Alps, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Jumps on the Alps
Trails above Neuschwanstein Castle, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Trails above Neuschwanstein Castle
Hohenschwangau Castle, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Hohenschwangau Castle
Hohenschwangau Castle, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Hohenschwangau Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle Backflip, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle Backflip
Neuschwanstein Castle, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle Backflip, near Füssen, Bavaria, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle Backflip

Rhine

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling, Mike Minckler, Peter Dale and Footside

Burg Katz, Katz Castle, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Katz
Burg Pfalzgrafenstein, Pfalzgrafenstein Castle, Rhine River Germany
Burg Pfalzgrafenstein
Burg Ehrenfels, Ehrenfels Castle, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Ehrenfels
Burg Stahleck, Stahleck Castle, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Stahleck
Burg Reichenstein, Reichenstein Castle, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Reichenstein
Marksburg Castle, Rhine River, Germany
Marksburg

The Rhine River begins as a trickling stream in the eastern Alps and runs the length of Western Germany, through Belgium and the Netherlands, before emptying into the North Sea. The Rhine is one of the longest and most important rivers in Europe and from its small beginnings in the Alps, it grows into a huge river reaching 300 metres across at its widest point. Since the days of the Roman Empire when the Rhine was a dangerous northern frontier, the river has been a vital waterway for trade, bringing goods deep inland to the European continent's heartland. The many castles and fortifications along the Rhine are proof of its importance as a trading waterway. The fortune to be had by controlling trade along this river has shaped the landscape and its people for thousands of years, which contributed to a key section of the River from Koblenz to Bingen becoming a Unesco World Heritage Site. The pictures and material for this page focuses on this amazing stretch of river that's roughly 65km long and features dozens of castles in different states of preservation. Travelers can expect picturesque small villages and towns hugging narrow winding gorges that feature a castle at almost ever bend. Some of these castles have remained in different states of ruin since the 30 Years War that ravaged the region, including some boutique hotels restored to their former glory at a hefty cost. Most of the fortresses between Koblenz and Bingen occupy a commanding view of the river from a clifftop, bombarding anyone not paying the toll, so expect a bit of hiking to explore these amazing pieces of history. This part of Germany can arguably be considered one of the best places in the entire country to spend a couple of weeks. If you don't have that amount of time, even a half day will give you a taste of whats on offer and entice you back. Whether traveling by train, car, ferry, bike or on foot, don't miss a chance to explore some of the most historically rich parts of Europe.

View of the Rhine and the town of St Goarshausen with Burg Katz above, Rhine River, Germany
View of the Rhine and the town of St Goarshausen with Burg Katz above
View of the ruins of Burg Rheinfels above the town of St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
View of the ruins of Burg Rheinfels above the town of St Goar
View of the town of Kaub and the local passenger ferry, Rhine River, Germany
View of the town of Kaub and the local passenger ferry
View of the Rhine River with St Goar on the right and St Goarshausen on the left from Burg Rheinfels, Rhine River, Germany
View of the Rhine River with St Goar on the right and St Goarshausen on the left from Burg Rheinfels
The Rhine from Marksburg Castle, Rhine River, Germany
The Rhine from Marksburg Castle
The town of Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
The town of Braubach
The town of Kaub and Burg Gutenfels, Gutenfels Castle, Rhine River, Germany
The town of Kaub and Burg Gutenfels
Burg Maus, Mouse Castle, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Maus
Burg Rheinfels, Rheinfels Castle, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels
Burg Katz, Cat Castle, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Katz
Burg Sooneck, Castle Sooneck, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Sooneck
The town of Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
The town of Braubach
Schonburg Castle and the town of Oberwesel, Rhine River, Germany
Schonburg Castle and the town of Oberwesel
Burg Rheinfels and the town of St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels and the town of St Goar
Keg House in Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
Keg House in Braubach
Burg Gutenfels, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Gutenfels
Marksburg Castle, Rhine River, Germany
Marksburg Castle
The Rhine near Oberwesel, Rhine River, Germany
The Rhine near Oberwesel
Stolzenfels Castle, near Koblenz, Rhine River, Germany
Stolzenfels Castle
View of the Rhine River from Marksburg Castle above the town of Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
View of the Rhine River from Marksburg Castle above the town of Braubach
View of the town of Oberwesel which still features its Medieval Walls, Rhine River, Germany
View of the town of Oberwesel which still features its Medieval Walls
View of the floating toll castle Burg Pfalzgrafenstein, the town of Kaub and Burg Gutenfels, Rhine River, Germany
View of the floating toll castle Burg Pfalzgrafenstein, the town of Kaub and Burg Gutenfels
Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
Braubach
The Lorelei Cliff, Rhine River, Germany
The Lorelei Cliff
Braubach Tower, Rhine River, Germany
Braubach Tower
Suits of Armour in Marksburg Castle, Rhine River, Germany
Suits of Armour in Marksburg Castle
Burg Sooneck, Sooneck Castle, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Sooneck
Burg Stahleck, Stahleck Castle, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Stahleck
Burg Klopp near Bingen, Castle Klopp, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Klopp near Bingen
Burg Rheinstein, Castle Rheinstein, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinstein
Burg Reichenstein, Castle Reichenstein, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Reichenstein
Town of St Goarshausen and Burg Katz, Rhine River, Germany
Town of St Goarshausen and Burg Katz
Town of Boppard, Rhine River, Germany
Town of Boppard
Small Village on the Rhine, Rhine River, Germany
Small Village on the Rhine
Burg Ehrenfels, Castle Ehrenfels, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Ehrenfels
Marksburg Castle at Night, Rhine River, Germany
Marksburg Castle at Night
Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
Braubach
Town of Oberwesel, Rhine River, Germany
Town of Oberwesel
View from Marksburg Castle, Rhine River, Germany
View from Marksburg Castle
Tavern in Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
Tavern in Braubach
Marksburg Castle Tower, Rhine River, Germany
Marksburg Castle Tower
Marksburg Castle Gate, Rhine River, Germany
Marksburg Castle Gate
Burg Maus, Castle Maus, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Maus

Krak des Chevaliers

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling and Footside

South face of the Inner Ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
South face of the Inner Ward
Krak des Chevaliers Backflip, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Krak des Chevaliers Backflip
Inner Court, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner Court
Entrance, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Entrance
Inner Arches, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner Arches
View from Inner Ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View from Inner Ward

Krak des Chevaliers is an intimidating Crusader Castle in the hills close to the Syrian border with Lebanon. The Krak is one of the most important structures of medieval military architecture in the world and was the headquarters of the Knights Hospitaller during the Crusades. The castle is situated on a 650 metre high hill that offers commanding 360 degree views of the surrounding countryside. It sits right in a prime defensible position of the Homs Gap, the key trade artery open year round through the mountains that gives access to the interior of Syria from the coastal areas. There was a castle first built on this site in 1030 by local Kurds. It was permanently occupied by the crusaders in 1110 as the Christian kingdom started to expand after the first Crusade in 1099 AD. Krak des Chevaliers is an example of a spur castle (due to its defensive position) and a concentric castle (due to its multiple layers of defensive walls). The inner ward of the castle was the first structure the Knights Hospitaller built and improved, starting in 1142. Subsequent construction took place which lasted almost the entire time the Knights held this key fortress. There are four massive round towers, a large chapel that had frescoes, and an interior moat. By the 13th century the outer ward, or second concentric ring of walls, was built. Standing almost 10 metres tall, these walls added the extra layer to the already formidable castle design. Also added was a switch back, or "bent", entry gate complete with all sorts of arrow slits and murder holes to punish would-be attackers. There are passages leading to stairwells that descend deep into the pitch black depths of the castle. Regular tourists and guides never venture to these isolated tunnels. Watch where you step, if you make a wrong move down there it can be fatal. Numerous sieges were undertaken to capture this strategically positioned castle by hostile Muslim armies. None succeeded until 1271 when the castle's downfall, along with the rest of the Christian kingdom in the Holy Land, fell to the Mamluk Sultan Baibars. Krak des Chevaliers was a key military and administrative location during the roughly 200 years of the Crusades and its loss was a massive blow to the fragile Christian kingdom in the Holy Land. Within twenty years, all the crusaders were gone but the building legacy they left at Krak des Chevaliers is one of history's finest. No trip to Syria is complete without exploring the Krak.

View from outer walls of the inner ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Syria
View from outer walls of the inner ward, Krak des Chevaliers
Access to under the castle, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Access to under the castle
Inner Court, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner Court
View from Outer Walls, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View from Outer Walls
Access to under the castle, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Access to under the castle
View from the South West, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View from the South West
Access to under the castle, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Access to under the castle
Inner Ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner Ward
Outer Wall Tower, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Outer Wall Tower
Inner and Outer Ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner and Outer Ward
Inside Outer Walls, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inside Outer Walls
View from Inner Ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View from Inner Ward
Gallery of the Hall of the Knights, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Gallery of the Hall of the Knights
Inner Court, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner Court
Outer Walls, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Outer Walls
Krak des Chevaliers Backflip, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Krak des Chevaliers Backflip
Top of the Inner Ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Top of the Inner Ward
View from Inner Ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View from Inner Ward
Inner Ward Tower, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner Ward Tower
The South Face of the Inner Ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
The South Face of the Inner Ward
Krak des Chevaliers from neighbouring hill, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Krak des Chevaliers from neighbouring hill
The Inner Court from the top tower, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
The Inner Court from the top tower
View of the castle from the South, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View of the castle from the South
Access to under the castle, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Access to under the castle
View from Inner Ward Tower, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View from Inner Ward Tower
Inner Ward and Moat, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner Ward and Moat
Outer Walls, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Outer Walls
Damaged Wall of Inner Ward, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Damaged Wall of Inner Ward
Outer Walls, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Outer Walls
Hall of the Knights, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Hall of the Knights
View of the castle from the South, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View of the castle from the South
Inner Ward Tower, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner Ward Tower
Inner Court, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Inner Court
Entrance Tunnel, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Entrance Tunnel
View of the castle from the South West, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View of the castle from the South West
View from Outer Walls, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
View from Outer Walls
Outer Walls and Moat, Krak des Chevaliers, Crac des Chevaliers, Syria
Outer Walls and Moat

Conwy, Wales

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling and Mike Minckler

Conwy Castle from nearby cricket pitch, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy Castle from nearby cricket pitch
View of the Outer Ward, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
View of the Outer Ward
Conwy Castle from the city walls, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy Castle from the city walls
Conwy City Walls, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy City Walls
View of the town of Conwy from the castle, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
View of the town of Conwy from the castle
Conwy Castle outer walls, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy Castle outer walls

Conwy is a small market town in north Wales dominated by its impressive castle built by King Edward I from 1283-1289 AD. The town and castle are located on the River Conwy which is almost like a small protected bay because its so close to the coast which is only a few kilometres away. Conwy is a distinctly Welsh town and small enough to easily explore in a day or even an afternoon if you were rushed. The castle is the main feature of this area and is one of a number of castles built by the English king Edward to subdue the unruly Welsh in the late 13th century. The castle is perched on a coastal ridge above the water and has its outer walls connected to the walls of the town of Conwy which you can walk a large portion of. There are 8 imposing round towers, 2 barbicans, an inner and outer ward along with an impressive drawbridge entrance and a special entrance from the river if under siege and needing to resupply the defenders. Conwy castle is not only an amazing place to visit because it is free reign to explore and climb almost all the towers with no restrictions but it is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of late 13th century military architecture in Europe. After withstanding a number of sieges over its early history the castle was allowed to fall into ruin by the English Parliament after the English civil war to ensure it was not used again in any uprisings. By 1665 it was stripped of all metals and allowed to degrade, its revival started in the 18th century when Conwy Castle became a popular romantic ruin for painters and finally got the much needed restoration work started in the later part of the 1800's. Any trip to North Wales should take in this small walled town and its castle, the remaining city walls offer spectacular views of the surrounding hills, town, coast and castle. There are a number of good pubs in the town to enjoy a pint and something to eat after exploring the area and its worth noting again that the freedom to explore all corners of this castle is a rarity among UNESCO World Heritage sites so should not be missed.

View from the towers of Conwy Castle of the River Conwy and town of Deganwy across the river, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
View from the towers of Conwy Castle of the River Conwy and town of Deganwy across the river
View of the town of Conwy with its city walls and castle from the high point of the city walls, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
View of the town of Conwy with its city walls and castle from the high point of the city walls
View of Conwy Castle from the nearby cricket pitch, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
View of Conwy Castle from the nearby cricket pitch
Conwy Castle and Suspension Bridge, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy Castle and Suspension Bridge
Conwy Castle from city walls, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy Castle from city walls
Conwy Castle and town, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy Castle and town
Conwy Castle and town, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy Castle and town
Inner passage of the castle, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
Inner passage of the castle
Conwy Road Bridge and Suspension Bridge, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy Road Bridge and Suspension Bridge
Conwy City Walls, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy City Walls
View of the Inner Ward, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
View of the Inner Ward
View of the River Conwy, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
View of the River Conwy
Castle Tower, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
Castle Tower
Castle Passage, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
Castle Passage
Conwy Castle Outer Walls, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy Castle Outer Walls
View of the Outer Ward of Conwy Castle and the town of Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
View of the Outer Ward of Conwy Castle and the town of Conwy
View of the Inner Ward of Conwy Castle and the River Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
View of the Inner Ward of Conwy Castle and the River Conwy
Inside a castle tower, Conwy Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
Inside a castle tower
The town of Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
The town of Conwy
Promotional poster of the castle, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
Promotional poster of the castle
Conwy City Walls, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy City Walls
Conwy Castle from the shoreline, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy Castle from the shoreline
Conwy town and city walls, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy town and city walls
Conwy Castle Tower, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy Castle Tower
View from Conwy Castle tower, Wales, United Kingdom
View from Conwy Castle tower
Conwy Castle Tower, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy Castle Tower
Conwy Castle from the city walls, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy Castle from the city walls
Welsh Flag, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
Welsh Flag
Conwy City Walls and Train Tracks, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy City Walls and Train Tracks
Outer Ward of Conwy Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
Outer Ward of Conwy Castle
River Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
River Conwy
Conwy Castle and town, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy Castle and town
Outer Ward of Conwy Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
Outer Ward of Conwy Castle
View from the city walls of the coastline, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
View from the city walls of the coastline
Conwy Castle from the city walls, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy Castle from the city walls
Conwy City Walls, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy City Walls
Conwy Castle Backflip, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy Castle Backflip
Conwy City Walls, Wales, United Kingdom
Conwy City Walls
View of Conwy Castle from street level, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
View of Conwy Castle from street level
View of the interior of Conwy Castle and the town of Conwy from one of the towers, Conwy, Wales, United Kingdom
View of the interior of Conwy Castle and the town of Conwy from one of the towers

Mamure Castle

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling and Footside

Outside Walls and Moat, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Outside Walls and Moat
Interior Walls, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Interior Walls
View of the Med, Mamure Castle, Turkey
View of the Med
Mamure Castle from inland, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Mamure Castle from inland

Mamure Castle is a stunning old-world Crusader Castle that sits half in the Mediterranean and half surrounded by a moat, on the outskirts of the coastal town of Anamur in Turkey. In the 3rd century, at this site, the Romans had originally built a fort; it was then enlarged during the Byzantine Empire and the Crusades. After having been laid to siege in 1221 by a Seljuk Sultan, the Castle was captured and rebuilt to its current state. The Castle gives you a real taste of an authentic medieval fortification with styles from different conquering armies. There are 3 courtyards with 39 towers and no handrails or safety restrictions. One of the courtyards has an ancient mosque built in 1308 that still heralds the call to prayer 5 times daily. This just adds to the exotic aura of walking the narrow ramparts and exploring a castle that has remained unchanged for over 700 years.

Mamure Castle Courtyard, Walls and Mosque, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Mamure Castle Courtyard, Walls and Mosque
Interior Walls, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Interior Walls
Mosque within the castle, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Mosque within the castle
Castle Ramparts, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Castle Ramparts
View from the Med, Mamure Castle, Turkey
View from the Med
Interior of Castle, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Interior of Castle
View from the coastal tower, Mamure Castle, Turkey
View from the coastal tower
View from the coastal tower, Mamure Castle, Turkey
View from the coastal tower
Coastal Tower, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Coastal Tower
Interior Walls, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Interior Walls
Interior of Mamure Castle looking inland, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Interior of Mamure Castle looking inland
Interior of Mamure Castle looking towards the Med, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Interior of Mamure Castle looking towards the Med
View from the top coastal tower, Mamure Castle, Turkey
View from the top coastal tower
Castle Walls Med Side, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Castle Walls Med Side
Mediterranean near castle, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Mediterranean near castle
Castle Walls Med Side, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Castle Walls Med Side
Top tower view, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Top tower view
Top tower view, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Top tower view
Outside Walls, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Outside Walls
Interior ramparts, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Interior ramparts
Flag tower, Mamure Castle, Turkey
Flag tower
 

Carcassonne

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling, Peter Dale, Footside and Mike Minckler

Main Gate and Drawbridge Entrance, Carcassonne, France
Main Gate and Drawbridge Entrance
View of Carcasonne at night, Carcassonne, France
View of Carcassonne at night
Outer Walls, Carcassonne, France
Outer Walls
Inner Keep with the Old Town, Carcassonne, France
Inner Keep with the Old Town
Pont Vieux and the Aude River, Carcassonne, France
Pont Vieux and the Aude River
Outer and Inner Walls, Carcassonne, France
Outer and Inner Walls

Carcassonne could arguably be one of the top 5 places to check out in all of Europe and follows only Paris as a must-see in France. More specifically, the Cité de Carcassonne is an exceptionally well preserved fortified town within the larger city of Carcassonne in the south of France, not far from the Spanish border. This city provides a rare example of what a thriving walled medieval town would have looked like in its heyday. Many walled towns in Europe have sections of their "old town" surviving but thanks to efforts by residents in the mid 1800's, Carcassonne avoided being demolished to maintain its architectural and cultural heritage. Carcassonne still has two rings of outer walls with towers, barbicans, gates and even a drawbridge in nearly original condition. Restoration and maintaining the ancient fortification has been an important part of the town's history over the last 150 years and even sections of the old Roman walls have been meticulously maintained. Carcassonne is simply awesome for medieval exploration. You can follow the old outer walls almost the whole way around for free and if you pay to get inside the inner keep within the town, you can get access to the second set of inner walls which can be traversed all the way around to the main gate. In its almost 2500 years of history, the city has seen a few battles and sieges by the Romans, Visigoths, Muslims and even the Crusaders who were persecuting the Cathers (Christians with different interpretations) in 1209. With all this history, and the rare quality of preservation of the old town, Carcassonne is understandably popular and has huge numbers of visitors that come to the town throughout the year. The parking lots around the old town are constantly congested and bus load after bus load of tour groups drop off streams of visitors throughout the day. This factor can certainly detract from the experience of exploring this little gem of history, however, if you can stay overnight and explore the cobbled streets after the crowds depart you will be amazed at the silence and serenity that descends on the town. The view of the walls and towers all lit up at night is further incentive to stay within the old town walls or nearby. This will also provide the ability to explore the town before the buses arrive in the early morning. Carcassonne is a must see experience and one of the more comprehensive examples of medieval architecture in Europe.

Outer Walls, Carcassonne, France
Outer Walls
Stained Glass in the Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse, Carcassonne, France
Stained Glass in the Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse
Secondary Gate, Carcassonne, France
Secondary Gate
Church below Old Town, Carcassonne, France
Church below Old Town
Inside Old Town, Carcassonne, France
Inside Old Town
Church of St. Vincent, Carcassonne, France
Church of St. Vincent
Outer Walls, Carcassonne, France
Outer Walls
Night View, Carcassonne, France
Night View
Inner and Outer Walls, Carcassonne, France
Inner and Outer Walls
Outer Walls and Vineyards, Carcassonne, France
Outer Walls and Vineyards
Inner Wall Tower, Carcassonne, France
Inner Wall Tower
Outer Walls, Carcassonne, France
Outer Walls
View of the Cité de Carcassonne or Old Town from the main bridge over the Aude River, Carcassonne, France
View of the Cité de Carcassonne or Old Town from the main bridge over the Aude River
View of the Outer Walls and modern town of Carcassonne from the Inner Keep within the Old Town, Carcassonne, France
View of the Outer Walls and modern town of Carcassonne from the Inner Keep within the Old Town
View of the Outer Walls and surrounding vineyards, Carcassonne, France
View of the Outer Walls and surrounding vineyards
Main Entrance Gate, Carcassonne, France
Main Entrance Gate
Inside Old Town, Carcassonne, France
Inside Old Town
Inside Old Town, Carcassonne, France
Inside Old Town
Inner Keep in Old Town, Carcassonne, France
Inner Keep in Old Town
Main Gate at night, Carcassonne, France
Main Gate at night
Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse, Carcassonne, France
Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse
Inside Inner Keep, Carcassonne, France
Inside Inner Keep
Inner Walls, Carcassonne, France
Inner Walls
Inside Inner Keep, Carcassonne, France
Inside Inner Keep
Inside Old Town, Carcassonne, France
Inside Old Town
Outer and Inner Walls, Carcassonne, France
Outer and Inner Walls
Main Entrance Gate, Carcassonne, France
Main Entrance Gate
Inner Wall Towers, Carcassonne, France
Inner Wall Towers
View from modern town, Carcassonne, France
View from modern town
Inner Keep Walls, Carcassonne, France
Inner Keep Walls
Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse, Carcassonne, France
Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse
Inner Walls, Carcassonne, France
Inner Walls
Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse, Carcassonne, France
Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse
Main gate and drawbridge to enter old town with view of Outer and Inner Walls, Carcassonne, France
Main gate and drawbridge to enter old town with view of Outer and Inner Walls
Inside the inner keep castle within the Old Town, Carcassonne, France
Inside the inner keep castle within the Old Town
View of the Outer Walls and surrounding vineyards, Carcassonne, France
View of the Outer Walls and surrounding vineyards
Inner Walls, Carcassonne, France
Inner Walls
Outer Walls at night, Carcassonne, France
Outer Walls at night
Outer Walls, Carcassonne, France
Outer Walls
Inner Keep in Old Town, Carcassonne, France
Inner Keep in Old Town
Local Red Wine, Carcassonne, France
Local Red Wine
Inner and Outer Walls, Carcassonne, France
Inner and Outer Walls
Inner and Outer Walls, Carcassonne, France
Inner and Outer Walls
Inner and Outer Walls, Carcassonne, France
Inner and Outer Walls
Inside Old Town, Carcassonne, France
Inside Old Town
Outer Walls and Tower, Carcassonne, France
Outer Walls and Tower
Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse, Carcassonne, France
Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse
Outer Walls, Carcassonne, France
Outer Walls
Inner Keep Tower, Carcassonne, France
Inner Keep Tower
Old Town at night, Carcassonne, France
Old Town at night
Inner and Outer Walls, Carcassonne, France
Inner and Outer Walls
Lunch and Wine in Old Town, Carcassonne, France
Lunch and Wine in Old Town
Inner Walls, Carcassonne, France
Inner Walls
Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse, Carcassonne, France
Basilica of St. Nazaire and St. Celse
Inner Walls and Keep in Old Town, Carcassonne, France
Inner Walls and Keep in Old Town
Main Gate at night, Carcassonne, France
Main Gate at night
Inner Walls, Carcassonne, France
Inner Walls
View inside the Old Town with the Inner Keep Castle on the right side, Carcassonne, France
View inside the Old Town with the Inner Keep Castle on the right side
View of Inner Walls from the Outer Wall Tower, Carcassonne, France
View of Inner Walls from the Outer Wall Tower
View of the Outer Walls and surrounding vineyards, Carcassonne, France
View of the Outer Walls and surrounding vineyards

Caernarfon, Wales

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling

View of the River Seiont from Caernarfon Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
View of the River Seiont from Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle Courtyard, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon Castle Courtyard
View of the town of Caernarfon, Wales, United Kingdom
View of the town of Caernarfon
Caernarfon, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon
Caernarfon from nearby Hillside, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon from nearby Hillside
Caernarfon Castle from across the River Seiont, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon Castle from across the River Seiont

Caernarfon is a beautiful, walled seaside town in north Wales with an amazing English castle built by King Edward I. The city of Caernarfon is one of the finest preserved old medieval towns in the United Kingdom and also boasts one of the highest percentages of Welsh speaking people in the country. Although the area was first populated by Celtic tribes in the centuries before the Roman conquest of Britain, the town site of Caernarfon was first "settled" when Romans built a fort that expanded into a prosperous town sometime after 80 AD. The big draw to Caernarfon, other than its distinctly Welsh character and seaside atmosphere, is the castle built by the English king Edward I to subdue the Welsh in 1283. Caernarfon Castle, set at the mouth of the River Seiont, is a visually stunning piece of medieval architecture with its polygonal towers, rather than the round towers which were inspired by the walls of Constantinople. Unlike many castles in the UK where parts of the structure are restricted, you have free reign to walk all the walls and climb all the towers in Caernarfon. Giving you the rare opportunity to envision what it would have be like when the castle was under siege from all vantage points. The views from the towers overlooking the surrounding hills, river and town are spectacular and you have the added bonus of an old time pub, right below the the Eagle Tower of the castle itself, to enjoy a pint or two. Caernarfon is a great place to spend at least a day walking the walled old town, exploring the castle and hiking the surrounding hills for views of the area. If you can make it to North Wales, make Caernarfon your number one spot to visit and you won't be disappointed.

Caernarfon Castle and the town of Caernarfon from across the River Seiont, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon Castle and the town of Caernarfon from across the River Seiont
View of the town of Caernarfon from a nearby Hillside, Wales, United Kingdom
View of the town of Caernarfon from a nearby Hillside
The Ward of Caenarfon Castle, from left to right the Cistern Tower, the Black Tower, the Chamberlain Tower, the Queen's Tower and the double tower on the end is the Eagle Tower, Wales, United Kingdom
The Ward of Caenarfon Castle, from left to right the Cistern Tower, the Black Tower, the Chamberlain Tower, the Queen's Tower and the double tower on the end is the Eagle Tower
The Chamberlain Tower, Caernarfon Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
The Chamberlain Tower, Caernarfon Castle
Stained Glass, Caernarfon Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
Stained Glass, Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle Backflip, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon Castle Backflip
Caernarfon Castle Ward, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon Castle Ward
Black Tower, Chamberlain Tower, Queen's Tower, Caernarfon Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
Black Tower, Chamberlain Tower, Queen's Tower, Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle Ward, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon Castle Ward
The Black Tower and River Seiont from Caernarfon Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
The Black Tower and River Seiont
The Eagle Tower, Caernarfon Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
The Eagle Tower
The Eagle Tower, Caernarfon Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
The Eagle Tower
View from Caernarfon Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
View from Caernarfon Castle
View of town of Caernarfon, Wales, United Kingdom
View of town of Caernarfon
View of town of Caernarfon from the Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
View of town of Caernarfon from the Castle
The Chamberlain Tower and River Seiont, Caernarfon Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
The Chamberlain Tower and River Seiont, Caernarfon Castle
View from Caernarfon Castle of the Welsh Coastline, Wales, United Kingdom
View from Caernarfon Castle of the Welsh Coastline
From left to right the Black Tower, the Chamberlain Tower, the Queen's Tower and the double tower on the end is the Eagle Tower, Wales, United Kingdom
From left to right the Black Tower, the Chamberlain Tower, the Queen's Tower and the double tower on the end is the Eagle Tower
The Eagle Tower and pub next door, Wales, United Kingdom
The Eagle Tower and pub next door
Caernarfon Backflip, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon Backflip
Caernarfon town and River Seiont, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon town and River Seiont
View from the Eagle Tower in Caernarfon Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
View from the Eagle Tower in Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle Backflip, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon Castle Backflip
The Chamberlain Tower, Caernarfon Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
The Chamberlain Tower, Caernarfon Castle
The River Seiont, Wales, United Kingdom
The River Seiont
Caernarfon Castle Ward, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon Castle Ward
View of the town of Caernarfon, Wales, United Kingdom
View of the town of Caernarfon
Caernarfon Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle and town, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon Castle and town
Caernarfon Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle Ward, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon Castle Ward
View from Caernarfon Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
View from Caernarfon Castle
View from Caernarfon Castle of River Seiont, Wales, United Kingdom
View from Caernarfon Castle of River Seiont
View from Caernarfon Castle of River Seiont, Wales, United Kingdom
View from Caernarfon Castle of River Seiont
Queen's Tower and Eagle Tower, Caernarfon Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
Queen's Tower and Eagle Tower, Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle Ward and Queens Tower on the right, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon Castle Ward and Queens Tower on the right
Eagle Tower, Caernarfon Castle, Wales, United Kingdom
Eagle Tower, Caernarfon Castle
Eagle Tower and City Walls, Caernarfon, Wales, United Kingdom
Eagle Tower and City Walls, Caernarfon
Caernarfon from nearby Hillside, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon from nearby Hillside
The Eagle Tower of Caernarfon Castle and City Walls, Wales, United Kingdom
The Eagle Tower of Caernarfon Castle and City Walls
The Eagle Tower, Wales, United Kingdom
The Eagle Tower
Caernarfon Sunset, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon Sunset
Caernarfon Castle and River Seiont, Wales, United Kingdom
Caernarfon Castle and River Seiont

Maidens Castle

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling and Footside

Maidens Castle Backflip, Kizkalesi, Turkey
Maidens Castle Backflip
View of Maidens Castle from Korykos Castle, Kizkalesi, Turkey
View of Maidens Castle from Korykos Castle
Maidens Castle, Kizkalesi, Turkey
Maidens Castle

Maidens Castle is a Crusader Castle that hovers 200 meters offshore near the town of Kizkalesi, in the Mediterranean Sea on the far Eastern Turkish coast. The castle was built in the 12th century, during the Byzantine period, and in ancient times was linked to another castle on the shore by a giant causeway built on a large slab of bedrock almost at water level. This town was Corycus and was a powerful player in the region with its own mint situated right on the river. Another nearby site worth your time are the caves of Heaven and Hell or Cennet ve Cehennem in Turkish. The town of Kizkalesi is small and quiet with a beautiful sandy beach to relax on. Swimming out to the floating castle from golden sand beach was one of the most rewarding moments of my life. There is nothing more timeless and authentic than swimming out to a monument built centuries earlier, scaling the walls barefoot, and exploring the ruined interior.

Maidens Castle, Kizkalesi, Turkey
Maidens Castle
Cennet (Heaven) Cave, Kizkalesi, Turkey
Cennet (Heaven) Cave
Korykos Castle, Kizkalesi, Turkey
Korykos Castle
Maidens Castle and Korykos Castle, Kizkalesi, Turkey
Maidens Castle and Korykos Castle
Maidens Castle, Kizkalesi, Turkey
Maidens Castle
Maidens Castle, Kizkalesi, Turkey
Maidens Castle
Maidens Castle, Kizkalesi, Turkey
Maidens Castle
Caves of Heaven and Hell, Kizkalesi, Turkey
Caves of Heaven and Hell
Caves of Heaven and Hell, Kizkalesi, Turkey
Caves of Heaven and Hell
Caves of Heaven and Hell, Kizkalesi, Turkey
Caves of Heaven and Hell
Maidens Castle, Kizkalesi, Turkey
Maidens Castle
Maidens Castle, Kizkalesi, Turkey
Maidens Castle
Maidens Castle from Korykos Castle, Kizkalesi, Turkey
Maidens Castle from Korykos Castle
Veste Coburg
Veste Coburg
Castle walls of Veste Coburg
Castle walls of Veste Coburg
Inner courtyard
Inner courtyard
Walkway outside the castle
Walkway outside the castle
Exterior walls of Veste Coburg
Exterior walls of Veste Coburg
Inside Veste Coburg
Inside Veste Coburg

Located in central Bavaria, Coburg is home to one of Germany's largest castles, Veste Coburg. Built in 1225, the triple tried castle sits atop a hill overlooking the 40,000 person town below. The former home of local nobility, today the mighty fortress is home to three museums. The first, a collection of complete historical apartments featuring a famous hunting room. The second museum houses the largest medieval armour and weapons collection in Germany. The third is a world class art museum with engravings, coins, documents and glassware. At the base of the hill leading up to the castle is the Ehrenburg Palace which was rebuilt in 1543, only to fall victim to a fire in 1690 and once again resurrected in a Baroque style. The palace has a long history of royal ceremonies and weddings throughout the past 200 years. Coburg is the perfect stop on the way north through Bavaria and definitely worth a visit.

Inside Veste Coburg
Inside Veste Coburg
Bridge Entrance
Bridge Entrance
Local Crest
Local Crest
Veste Coburg
Veste Coburg
Courtyard
Courtyard
Second Tier of Walls
Second Tier of Walls
Statue at the base of the castle park
Statue at the base of the castle park
Walkway on top of the castle walls
Walkway on top of the castle walls
Covered entrance way
Covered entrance way
Ehrenburg Palace
Ehrenburg Palace
Interior of Veste Coburg
Interior of Veste Coburg
Castle Courtyard
Castle Courtyard
Hofgarten
Hofgarten
Walls of Veste Coburg
Walls of Veste Coburg
Coat of Arms
Coat of Arms
Castle Battlements
Castle Battlements
Hofgarten
Hofgarten
Exterior walls from the Hofgarten
Exterior walls from the Hofgarten
View from Veste Coburg
View from Veste Coburg
Exterior Walls
Exterior Walls
Castle Walls
Castle Walls

Burg Eltz

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling and Mike Minckler

Burg Eltz Inner Courtyard, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Inner Courtyard
Walkway to Burg Eltz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Walkway to Burg Eltz
Burg Eltz Painting in Moselkern, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Painting in Moselkern
Burg Eltz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz
Burg Eltz Stained Glass, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Stained Glass
Burg Eltz Towers, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Towers

Burg Eltz is a rare medieval castle that has escaped destruction over its long history and is located in the hills above the Moselle River. Most castles in this area of Germany were destroyed during the continuous centuries of strife throughout the middle ages; Burg Eltz is one of only a handful of medieval castles in Central Europe that escaped destruction. Due to its fortunate preservation, travellers are rewarded with a unique example of medieval architecture that has remained unchanged for centuries. Burg Eltz is built on a rocky crag some 70 metres above the Eltz river which is a tributary to the Moselle. Construction started around 1157 and it was not by one man or family but a group of families. The castle was a so-called Glanerbenburg (castle belonging to a community of joint heirs), and is still owned by one of the original families who built it in the 12th century. Each family had different sections of the castle to live in and the construction of the castle was a slow, progressive process amongst the joint owners. The castle site is situated on an old Roman trade route that connected rich farmland with markets and the key river route provided by the Moselle. To explore Burg Eltz you have to take a tour which runs you through many of the old rooms, set up as they would have looked hundreds of years ago. After exploring the castle, one of the best aspects of visiting this important part of history is relaxing on the stone ramparts overlooking the surrounding hills and enjoying a tasty Wheat Beer. The prominent German historian Georg Dehio had this to say about Burg Eltz, "Eltz castle is simply what a castle should be. Its solitude and the beauty of its situation stimulate the imagination."

Burg Eltz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz
Burg Eltz Stained Glass, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Stained Glass
Burg Eltz Inner Courtyard, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Inner Courtyard
Burg Eltz Drain Pipe, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Drain Pipe
Burg Eltz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz
Burg Eltz Ramparts, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Ramparts
Burg Eltz Inner Courtyard, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Inner Courtyard
Burg Eltz Wheat Beer, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Wheat Beer
Burg Eltz Inner Courtyard, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Inner Courtyard
Burg Eltz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz
Burg Eltz Emblem, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Emblem
Burg Eltz Inner Courtyard, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Inner Courtyard
Burg Eltz Stained Glass, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Stained Glass
Burg Eltz Painting, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Painting
Burg Eltz Stained Glass, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Stained Glass
Burg Eltz Turrets, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Turrets
Burg Eltz Drain Pipe, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Drain Pipe
Burg Eltz Turrets, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Turrets
Burg Eltz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz
Burg Eltz Outer Walls, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Outer Walls
Burg Eltz Inner Courtyard, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Inner Courtyard
Burg Eltz Emblem, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Emblem
Burg Eltz Wheat Beer, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Wheat Beer
No Dog Shit Sign, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
No Dog Shit Sign
Burg Eltz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz
Burg Eltz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz
Burg Eltz Backflip, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Backflip
Burg Eltz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz
Burg Eltz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz
Burg Eltz Chapel, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Burg Eltz Chapel

Ishak Pasha Palace

Text by Eric Starling, Photography by Eric Starling and Footside

Ishak Pasha Palace
Interior of Palace
Ishak Pasha Palace
View from hillside fortifications
Mount Ararat
View from hillside fortifications

The Ishak Pasha Palace is a palace, mosque, and fortress that looms above the town of Doğubayazıt in eastern Turkey. Built 2100 metres above sea level, it overlooks a giant steppe with the 5100 metre high snow capped peak of Mount Ararat nearby. Built from 1685 to 1784, the palace is a striking structure with strange carvings in a forgotten language expertly cut into the walls and colourful pillars. The surrounding mountains and landscape boast a range of colours from red to orange, brown, and green; and dramatic jagged peaks give the chosen location for this palace even more of an off the beaten path feeling. The Ishak Pasha Palace is one of the most important remaining examples of 18th century Ottoman architecture and is considered to be a rare example of an unaltered Turkish palace. The Palace is so revered, it was included on one of the Turkish bank notes for a number of years. The Iranian border is a mere 40 km away in this remote and predominantly Kurdish area of Turkey.  Due to this, the Turkish army has a visible presence in the area with military checkpoints in and out of the nearby town. Visiting this mountain palace on the eastern edge of Turkey offers an exotic eastern feel not found elsewhere and due to modern conflicts in the region it may become harder to visit, so get in while you can.

Ishak Pasha Palace lording over the modern Turkish town of Doğubayazıt in 2005, Turkey
Ishak Pasha Palace lording over the modern Turkish town of Doğubayazıt in 2005
Mosque near the Palace, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
Mosque near the Palace
Mosque near the Palace, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
Mosque near the Palace
View of tower from interior, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
View of tower from interior
Backflip Below, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
Backflip Below
Backflip from the side, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
Backflip from the side
Backflip from the cliffs above, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
Backflip from the cliffs above
Interior of the Palace, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
Interior of the Palace
Gate, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
Gate
Interior of the Palace, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
Interior of the Palace
Nearby ruined Fortress, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
Nearby ruined Fortress
View of the Palace from Doğubayazıt, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
View of the Palace from Doğubayazıt
View from road to Palace, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
View from road to Palace
Interior of the Palace, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
Interior of the Palace
Interior of the Palace, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
Interior of the Palace
Interior of the Palace, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
Interior of the Palace
Interior of the Palace Backflip, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
Interior of the Palace Backflip
The Palace in 2011, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
The Palace in 2011
Interior of the Palace Backflip, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
Interior of the Palace Backflip
Mount Ararat, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
Mount Ararat
Surrounding Hillside, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
Surrounding Hillside
Side view of Palace, Ishak Pasha Palace, Turkey
Side view of Palace
Ishak Pasha Palace lording over the modern Turkish town of Doğubayazıt in 2011, Turkey
Ishak Pasha Palace lording over the modern Turkish town of Doğubayazıt in 2011
Ishak Pasha Palace and the Steppe of Eastern Turkey in 2005, Turkey
Ishak Pasha Palace and the Steppe of Eastern Turkey in 2005

Foix

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling, Footside and Peter Dale

Château de Foix Castle, Foix, France
Château de Foix Castle
Foix Old Town, Foix, France
Foix Old Town
Château de Foix from across the river, Foix, France
Château de Foix from across the river
View from Foix Castle Tower, Foix, France
View from Foix Castle Tower
Foix Old Town, Foix, France
Foix Old Town
View of Château de Foix Round Tower, Foix, France
View of Château de Foix Round Tower

Foix is a small town nestled in the hills near the French border with Spain and Andorra. Originally a Roman outpost, the town wasn't officially founded until 849 AD. The key feature for this little town is the distinctive castle that towers above the old narrow streets. The castle is comprised of three impressive towers, one of which is round in shape and two of which are square structures. Originally, there was a Roman fort on this rocky outcrop that sits in the middle of the valley, while the current buildings are remains of a castle dating from the 12th to 14th centuries. The Travelling Backflip team made Foix a stopover on a road trip we did between Spain and Germany in 2011. After seeing the town featured in a couple of stages of the Tour de France in 2007 and 2008 it was deemed a worthy one night destination. Foix is small and most of the town closes down after regular business hours making it a pretty quiet place, however, walking the deserted medieval streets with the castle towering above in the early evening is worth the detour from the coast or the mountains if you're ever in southwest France.

View from Foix Castle, Foix, France
View from Foix Castle
Château de Foix in the rain, Foix, France
Château de Foix in the rain
Strolling the Old Town, Foix, France
Strolling the Old Town
Château de Foix Towers, Foix, France
Château de Foix Towers
View of Foix Old Town from Castle, Foix, France
View of Foix Old Town from Castle
Château de Foix, Foix, France
Château de Foix
Château de Foix Tower 1, Foix, France
Château de Foix Tower 1
Château de Foix Tower 2, Foix, France
Château de Foix Tower 2
Château de Foix Tower 3, Foix, France
Château de Foix Tower 3
Panoramic view of Château de Foix and the Old Town of Foix from across the river, France
Panoramic view of Château de Foix and the Old Town of Foix from across the river
Château de Foix Castle, Foix, France
Château de Foix Castle
Awesome French Car, Foix, France
Awesome French Car
Château de Foix Main Gate, Foix, France
Château de Foix Main Gate
Château de Foix Tower, Foix, France
Château de Foix Tower
Château de Foix Towers, Foix, France
Château de Foix Towers
Château de Foix Middle Tower, Foix, France
Château de Foix Middle Tower
Roundabout in town, Foix, France
Roundabout in town
Local Stream, Foix, France
Local Stream
View from Château de Foix, Foix, France
View from Château de Foix
Château de Foix and river, Foix, France
Château de Foix and river
Saint-Volusien Abbey, Foix, France
Saint-Volusien Abbey
Kings Bed, Château de Foix, Foix, France
Kings Bed, Château de Foix
Panoramic view of the Old Town of Foix and the Saint-Volusien Abbey on the left from Château de Foix Castle, Foix, France
Panoramic view of the Old Town of Foix and the Saint-Volusien Abbey on the left from Château de Foix Castle
Château de Foix entrance ramp, Foix, France
Château de Foix entrance ramp
Taking pictures of Château de Foix, Foix, France
Taking pictures of Château de Foix
Saint-Volusien Abbey, Foix, France
Saint-Volusien Abbey
Streets of Foix, Foix, France
Streets of Foix
Buildings and River in Foix, Foix, France
Buildings and River in Foix
Round Tower, Château de Foix, Foix, France
Round Tower, Château de Foix
Foix Old Town, Foix, France
Foix Old Town
Foix Castle entrance ramp, Foix, France
Foix Castle entrance ramp
Foix Old Town, Foix, France
Foix Old Town
View from Château de Foix Tower, Foix, France
View from Château de Foix Tower
View from Château de Foix Tower, Foix, France
View from Château de Foix Tower
View from Château de Foix Tower, Foix, France
View from Château de Foix Tower
Inside Château de Foix, Foix, France
Inside Château de Foix
Château de Foix Entrance, Foix, France
Château de Foix Entrance
Inside Château de Foix, Foix, France
Inside Château de Foix
Château de Foix, Foix, France
Château de Foix
Château de Foix Old Crapper, Foix, France
Château de Foix Old Crapper
Château de Foix Towers, Foix, France
Château de Foix Towers

Fougères

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling

Château de Fougères Towers, Fougères, France
Château de Fougères Towers
Château de Fougères Walls, Fougères, France
Château de Fougères Walls
View of the town of Fougères from the castle, Fougères, France
View of the town of Fougères from the castle
Château de Fougères Tower, Fougères, France
Château de Fougères Tower
Château de Fougères Tower, Fougères, France
Château de Fougères Tower
View of the town of Fougères from the castle, Fougères, France
View of the town of Fougères from the castle

The town of Fougères is located in North Western France and is a great place to stop off for a day trip while making your way from Paris to the Brittany coastal region. The big reason to stop off in Fougères is to view the impressive Château de Fougères castle which is a focal point of this small town. Having originally been a wooden fort that didn't last too long in the eleventh century, the castle was rebuilt in stone and now boasts 13 towers and excellent walls that can be walked almost the entire length of the castle. This castle was built over a naturally defensive position on a bend of the Nançon river which acts as moat to this day. One of the best aspects of Château de Fougères is the freedom to walk all the walls and climb most of the towers that still remain in excellent condition. The town of Fougères also has a large section of the old town walls that survive and can be traversed from the lower town to the upper town. Views from the castle walls of the surrounding town and granite cliffs make it well worth the stop over if you are heading to the coast from Paris and need a small break from the road.

Panoramic view inside the walls of Château de Fougères, Fougères, France
Panoramic view inside the walls of Château de Fougères
Panoramic view of the outside walls of Château de Fougères, Fougères, France
Panoramic view of the outside walls of Château de Fougères
Fougères Castle Tower, Fougères, France
Fougères Castle Tower
Fougères Castle Moat and Tower, Fougères, France
Fougères Castle Moat and Tower
Fougères Castle Towers and Moat, Fougères, France
Fougères Castle Towers and Moat
Inside Fougères Castle, Fougères, France
Inside Fougères Castle
Inside Fougères Castle, Fougères, France
Inside Fougères Castle
Fougères Castle Walls and Towers, Fougères, France
Fougères Castle Walls and Towers
Château de Fougères Tower and Moat, Fougères, France
Château de Fougères Tower and Moat
Château de Fougères Backflip, Fougères, France
Château de Fougères Backflip
Château de Fougères Towers, Fougères, France
Château de Fougères Towers
Château de Fougères Moat, Fougères, France
Château de Fougères Moat
Château de Fougères Tower, Fougères, France
Château de Fougères Tower
Château de Fougères Moat, Fougères, France
Château de Fougères Moat
Panoramic view of the town of Fougères and the frontal towers of Château de Fougères, Fougères, France
Panoramic view of the town of Fougères and the frontal towers of Château de Fougères
Panoramic view of the interior of Château de Fougères, Fougères, France
Panoramic view of the interior of Château de Fougères
View from Fougères Castle, France
View from Fougères Castle
Fougères Castle Tower, France
Fougères Castle Tower
Fougères Castle and Fougères Town, France
Fougères Castle and Fougères Town
Inside Fougères Castle, France
Inside Fougères Castle
Inside Fougères Castle, France
Inside Fougères Castle
View from Fougères Castle, France
View from Fougères Castle
Château de Fougères Tower, France
Château de Fougères Tower
Château de Fougères Walls, France
Château de Fougères Walls
Château de Fougères and the town of Fougères, France
Château de Fougères and the town of Fougères

Braubach and Marksburg Castle

Text by Eric Starling; Photogrpahy by Eric Starling and Peter Dale

Marksburg Castle, Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
Marksburg Castle
Rhine River from Markburg Castle, Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
Rhine River from Markburg Castle
Braubach Architecture, Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
Braubach Architecture
Braubach Architecture, Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
Braubach Architecture
Rhine River from Markburg Castle, Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
Rhine River from Markburg Castle
Marksburg Castle, Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
Marksburg Castle


Braubach is a small town on the Rhine River, roughly 10km south of the city of Koblenz. The town is located at the base of a small hill on the Rhine, below Marksburg Castle. Braubach is a small town with much character in its medieval architecture , remaining sections of the town wall and the castle towering above the many half-timbered buildings. The main feature of Braubach and its surrounding area is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Marksburg Castle. Marksburg is the only castle on the Rhine River between Bingen and Bonn that has never been destroyed. The castle showcases different building styles that were undertaken over its history since it was first built around 1117 AD. Marksburg is also the main headquarters of the German Castle Association, founded in 1899 to protect and preserve castles throughout Germany. Viewing the castle can only be done by private tour but there are many throughout the day in multiple languages so you just need to show up and book in a slot. The area around Braubach offers further castles and some great trails for hiking the wooded areas surrounding the Rhine River. It is well worth staying in one of these small towns to soak up the atmosphere outside of the cities in this region of Germany

Braubach Old Town, Rhine River, Germany
Braubach Old Town
Lorelei Rock, south of Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
Lorelei Rock, south of Braubach
Braubach Tower, Rhine River, Germany
Braubach Tower
Rhine River, near Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
Rhine River, near Braubach
Stolzenfels Castle, Rhine River, Germany
Stolzenfels Castle
Rhine River, near Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
Rhine River, near Braubach
Braubach and Marksburg, Rhine River, Germany
Braubach and Marksburg
Marsburg Castle Gate, Rhine River, Germany
Marsburg Castle Gate
Marksburg Castle Tower, Rhine River, Germany
Marksburg Castle Tower
Marksburg Castle Restaurant, Rhine River, Germany
Marksburg Castle Restaurant
Braubach Keg House, Rhine River, Germany
Braubach Keg House
Rhine River, near Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
Rhine River, near Braubach
Marksburg Castle, Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
Marksburg Castle
Suits of Armour, Marksburg Castle, Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
Suits of Armour, Marksburg Castle
Marksburg Castle at Night, Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
Marksburg Castle at Night
View of the Rhine River from Marksburg Castle above the town of Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
View of the Rhine River from Marksburg Castle above the town of Braubach
View of Stolzenfels Castle from the road to Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
View of Stolzenfels Castle from the road to Braubach
View of the Rhine River south of Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
View of the Rhine River south of Braubach
Marksburg Castle on the road to Braubach, Rhine River, Germany
Marksburg Castle on the road to Braubach
View of Marksburg Castle from Braubach
Brauchbach town gate
Braubach Architecture
View of Braubach from Marksburg Castle
View of Stolzenfels Castle from Marksbrug Castle
Old Pub in Braubach
Inner Marksburg Castle
Suits of Armour, Marksburg Castle
Passage in Marksburg Castle
Road to Braubach
Braubach Church
Road to Braubach
Braubach Architecture
Old Pub in Braubach
Inside Marksburg Castle

St Goar, Burg Rheinfels, St Goarshausen and Burg Katz

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling and Mike Minckler

View of the town of St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
View of the town of St Goar
Burg Katz and St Goarshausen, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Katz and St Goarshausen
Burg Rheinfels and the Rhine River, St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels and the Rhine River
View of St Goarshausen from Burg Rheinfels, Rhine River, Germany
View of St Goarshausen from Burg Rheinfels
Burg Rheinfels Inner Keep, St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels Inner Keep
Pub in St Goar town, Rhine River, Germany
Pub in St Goar town

The twin towns of St Goar and St Goarshausen are located on the banks of the Rhine River some 30 km upstream from the city of Koblenz. These two towns are located in the centre of a stretch of the Rhine River that is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for its many small towns and castles that line the river. Known as Sankt Goar and Sankt Goarshausen in German, these two towns are separated by roughly 250 metres of the Rhine River and each town has a castle towering above it. St Goar has the towering ruined fortress of Burg Rheinfels which was a key point of controlling the Rhine and charging tolls from the late 1200s until the cannon made castles less useful. The complex is one of the largest on the Rhine River and the castle served as a defensive and palatial structure over the centuries by local rulers. Hours can be spent exploring the many ruined buildings, castle museum and some claustrophobic tunnels that have graffiti dating back centuries. Across the river, St Goarshausen has its own castle looming above the town called Burg Katz. This is a private castle and not open to the public but its old stone tower along with two turrets that face the river add some distinctive character. St Goar was settled even before Roman times as it's a strategic part of the Rhine and has seen its fair share of conflict and devastation over the centuries. The scale of Berg Rheinfels castle on the cliffs above St Goar attest to the prosperity and importance of this part of the Rhine during the Middle Ages. Most recently, the Allies used St Goar as a crossing point during World War II and the area was under bombardment from both sides as the Allies fought to cross the Rhine into Germany. St Goar and St Goarshausen are connected by a small ferry that crosses back and forth many times a day giving easy access between the towns. It is well worth spending at least a day exploring the towns, castles and local pubs that line this stretch of river. Easy access to either side of the river is provided by local trains or if you have a car. If you only have time to sample one part of this amazing stretch of the Rhine between Koblenz and Bingen, make it St Goar.

Burg Rheinfels Castle and St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels Castle and St Goar
Burg Katz Castle, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Katz Castle
Burg Rheinfels as seen from St Goar town, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels as seen from St Goar town
Burg Rheinfels Backflip, St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels Backflip
Burg Rheinfels inner tunnel, St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels inner tunnel
Burg Katz and St Goarshausen, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Katz and St Goarshausen
Burg Rheinfels Outer Walls, St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels Outer Walls
View from Burg Rheinfels, St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
View from Burg Rheinfels
Burg Rheinfels Tower, St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels Tower
Burg Katz from St Goarshausen, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Katz from St Goarshausen
Burg Rheinfels Inner Keep, St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels Inner Keep
Burg Rheinfels, St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels
View of the Rhine and St Goarshausen, Rhine River, Germany
View of the Rhine and St Goarshausen
Burg Rheinfels Inner Keep, St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels Inner Keep
Burg Rheinfels Outer Walls, St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels Outer Walls
Burg Rheinfels Outer Walls, St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels Outer Walls
Burg Rheinfels Main Tower, St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels Main Tower
Burg Rheinfels Outer Walls, St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels Outer Walls
View from Burg Rheinfels Tower of the Rhine and the town of St Goar on the right and St Goarshausen on the left, Rhine River, Germany
View from Burg Rheinfels Tower of the Rhine and the town of St Goar on the right and St Goarshausen on the left
Burg Rheinfels ruined inner keep, St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels ruined inner keep
View of St Goarshausen and Burg Katz on the other side of the Rhine in St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
View of St Goarshausen and Burg Katz on the other side of the Rhine in St Goar
View of Burg Rheinfels from across the Rhine in St Goarshausen, Rhine River, Germany
View of Burg Rheinfels from across the Rhine in St Goarshausen
Burg Rheinfels as seen from St Goar, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels as seen from St Goar
Burg Rheinfels Inner Walls, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels Inner Walls
Burg Katz and St Goarshausen, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Katz and St Goarshausen
Burg Rheinfels Jump, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels Jump
Burg Rheinfels Main Tower, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels Main Tower
Burg Rheinfels Ruined Tower, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels Ruined Tower
Burg Rheinfels Inner Keep, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels Inner Keep
View from Burg Rheinfels of Rhine and Burg Maus, Rhine River, Germany
View from Burg Rheinfels of Rhine and Burg Maus
Burg Rheinfels Backflip, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels Backflip
View of Rhine from Burg Rheinfels, Rhine River, Germany
View of Rhine from Burg Rheinfels
Burg Rheinfels Inner Keep, Rhine River, Germany
Burg Rheinfels Inner Keep
St Goar Backflip, Rhine River, Germany
St Goar Backflip

Wartburg Castle

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling, Mike Minckler and Footside

View of the Castle near entrance, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
View of the Castle near entrance
Castle Mosaic, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Castle Mosaic
Wartburg Castle Backflip, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Wartburg Castle Backflip
Entrance Gate, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Entrance Gate
The Margareth Hallway, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
The Margareth Hallway
The South Tower, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
The South Tower

Wartburg Castle is an important UNESCO World Heritage site that has deep roots and importance in German history.  Located on the outskirts of the central German city of Eisenach, castle construction began in 1068 and remained the seat of the rulers of Thuringia for 400 years. The castle gained early fame in 1207 when it was the site of the Sängerkrieg, a contest of the top minstrels in the land. Even more importantly, from May 1521 for almost a year, Martin Luther took refuge in the castle after being excommunicated by the pope. During this time he translated the bible into German which made the word of god accessible to common people. This translation had a massive impact on the church, German culture and the German language. The castle today is accessed from the city of Eisenach by a trail through thick forests up to the pinnacle of a 410 metre hill that offers commanding views of the surrounding area. The outer area of the castle and its surrounding park lands are open to walk around for free but the interior of the castle can only be seen by guided tour. The tour is worth doing for the access it provides to this exceptionally well preserved castle. The castle has been continually renovated throughout its nearly 1000 years of existence with many earlier parts being built over, depending on what the ruler at the time fancied. This gives the castle an impression of something of a patchwork design but because it was not destroyed by war or left to fall into ruin, you can see different stages of castle design from medieval times up to the 1800s. The town of Eisenach is a great place to stay, not just for visiting Wartburg Castle but to get an idea of what East Germany was like outside of Berlin. This is a major train hub to the region and weeks could be spent exploring this part of central Germany.

View from the castle upper floors, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
View from the castle upper floors
Pillar Carvings, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Pillar Carvings
View of the castle from lookout, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
View of the castle from lookout
Restaurant Building, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Restaurant Building
Castle Well, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Castle Well
Main Tower, Castle Keep, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Main Tower, Castle Keep
The Palas, Great Hall, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
The Palas, Great Hall
The Palas, Great Hall, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
The Palas, Great Hall
Castle Mosaic, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Castle Mosaic
Small Suit of Armour, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Small Suit of Armour
The Palas, Great Hall, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
The Palas, Great Hall
Castle Painting, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Castle Painting
View of an important Tapestry within Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
View of an important Tapestry within Wartburg Castle
View of Wartburg Castle from the lookout point, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
View of Wartburg Castle from the lookout point
Wartburg Castle Mosaic, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Wartburg Castle Mosaic
Castle Well, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Castle Well
The Palas, Great Hall, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
The Palas, Great Hall
The Bailiff's Lodge, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
The Bailiff's Lodge
The Bailiff's Lodge and Castle Well, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
The Bailiff's Lodge and Castle Well
Gold Cross, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Gold Cross
Eisenach Building, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Eisenach Building
View from the Castle Walls, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
View from the Castle Walls
The Palas, Great Hall, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
The Palas, Great Hall
Armour Helmet, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Armour Helmet
Castle Fresco, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Castle Fresco
Castle Well, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Castle Well
Castle Fresco, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Castle Fresco
The Elizabeth Hallway, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
The Elizabeth Hallway
View from the Castle Gate, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
View from the Castle Gate
Pillar Carvings, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Pillar Carvings
A Lutheran Bible, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
A Lutheran Bible
Upper Floor Window, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Upper Floor Window
Main Castle Tower, Wartburg Castle, Thuringia, Germany
Main Castle Tower

Hohenzollern Castle

Text by Footside; Photography by Eric Starling, Mike Minckler and Footside

Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Hohenzollern Castle
Castle Tower, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Castle Tower
Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Hohenzollern Castle
Main Courtyard, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Main Courtyard
Stained Glass, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Stained Glass
Entrance Gate and Tower, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Entrance Gate and Tower

Hohenzollern is one heck of a polished castle. The location is almost unrivaled in an otherwise flat, low-lying landscape sitting atop the apex of a slow sweeping hill covered by thick forest some 234 metres above the surrounding plains. A perfect spot for a castle, Hohenzollern has the advantage of being able too see far and wide, and also to be seen from far and wide. Even today, the unavoidable sight of the spires of Hohenzollern Castle act as a constant reminder of where you are and the history of this land. The castle can be reached by a long walk from the town of Hechigen. This town is well serviced by public transport and, conveniently, there is a shuttle bus running to the castle. The castle itself is the seat of the Prussian Royal Family, which once entitled the holder to claim the position of Emperor of Germany. This explains the sheer size, expanse and grandeur of the castle. With massive walls, turrets and towers spearing skywards, Hohenzollern castle is huge. The thick stone foundations, royal statues and family crests capture a real medieval feel, however, this is tempered by the relatively modern appearance of the buildings. The hilltop is recorded to have had its first fortress built in the 11th century which was destroyed by a ten month siege in 1423, then rebuilt later that century. By the 1700s, the original castle fell into disrepair after losing strategic importance. The current form was largely revived and rebuilt in the mid 19th century, not as an active castle but as a family memorial. Of course, the benefit of this being a modern 'show castle' is obvious. A great museum, fantastic artworks, decadent dining and reception halls and all manner of smaller sub-rooms and quarters fit for a king. The grounds of the castle are freely accessible to the public, however, getting inside the buildings to view the amazing stained glass among other aspects requires a guided tour. The walk back down the hillside into Hechigen is recommended. Just remember it will take some time and it gets real hot in the summer. Nonetheless it's a pleasant stroll through open fields and provides a great view of the castle as it towers over the land.

One of the Castle Towers, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
One of the Castle Towers
Castle Upper Walls, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Castle Upper Walls
Inner Courtyard, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Inner Courtyard
Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Hohenzollern Castle
Entrance Tunnel, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Entrance Tunnel
Castle Towers, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Castle Towers
Stained Glass, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Stained Glass
Stained Glass, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Stained Glass
Stained Glass, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Stained Glass
Castle Tower, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Castle Tower
Inner Courtyard, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Inner Courtyard
Outside Walls, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Outside Walls
Hohenzollern Emblem, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Hohenzollern Emblem
Hohenzollern Castle from the Road, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Hohenzollern Castle from the Road
Inner Courtyard, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Inner Courtyard
View of Hohenzollern Castle from the road to the nearby town of Hechingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
View of Hohenzollern Castle from the road to the nearby town of Hechingen
Statues and tower of Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Statues and tower of Hohenzollern Castle
Outside Walls, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Outside Walls
Stained Glass, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Stained Glass
Castle Tower, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Castle Tower
Statue, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Statue
Statue, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Statue
Statue, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Statue
Entrance Gate, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Entrance Gate
Chapel, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Chapel
Outside Walls, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Outside Walls
Statue, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Statue
Inner Courtyard, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Inner Courtyard
Statue, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Statue
Dragon Killing Statue, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Dragon Killing Statue
Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Hohenzollern Castle
Castle Towers, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Castle Towers
Inner Courtyard, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Inner Courtyard
Tower and Statues, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Tower and Statues
Inner Courtyard, Hohenzollern Castle, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Inner Courtyard

Mont Saint-Michel

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling

Mont Saint-Michel Backflip, Normandy, France
Mont Saint-Michel Backflip
View from outer walls, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View from outer walls
Mont Saint-Michel at Night, Normandy, France
Mont Saint-Michel at Night
View of the island at low tide, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View of the island at low tide
The single street on the island, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
The single street on the island
View of the island at low tide, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View of the island at low tide

Mont Saint-Michel is a breathtaking ancient monastery perched on an isolated tidal island in the Normandy region of France. The Mont is a UNESCO World Heritage site and this magical little island, situated at the mouth of the Couesnon River, has under 50 full time residents but hosts more than 3 million people annually. Mont Saint-Michel became an important pilgrimage centre in 708 AD when, as legend has it, the Archangel Michael appeared to the local Bishop and instructed him to make a church on the island in the bay. Through the centuries it was one of the top pilgrimage sites in Christianity and specifically in Northern Europe. During the day, the small one-street village becomes packed with visitors who run the gauntlet up to the monastery through tourist stalls and restaurants. By night, the island empties and a peaceful silence descends over it, giving the narrow alleys and ramparts a serene and mystical quality. This fascinating little island deserves more than just a quick stopover to appreciate all it has to offer and staying overnight on the island itself is well worth the time; just make sure you book ahead. Regardless of your time frame, don't miss the opportunity to gaze upon the Mont as it punctuates an otherwise flat and mundane landscape.

Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey, Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey
The town on the island at sunset, Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
The town on the island at sunset
Restaurant on lower walls, Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Restaurant on lower walls
View from the parking lot in 2007, Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View from the parking lot in 2007
View of the island at low tide, Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View of the island at low tide
View of the island from the road, Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View of the island from the road
Outer Walls, Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Outer Walls
Looking up from lower walls, Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Looking up from lower walls
The single winding street up the island, Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
The single winding street up the island
Lower Walls, Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Lower Walls
Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey, Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey
Lower Walls, Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Lower Walls
Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey, Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey
Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey Entrance, Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey Entrance
View from the mud flats, Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View from the mud flats
Lower level building, Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Lower level building
The village at night, Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
The village at night
View over the mud flats, Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View over the mud flats
Panoramic view of Mont Saint-Michel from the mud flats at low tide in 2007, Normandy, France
Panoramic view of Mont Saint-Michel from the mud flats at low tide in 2007
Panoramic view of the island of Mont Saint-Michel from the road, Normandy, France
Panoramic view of the island of Mont Saint-Michel from the road
Lower Walls, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Lower Walls
Stained Glass in the abbey, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Stained Glass in the abbey
Building in the village, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Building in the village
View of the abbey, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View of the abbey
The Mont at Night, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
The Mont at Night
Mont Saint Michel Backflip, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Mont Saint Michel Backflip
Post Office, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Post Office
The village at night, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
The village at night
Main street on the island, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Main street on the island
Lower Walls, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Lower Walls
Inside Mont Saint Michel Abbey, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Inside Mont Saint Michel Abbey
View of mud flats, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View of mud flats
View of the abbey, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View of the abbey
View of the abbey, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View of the abbey
View of the abbey, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View of the abbey
Panoramic view of the lower walls of Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Panoramic view of the lower walls of Mont Saint-Michel
Panoramic view of Mont Saint-Michel at low tide, Normandy, France
Panoramic view of Mont Saint-Michel at low tide
View of Mont Saint-Michel from German Cemetery lookout, Normandy, France
View of Mont Saint-Michel from German Cemetery lookout
View from the abbey, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View from the abbey
View of the abbey, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View of the abbey
Lower village, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Lower village
Inside the abbey, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Inside the abbey
Upper level of the abbey, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Upper level of the abbey
Inside the abbey, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Inside the abbey
Inside the abbey, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Inside the abbey
Inside the abbey, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Inside the abbey
Sunset shadow of the island, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Sunset shadow of the island
Lower walls, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Lower walls
View of the abbey, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View of the abbey
The main street, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
The main street
View from mud flats, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View from mud flats
View from road, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View from road
View from river side, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View from river side
Backside view from mud flats, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Backside view from mud flats
The abbey at night, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
The abbey at night
View of mud flats, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View of mud flats
Lower Walls, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Lower Walls
Inside the abbey, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Inside the abbey
View from the road, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View from the road
View from lower walls, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
View from lower walls
Inside the abbey, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Inside the abbey
Main Street, Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy, France
Main Street

Heidelberg

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling and Mike Minckler

View of the Church of the Holy Spirit, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
View of the Church of the Holy Spirit
Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle
Wine Keg, Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Wine Keg, Heidelberg Castle
Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle
Kornmarkt and Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Kornmarkt and Heidelberg Castle
View of the Old Bridge from the Castle, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
View of the Old Bridge from the Castle

Heidelberg is a thriving riverside city in southwest Germany that is world renowned for its Baroque style Old Town, its Renaissance Castle and the oldest university in the country. The Old Town consists of the usual well kept high street, with squares and a cathedral, that offers some fantastic bars and restaurants along with shopping establishments. The main feature of the Old Town is the looming Heidelberg Castle that stands some 80 metres above the area perched on a hillside. Heidelberg Castle was originally a small fortress in the early 1200s before becoming two separate castles on the same hillside and finally a proper castle/palace for a king in 1401. At this time Rupert III became Emperor and expanded the castle and its surrounding lands to ensure it would impress visitors and also serve as a defensive structure if need be. The castle even served as a prison in the early 1400s for a pope deposed by the Holy Roman Emperor before it, like many other castles in Germany, was ravaged during the 30 Years War. Also, during the next couple of hundred years, the castle was hit twice by powerful bolts of lightning that destroyed two sections of the vast structure. By the 1700s, the royal court was moved to Mannheim which signaled the beginning of Heidelberg's gradual decline. The castle would become a romantic ruin and still acts as much today. There are some fantastic detailed statues of past kings and high ranking officials that adorn a number of facades of the castle and survive to this day. The giant kegs used for making wine centuries ago can still be seen taking up entire rooms and the surrounding gardens on the hillside provide some panoramic views of the Old Town and River Neckar that runs through the valley. Due to the fact Heidelberg has one of the oldest universities in Europe, dating from 1386, and was a major location of the royal court centuries ago, it is established as a transport hub that allows great train and motorway access to the surrounding region and neighbouring France. Heidelberg is a fun and lively town that provides a great base for exploring the surrounding Rhine area, if you're looking for an alternative to staying near the sprawl of Frankfurt.

View of Heidelberg Old Town and Old Bridge, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
View of Heidelberg Old Town and Old Bridge
Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle
Heidelberg Old Town, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Old Town
Heidelberg Castle Backflip, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle Backflip
Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle
Heidelberg Castle and River Neckar, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle and River Neckar
Lowenbrau Bar, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Lowenbrau Bar
Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle
Old Houses across the River Neckar, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Old Houses across the River Neckar
Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle
Heidelberg Castle and Old Town, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle and Old Town
Heidelberg Castle Fountain, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle Fountain
Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle
Heidelberg Castle Statue, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle Statue
Church of the Holy Spirit, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Church of the Holy Spirit
Heidelberg Old Town, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Old Town
Heidelberg Castle Wine Keg, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle Wine Keg
Heidelberg Castle Fountain Backflip, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle Fountain Backflip
Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle
Church of the Holy Spirit, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Church of the Holy Spirit
Heidelberg Old Town, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Old Town
View of Heidelberg Castle on the left, Heidelberg Old Town and the River Neckar, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
View of Heidelberg Castle on the left, Heidelberg Old Town and the River Neckar
Heidelberg Castle Statues, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle Statues
Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle
Heidelberg Castle Facade, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle Facade
Heidelberg Zoo, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Zoo
Heidelberg Castle Statues, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle Statues
Heidelberg Zoo, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Zoo
Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle
Heidelberg Old Town, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Old Town
Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle
Heidelberg Castle Statue, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle Statue
Heidelberg Castle Statue, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle Statue
Heidelberg Castle Statue, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle Statue
Heidelberg Castle Wine Keg, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle Wine Keg
Heidelberg Castle Wine Keg, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle Wine Keg
Heidelberg Castle Wine Keg, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle Wine Keg
Heidelberg Castle Wine Keg, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle Wine Keg
Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle
Heidelberg Castle Emblem, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle Emblem
Heidelberg Old Town, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Old Town
Heidelberg Castle, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Castle
Heidelberg Old Town, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Heidelberg Old Town

Dresden, Königstein Fortress and Schloss Moritzburg

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling

Semperoper, Opera House, Dresden, Saxony, Germany
Semperoper, Dresden
Schloss Moritzburg, Moritzburg Castle, Saxony, Germany
Schloss Moritzburg
Festung Königstein, Königstein Fortress, Saxony, Germany
Festung Königstein
Hausmannsturm Tower, Dresden, Saxony, Germany
Hausmannsturm Tower, Dresden
Schloss Moritzburg, Saxony, Germany
Schloss Moritzburg
Friedrichsburg on Königstein Fortress, Saxony, Germany
Friedrichsburg on Königstein Fortress

Dresden is a beautiful city in Eastern Germany that has seen prosperity as well as utter destruction in its long history. Located on the river Elbe, not far from the border with the Czech Republic, Dresden was the capital and royal residence of the Kings of Saxony for centuries. During those prosperous times, Dresden became a key centre for art and culture which was funded by the wealthy kings and for a time was known as the 'Florence of the North'. More recently, it was the site of one of the more controversial Allied actions of World War II when it was completely destroyed by firebombing by the US and Britain in February of 1945. Serious comprehensive reconstruction has worked to rebuild Dresden and now the city is one of the more successful stories to emerge after decades of languishing under communism. The city offers some spectacular art galleries with some of the finest art works commissioned during Dresden's golden era. The Old Masters Gallery in particular is a must see with over 750 paintings from the 15th - 18th centuries. For a look at before-and-after examples of the fireboming of Dresden during WWII, there is a sobering exhibition on its destruction and rebirth that puts this late action of the war in perspective. Dresden also has some amazing sites that can be visited as day trips around the local region. Saxony Switzerland is a hilly area nearby that has all sorts of unique sandstone formations for climbing and hiking. The Festung Königstein, or Königstein Fortress, is a massive complex on a sandstone plateau some 240 metres above the River Elbe that has been a defensive position with some kind of castle or fortress since the 1200s. The walk around the perimeter of the walls and sheer sandstone cliffs overlooking the surrounding hills and River Elbe are fantastic. An even closer day trip is to the lavish Schloss Moritzburg. Only 13 km from Dresden, this "castle" was a luxurious hunting lodge for the kings of Saxony. Set on expansive lands that remain as a park, the king would hunt at his leisure and entertain guests of the state in the palatial rooms. Moritzburg is an easy half day trip or you can bring a lunch and picnic in the park while taking your time. Dresden has outdoor activities, plenty of art and history on offer and numerous day trips around the local area providing days worth of exploration. Be sure to take time to sit back on the banks of the Elbe and have a drink or two while absorbing the view of a city that has risen from rubble and repression to reclaim most of its former beauty.

View from the Hausmannsturm Tower of the Semperoper Opera House on the left and the Katholische Hofkirche Cathedral in the middle with the Elbe River running through Dresden, Saxony, Germany
View from the Hausmannsturm Tower of the Semperoper Opera House on the left and the Katholische Hofkirche Cathedral in the middle with the Elbe River running through Dresden
View of Festung Königstein, the Königstein Fortress which is one of the largest hilltop fortresses in Europe, an easy day trip from Dresden, Saxony, Germany
View of Festung Königstein, the Königstein Fortress which is one of the largest hilltop fortresses in Europe, an easy day trip from Dresden
View of Schloss Moritzburg, the hunting lodge for the kings of Saxony, an easy day trip from Dresden, Saxony, Germany
View of Schloss Moritzburg, the hunting lodge for the kings of Saxony, an easy day trip from Dresden
Königstein Fortress, Saxony, Germany
Königstein Fortress
Old Masters Gallery, Dresden, Saxony, Germany
Old Masters Gallery, Dresden
Schloss Moritzburg, Saxony, Germany
Schloss Moritzburg
Semperoper, Dresden, Saxony, Germany
Semperoper, Dresden
The Procession of Princes or Fürstenzug, Dresden, Saxony, Germany
The Procession of Princes or Fürstenzug, Dresden
Dresden Building, Saxony, Germany
Dresden Building
Königstein Fortress, Saxony, Germany
Königstein Fortress
Königstein Fortress Gate, Saxony, Germany
Königstein Fortress Gate
Dresden Main Square, Saxony, Germany
Dresden Main Square
The Procession of Princes or Fürstenzug, Dresden, Saxony, Germany
The Procession of Princes or Fürstenzug, Dresden
View of the River Elbe from Königstein Fortress, Saxony, Germany
View of the River Elbe from Königstein Fortress
Katholische Hofkirche Cathedral, Dresden, Saxony, Germany
Katholische Hofkirche Cathedral, Dresden
Königstein Fortress, Saxony, Germany
Königstein Fortress
Dresden Frauenkirche in 2004, Saxony, Germany
Dresden Frauenkirche in 2004
View from Königstein Fortress, Saxony, Germany
View from Königstein Fortress
Katholische Hofkirche Cathedral and River Elbe, Dresden, Saxony, Germany
Katholische Hofkirche Cathedral and River Elbe, Dresden
Dresden Door Handle, Saxony, Germany
Dresden Door Handle
Old Masters Gallery, Dresden, Saxony, Germany
Old Masters Gallery, Dresden
View of the Dresden Skyline in 2004 as the city rebuilds, Saxony, Germany
View of the Dresden Skyline in 2004 as the city rebuilds
Schloss Moritzburg, near Dresden, Saxony, Germany
Schloss Moritzburg, near Dresden
View from Königstein Fortress in Saxony Switzerland, near Dresden, Saxony, Germany
View from Königstein Fortress in Saxony Switzerland, near Dresden
The Procession of Princes or Fürstenzug, Dresden, Saxony, Germany
The Procession of Princes or Fürstenzug, Dresden
View from Hausmannsturm Tower, Dresden, Saxony, Germany
View from Hausmannsturm Tower, Dresden
Old Masters Gallery, Dresden, Saxony, Germany
Old Masters Gallery, Dresden
View from Königstein Fortress of the Elbe and village of Königstein, Saxony, Germany
View from Königstein Fortress of the Elbe and village of Königstein
Königstein Fortress Gate, Saxony, Germany
Königstein Fortress Gate
Königstein Fortress Backflip, Saxony, Germany
Königstein Fortress Backflip
Schloss Moritzburg, Saxony, Germany
Schloss Moritzburg
Schloss Moritzburg, Saxony, Germany
Schloss Moritzburg
Schloss Moritzburg, Saxony, Germany
Schloss Moritzburg
Katholische Hofkirche Cathedral and River Elbe, Dresden, Saxony, Germany
Katholische Hofkirche Cathedral and River Elbe, Dresden
Dresden Building, Saxony, Germany
Dresden Building
Königstein Fortress, Saxony, Germany
Königstein Fortress
Dresden, Saxony, Germany
Dresden
Hausmannsturm Tower, Dresden, Saxony, Germany
Hausmannsturm Tower, Dresden
Dresden, Saxony, Germany
Dresden
Königstein Fortress, Saxony, Germany
Königstein Fortress
Königstein Fortress, Saxony, Germany
Königstein Fortress
Königstein Fortress, Saxony, Germany
Königstein Fortress
Schloss Moritzburg, Saxony, Germany
Schloss Moritzburg
Schloss Moritzburg, Saxony, Germany
Schloss Moritzburg
Schloss Moritzburg, Saxony, Germany
Schloss Moritzburg
Dresden, Saxony, Germany
Dresden
Königstein Fortress, Saxony, Germany
Königstein Fortress
Königstein Fortress, Saxony, Germany
Königstein Fortress
View from the Hausmannsturm Tower of the Katholische Hofkirche Cathedral with the Elbe River running through Dresden, Saxony, Germany
View from the Hausmannsturm Tower of the Katholische Hofkirche Cathedral with the Elbe River running through Dresden

St Michael's Mount, England

Text and Photography by Eric Starling

St Michael's Mount at low tide, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
St Michael's Mount at low tide
Mural of St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
Mural of St Michael's Mount
Inner Keep of St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
Inner Keep of St Michael's Mount
View of the harbour and town of Marazion, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
View of the harbour and town of Marazion
Stained Glass in St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
Stained Glass in St Michael's Mount
Ancient Causeway at St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
Ancient Causeway at St Michael's Mount

St Michael's Mount is a tidal island, capped by a castle, located some 360 metres off the coast of Cornwall in southern England, near the town of Penzance. The little island is connected by an ancient causeway of granite stones that is passable on foot at low tide but can be covered by up to five or more metres of water at high tide. The 'Mount', as it is known locally, got its name in the 5th century when the Archangel St Michael appeared to fishermen on the Mount. Having been a monastery from the 8th century onwards, it was associated with Mont St Michel across the English Channel in Normandy France for a few hundred years before it was seized by the English crown, ending the monastic association between the two. St Michaels Mount has withstood a number of sieges throughout its history and even a tsunami caused by the 1755 earthquake in Portugal. The island was sold in 1659 to the St Aubyn family who still inhabit the castle today. The island itself is a small collection of buildings with the castle being the key feature. The castle boasts a variety of rooms with a chapel, grand hall and impressive map room. The Mount is now a popular tourist destination run by the National Trust and with the large sandy beach that is opposite the island running along the Cornish coast, it is a great place to spend a day soaking up some history and a little beach time.

St Michael's Mount at low tide, the causeway is just starting to get covered as the tide comes in, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
St Michael's Mount at low tide, the causeway is just starting to get covered as the tide comes in
View of the town of Marazion from the base of St Michael's Mount just as the tide is coming in, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
View of the town of Marazion from the base of St Michael's Mount just as the tide is coming in
Inner Keep of St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
Inner Keep of St Michael's Mount
Stained Glass in St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
Stained Glass in St Michael's Mount
View over the English Channel, St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
View over the English Channel
St Michael's Mount at high tide, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
St Michael's Mount at high tide
St Michael's Mount at low tide, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
St Michael's Mount at low tide
The castle on St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
The castle on St Michael's Mount
View of the cliffs below the castle, St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
View of the cliffs below the castle
St Michael's Mount at low tide, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
St Michael's Mount at low tide
View from below the castle of the Cornish flag, St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
View from below the castle of the Cornish flag
View from the castle, St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
View from the castle
View of Penzance from St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
View of Penzance from St Michael's Mount
World War II Pillbox on St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
World War II Pillbox on St Michael's Mount
St Michael's Mount from the beach at low tide, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
St Michael's Mount from the beach at low tide
View of the English Channel from St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
View of the English Channel from St Michael's Mount
St Michael's Mount Harbour where boats ferry visitors back to the mainland, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
St Michael's Mount Harbour where boats ferry visitors back to the mainland
St Michael's Mount at low tide, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
St Michael's Mount at low tide
View of the submerged Causeway, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
View of the submerged Causeway
St Michael's Mount from the Beach, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
St Michael's Mount from the Beach
St Michael's Mount Backflip, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
St Michael's Mount Backflip
Stained Glass in St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
Stained Glass in St Michael's Mount
View of Cornish Countryside from St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
View of Cornish Countryside from St Michael's Mount
View of Castle at St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
View of Castle at St Michael's Mount
Inner Hall in St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
Inner Hall in St Michael's Mount
Canon defenses at St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
Canon defenses at St Michael's Mount
Mural of the surrounding coastline, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
Mural of the surrounding coastline
The Library of St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
The Library of St Michael's Mount
Entrance to the castle of St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
Entrance to the castle of St Michael's Mount
View of Cornish Countryside from St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
View of Cornish Countryside from St Michael's Mount
Stained Glass in St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
Stained Glass in St Michael's Mount
St Michael's Mount at high tide, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
St Michael's Mount at high tide
St Michael's Mount Causeway, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
St Michael's Mount Causeway
Inner Keep of St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
Inner Keep of St Michael's Mount
Chapel at St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
Chapel at St Michael's Mount
St Michael's Mount at low tide, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
St Michael's Mount at low tide
View of the Causeway Entrance to St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
View of the Causeway Entrance to St Michael's Mount
View of the town of Penzance from St Michael's Mount, Cornwall, England, United Kingdom
View of the town of Penzance from St Michael's Mount

Belvoir Castle, England

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling

Front Facade and Round Tower, Belvoir Castle, England, United Kingdom
Front Facade and Round Tower
Front Facade, Belvoir Castle, England, United Kingdom
Front Facade
Side View, Belvoir Castle, England, United Kingdom
Side View

Belvoir Castle is a stately home set in the rolling fields of the English countryside, in the county of Leicestershire. The site of the current Belvoir Castle, like many castles in the United Kingdom, was originally a fortress built by the conquering Normans in the 11th century. The castle you see today is the fourth structure to have stood on this spot since Norman times. There is a distinctly Gothic aspect to Belvoir Castle which the architect used to give it a more romantic medieval appearance. The central tower of the castle is also quite similar to the central tower at the royal castle of Windsor although on a much smaller scale. Belvoir has been used for a number of television and movie locations, most notably in the Da Vinci Code as the Pope's summer residence. Today the grounds have some interesting statues and gardens to view along with the lavish interior apartments and collection of paintings accumulated over the centuries by the Manner family who have owned the castle for over 500 years. Belvoir Castle is an easy side trip off the M1 motorway near the city of Nottingham and can be a pleasant break in the countryside for an afternoon.

Belvoir Castle Backflip, Belvoir Castle, England, United Kingdom
Belvoir Castle Backflip
Gardens, Belvoir Castle, England, United Kingdom
Gardens
View from Gardens, Belvoir Castle, England, United Kingdom
View from Gardens
View from Gardens, Belvoir Castle, England, United Kingdom
View from Gardens
Mini Tower, Belvoir Castle, England, United Kingdom
Mini Tower
Side View, Belvoir Castle, England, United Kingdom
Side View
View from the surround fields, Belvoir Castle, England, United Kingdom
View from the surround fields
Front Facade, Belvoir Castle, England, United Kingdom
Front Facade
Nearby Power Station, Belvoir Castle, England, United Kingdom
Nearby Power Station
Round Tower, Belvoir Castle, England, United Kingdom
Round Tower
Side View, Belvoir Castle, England, United Kingdom
Side View
Front Facade, Belvoir Castle, England, United Kingdom
Front Facade
View from Belvoir Castle overlooking the surrounding fields, Belvoir Castle, England, United Kingdom
View from Belvoir Castle overlooking the surrounding fields

Warwick, England

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling

Lord Leycester Hospital, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Lord Leycester Hospital
Warwick Castle and River Avon, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Warwick Castle and River Avon
View of the town of Warwick, England, United Kingdom
View of the town of Warwick
Inner Courtyard, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Inner Courtyard, Warwick Castle
Stained Glass, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Stained Glass, Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle and River Avon, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Warwick Castle and River Avon

Warwick Castle is an exceptionally well preserved medieval castle located in the town of Warwick, on the River Avon. Originally built out of wood by William the Conqueror in 1068, the castle was rebuilt in stone sometime in the 12th century and has undergone many changes and additions over its long history. By the late 1560's, the castle had fallen into ruin and by the start of the 17th century, plans were made to convert it into a country house. Warwick Castle was owned by a prominent Parliamentarian during the English civil war in the 1640's and successfully withstood a siege from Royalist forces. It is surprising, looking at the castle today and picturing it under siege, as the current structure is more manner-house than fortress. There are still some excellent remaining walls and towers open for exploring that must have served for defensive purposes. In 1978, the castle was purchased by a company that runs many of the theme parks in England, and proceeded to turn it into a true medieval castle experience. There are mock sieges staged, medieval battles re-enacted, a falconry show, gardens, armour, weaponry and many other related activities on offer. Even the dungeons have been recreated with sounds and smells that you might have found 400 years ago. Warwick Castle is a money making machine with huge lines for entry in the summer months and a hefty admission fee as well. It is a place where the family can spend the entire day living, seeing and experiencing what a medieval castle could have been like. Frankly, this commercialization takes away from what is an exceptionally well preserved and historically important castle. However, the amount of resources invested in recreating medieval life is something you won't see at too many places, just expect to share it with many other children and adults alike.

Guys Tower, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Guys Tower, Warwick Castle
Stained Glass, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Stained Glass, Warwick Castle
Caesar's Tower, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Caesar's Tower, Warwick Castle
Warwick Residential Buildings, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Warwick Residential Buildings
Inner Courtyard, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Inner Courtyard, Warwick Castle
Gatehouse Tower, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Gatehouse Tower, Warwick Castle
View from Guys Tower of Warwick Castle and surrounding area, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
View from Guys Tower of Warwick Castle and surrounding area
Warwick Castle Inner Courtyard, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Warwick Castle Inner Courtyard
Gatehouse and Caesar's Tower, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Gatehouse and Caesar's Tower, Warwick Castle
Suit of Armour, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Suit of Armour, Warwick Castle
Guys Tower, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Guys Tower, Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Warwick Castle
Medieval Event, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Medieval Event, Warwick Castle
Inner Courtyard, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Inner Courtyard, Warwick Castle
Stained Glass, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Stained Glass, Warwick Castle
Suit of Armour, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Suit of Armour, Warwick Castle
Stained Glass, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Stained Glass, Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle and River Avon, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Warwick Castle and River Avon
Warwick Residential Buildings, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Warwick Residential Buildings
Inner Courtyard, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Inner Courtyard, Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle and River Avon, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Warwick Castle and River Avon
Lord Leycester Hospital, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Lord Leycester Hospital
Gatehouse Tower, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Gatehouse Tower, Warwick Castle
Pistol, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Pistol, Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle Interior, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Warwick Castle Interior
Shield, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Shield, Warwick Castle
Stained Glass, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Stained Glass, Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle Interior, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Warwick Castle Interior
Stained Glass, Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Stained Glass, Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Warwick Castle
Warwick Residential Buildings, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Warwick Residential Buildings
Lord Leycester Hospital, Warwick, England, United Kingdom
Lord Leycester Hospital

Leeds Castle, England

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling

Castle and Lake, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Castle and Lake
Entrance Bridge over the Lake, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Entrance Bridge over the Lake
Castle and Lake, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Castle and Lake
Front Facade, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Front Facade
Path to Tourist Entrance, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Path to Tourist Entrance
Path to Tourist Entrance, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Path to Tourist Entrance

Leeds Castle is a beautifully preserved castle/ former royal residence located in the middle of a small lake in the southeast of England, near the town of Maidstone. Originally built as a Norman stronghold in 1119, the castle has changed its shape and size multiple times over the centuries, depending on the tastes of successive kings and queens. Unlike many castles and fortresses in England that were destroyed during the English Civil War of the 1640's, Leeds Castle was owned at the time by a wealthy landowner who sided with the Parliamentarians, ensuring its survival. The current form of the castle you see today is the result of extensive repairs and redesign to the Tudor style, which was popular in the 1800's. Now listed as a heritage site in England, Leeds Castle is a popular tourist site featuring large grounds with gardens, a hedge maze, an underground grotto and a golf course. An afternoon can easily be spent strolling the grounds of Leeds Castle, appreciating the site from the surrounding banks where black and white swans paddle around leisurely.

Panoramic view of Leeds Castle and the surrounding lake, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Panoramic view of Leeds Castle and the surrounding lake
Panoramic view of Leeds Castle and foreground buildings, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Panoramic view of Leeds Castle and foreground buildings
Panoramic view of Leeds Castle from across the lake on the north west side, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Panoramic view of Leeds Castle from across the lake on the north west side
Castle and Lake, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Castle and Lake
Leeds Castle Backflip, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Leeds Castle Backflip
Unique Black Swan, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Unique Black Swan
Tourist Entrance, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Tourist Entrance
Inner Courtyard, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Inner Courtyard
Near Tourist Entrance, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Near Tourist Entrance
Entrance bridge over the Lake, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Entrance bridge over the Lake
Castle and Lake, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Castle and Lake
Defensive Bridge, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Defensive Bridge
Front Facade, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Front Facade
Commemorative Sundial, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Commemorative Sundial
Front Facade, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Front Facade
Entrance bridge over the Lake, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Entrance bridge over the Lake
Leeds Castle Backflip, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Leeds Castle Backflip
Front Facade, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Front Facade
Leeds Castle Backflip, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Leeds Castle Backflip
Castle and Lake, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Castle and Lake
Castle and Lake, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Castle and Lake
Panoramic view of Leeds Castle front Facade, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Panoramic view of Leeds Castle front Facade
Panoramic view of path to Tourist Entrance, Leeds Castle, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Panoramic view of path to Tourist Entrance
Panoramic view of Leeds Castle front Facade, Kent, England, United Kingdom
Panoramic view of Leeds Castle front Facade

Trentino Alto Adige Castles

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling

Castelle di Avio, Avio, Trentino Alto Adige Castles, Italy
Castelle di Avio, Avio
Castel Toblino, Trentino Alto Adige Castles, Italy
Castel Toblino
Besenello Town, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Besenello Town
Castel Beseno, Besenello, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Castel Beseno, Besenello

The mountain valleys north of Verona in the Trentino Alto Adige region are unique with ruined castles, impressive palaces and every kind of fortification you can imagine dotting the landscape. With the possible exception of stretches of the Rhine River in Germany, there are more castles concentrated in this region of Europe than anywhere else. This valley was a key trade route in Roman times but gained even more prominence during the 11th century, as the Holy Roman Empire and then the Austrian Empire took possession of the valleys and routes surrounding Trento. Often known as the "Land of Castles", the area has literally dozens upon dozens of fortresses ranging from romantic ruins to a plush expensive castle converted to a hotel. Some castles tower on peaks and mountain sides above valleys (Castelle di Avio) while others are nestled on the shores of mountain lakes (Castel Toblino). There are battle hardened fortifications (Castel Beseno) and palaces complete with renaissance frescoes (Castello del Buonconsiglio). You will need a car to properly explore most of these locations as the area is not heavily populated and most castles do not have public transport available. Spending at least a couple of days in this area is a must but you will have to spend a week or more to really get a taste of the importance of this area centuries ago.

Castel Beseno, Besenello, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Castel Beseno, Besenello
Castello di Avio, Avio, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Castello di Avio, Avio
Trento, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Trento
Castello di Avio, Avio, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Castello di Avio, Avio
Castel Toblino, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Castel Toblino
Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento
View from Castel Beseno, Besenello, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
View from Castel Beseno, Besenello
Castel Beseno, Besenello, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Castel Beseno, Besenello
Castel Beseno, Besenello, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Castel Beseno, Besenello
Castel Beseno, Besenello, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Castel Beseno, Besenello
Castel Beseno, Besenello, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Castel Beseno, Besenello
Castello di Avio, Avio, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Castello di Avio, Avio
Castel Beseno, Besenello, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Castel Beseno, Besenello
Castel Beseno Backflip, Besenello, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Castel Beseno Backflip, Besenello
Castel Beseno, Besenello, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Castel Beseno, Besenello
Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento
Castello di Avio, Avio, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Castello di Avio, Avio
Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento
Town of Avio, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Town of Avio
Trento, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Trento
Castel Toblino, Trentino Alto Adige, Italy
Castel Toblino

Qal'at Salah al-Din

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling and Footside

Main Keep, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Main Keep
Interior of Main Keep, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Interior of Main Keep
View from Keep Tower, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View from Keep Tower
View from Road to the Castle, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View from Road to the Castle
Tower Staircase, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Tower Staircase
Castle from entrance, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Castle from entrance

Saladin Castle, or Qal'at Salah al-Din in Arabic, is a castle in northwest Syria that used to guard the road between Latakia and Antioch. There was originally a Byzantine castle on this site built in the early 10th century before it was taken over by the crusaders in 1108 AD. The castle is strategically located on a ridge some 700 metres high between two deep gorges with steep sides. Known as Saone when it was a Byzantine and crusader castle, the huge fortress looks to be near impossible to take on. Based on its high perch, the size of the castle meant there were not enough defenders and the castle fell to Saladin in a mere three days in 1188 AD. From then on, it was known as Qal'at Salah al-Din. Most of the castle is a no-go zone of ruined walls and foundations surrounded by vegetation infested with snakes. However, the inner keep and main structural points reinforced by the Crusaders can still be climbed and explored. The site is large and visitors are few so you can have a whole section of the castle hill to yourself which is a unique opportunity. This castle can be visited as an easy day trip from either Latakia or Hama and is easy to combine with other day trip sites in the area.

Qal'at Salah al-Din from the main tower, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Qal'at Salah al-Din from the main tower
Original Entrance where drawbridge stood, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Original Entrance where drawbridge stood
View of Small Tower, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View of Small Tower
View of Keep Tower, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View of Keep Tower
Keep Tower, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Keep Tower
Original Walls, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Original Walls
Secondary Keep, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Secondary Keep
Outer Walls, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Outer Walls
View of Small Tower, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View of Small Tower
View of Wall over the Gorge, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View of Wall over the Gorge
View of Qal'at Salah al-Din from the road to the Castle, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View of Qal'at Salah al-Din from the road to the Castle
View from Castle Walls overlooking the surrounding gorges, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View from Castle Walls overlooking the surrounding gorges
Castle Walls, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Castle Walls
View up the valley from Castle Walls, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View up the valley from Castle Walls
Top of the Keep, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Top of the Keep
View from Keep, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View from Keep
View from Walls, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View from Walls
View from Tower, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View from Tower
Entrance to small Tower, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Entrance to small Tower
View from below castle, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
View from below castle
Small Tower, Qal'at Salah al-Din, Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria
Small Tower

Rhodes

Text by Eric Starling; Photography by Eric Starling, Footside, Sara and Mike Waters

Rhodes Old Town, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Old Town
Palace of the Grand Masters, Rhodes, Greece
Palace of the Grand Masters
Acropolis of Lindos, Lindos, Rhodes, Greece
Acropolis of Lindos
Rhodes Old Town Square, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Old Town Square
Rhodes Old Town Walls, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Old Town Walls
Palace of the Grand Masters, Rhodes, Greece
Palace of the Grand Masters

The Island of Rhodes is a must-see historic Greek island at the crossroads between Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Rhodes' strategic position on important ancient sea routes has provided a rich history stretching back over 5000 years. This long and often violent history has given the island many interesting faces. From the early Greek acropolis of Lindos, to the Crusader built medieval walled town of Rodos (Rhodes), to the Islamic mosque domes and minarets built by conquering Muslim armies. Some of the best moments include walking the 12m high 3m thick, moat-protected walls above Rhodes' Old Town or climbing ancient Greek ruins perched high above the Mediterranean and seeing early Greek writing inscribed into marble pillars. Rhodes is one of those places that is so sought after that the face of the island and its main city (Rodos) have changed drastically over the thousands of years it has been inhabited. The Minoans came in the 16th century BC, the Greek Dorians in the 8th century BC, the Persians overran the island in the 5th century BC, Alexander the Great in 332 BC and then the island signed a peace treaty with Rome in 164 BC. During the Medieval period, the Byzantine period ended with a siege by the Knights Hospitaller which built most of what you see today in the old town of Rhodes. Towering walls and fortifications held off a number of Muslim attempts to take the city until it fell in 1522. From then, it was a possession of the Ottoman sultans for 400 years. Its hard to imagine how one small island has endured so much bloodshed through its history until you set your eyes on the walls, stunning harbour and fertile land. This island was worth fighting for and its more than worth at least a few days of your time to soak up as much history as you can. Picturing the Colossus of Rhodes (one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world) straddling the harbour or determined muslim armies laying siege to the towering walls, all while you enjoy a couple of beers on the waterfront may delay you leaving this amazing Greek island.

Lindos Backflip, Lindos, Rhodes, Greece
Lindos Backflip
Rhodes Old Town Gate, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Old Town Gate
Mandraki Harbour Castle, Rhodes, Greece
Mandraki Harbour Castle
Rhodes Old Town Gate, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Old Town Gate
Entrance to the Palace of the Grand Masters, Rhodes Greece
Entrance to the Palace of the Grand Masters
View from Acropolis of Lindos, Lindos, Rhodes, Greece
View from Acropolis of Lindos
Mandraki Harbour and Castle, possibly where the Colossus of Rhodes stood, Rhodes, Greece
Mandraki Harbour and Castle, possibly where the Colossus of Rhodes stood
Rhodes Old Town, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Old Town
Rhodes Walls and Ramparts, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Walls and Ramparts
Rhodes Moat, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Moat
Rhodes Old Town Gate, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Old Town Gate
Rhodes Moat, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Moat
Rhodes Old Town Skyline, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Old Town Skyline
Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes, Greece
Acropolis of Lindos
Palace of the Grand Masters, Rhodes, Greece
Palace of the Grand Masters
Rhodes Moat from Wall Walk, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Moat from Wall Walk
Rhodes Old Town Gate, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Old Town Gate
Palace of the Grand Masters Mosaic, Rhodes, Greece
Palace of the Grand Masters Mosaic
Palace of the Grand Masters Mosaic, Rhodes, Greece
Palace of the Grand Masters Mosaic
Palace of the Grand Masters, Rhodes, Greece
Palace of the Grand Masters
Rhodes Old Town, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Old Town
Rhodes Old Town Skyline, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Old Town Skyline
Palace of the Grand Masters from Harbour, Rhodes, Greece
Palace of the Grand Masters from Harbour
Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes, Greece
Acropolis of Lindos
Rhodes Old Town Walls, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Old Town Walls
Mandraki Harbour, Rhodes, Greece
Mandraki Harbour
Rhodes Old Town, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Old Town
Rhodes Old Town, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Old Town
Lindos Backflip, Rhodes, Greece
Lindos Backflip
Rhodes Old Town Mosque, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Old Town Mosque
Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes, Greece
Acropolis of Lindos
Rhodes Old Town, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Old Town
Palace of the Grand Masters, Rhodes, Greece
Palace of the Grand Masters
Rhodes Moat, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Moat
Rhodes Old Town, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes Old Town
Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes, Greece
Acropolis of Lindos
Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes, Greece
Acropolis of Lindos

HohenSalzburg

HohenSalzburg is the mightiest fortress in central Europe. It is a powerful castle sitting in a prominent position dominating the skyline of the town of Salzburg in Austria. Salzburg Castle is one of the largest and best preserved medieval castles in all of Europe.  During its long history, it has never been conquered by enemy troops. Construction began in 1077 and by 1462 the ring walls and towers were built.  Exploring the huge grounds of this castle can take hours with full access to almost all areas: there are stables, kitchens, battlements, towers and impressive state rooms for the powerful archbishops that ruled from this high perch. In Salzburg, the Archbishops were influential political figures who profited hugely from nearby salt mines. Consequently, the castle has expanded over the centuries to protect their interests and their large entourage. To access HohenSalzburg you can either take a cable car or hike the old one track road to the main gates. As you labour your way up the steep hill to the main gate you gain a distinct appreciation for how hard it would have been to capture this mighty castle.

Burg Hohenwerfen

Burg Hohenwerfen is one of the most imposing and dramatic castles in Europe. It sits majestically on a 155 metre plateau in a narrow, steep valley surrounded by the mighty Tennengau and Hagen mountain ranges. Located only 40 km from Salzburg, this impressive location in the Alps enhances the castle's fantastic medieval appearance with rough jagged peaks towering over the prominent turrets and walls. Built in 1077 and then expanded during the 12th century, this castle was a second line of defence and a hunting lodge for the powerful Archbishops of Salzburg. The climb up to the castle from the valley floor is an arduous task that pays off hugely upon walking through the defensive narrow gate. The guided tours are excellent with an awesome weapons collection on display. The route takes in every major aspect of the castle from the highest turret to the depths of the castle's dungeon, complete with crude and punishing torture equipment. After peering into the 10 metre deep pit of death in the dungeon you can go outside and sit on the open grass enclosure where a falconry show is displayed. Bald eagles from America and hawks from Tibet fly overhead swooping down to land on the bird master's arm. In a grand finish, they release a huge vulture that soars above the castle before flying down and massacring a piece of meat. The castle that towers dramatically over the small town of Werfen is a medieval experience you will not find anywhere else.