The Dramatic Architecture of Heidelberg Castle in Germany

Heidelberg is a very  popular place to visit in Germany and it is certainly a wonderful city with a charming, historic feel. Clearly it is a popular tourist destination and top among the sites to visit is the castle that looms large over the old town. No matter where you are, the castle is clearly visible on the hillside above the city that lies on the Neckar River. One of the more interesting things is that as you walk around the castle grounds, the castle takes on quite unique perspectives.

View of Some of the Most Preserved Parts of the Castle
View of Some of the Most Preserved Parts of the Castle
Castle Tower
Castle Tower
Signs of Destruction
Signs of Destruction
Looming Above the City

When we visited the castle, we decided to take a guided tour since we often like to hear about the history and see sights that are sometimes only available by tour.  Unfortunately we were disappointed with this particular tour although we really enjoyed the castle itself. Our disappointment was partially due to two young children who misbehaved and disrupted every aspect of the tour, however, even if that hadn’t been the case, it would not have been worth the small price that we paid. The castle has been in a state of constant flux since its original construction in the thirteenth century. What is left today is a ruin of a castle, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth seeing, because it definitely is.

Clear Sky Behind the Castle
Clear Sky Behind the Castle
Gorgeous Castle
Gorgeous Castle
View of the Castle
View of the Castle
More Signs of Destruction
More Signs of Destruction

It is hard to imagine how beautiful it must have been during the height or its glory, but it must have truly been grand. It helps that it was a gorgeous day when we visited, which added to overall beauty of the castle and the city. The castle grounds are no longer filled with lavish gardens, but it is still a beautiful place to visit. Today, the castle is rented out for weddings and special events, so one of the reasons that we didn’t like the tour was the subliminal selling message that we heard throughout the tour. Although the castle is clearly in decay, it is still very much worth visiting if you get the chance to visit Heidelberg.

Model of the Full Castle
Model of the Full Castle
Open Windows
Open Windows
Another View of the Castle
Another View of the Castle
Gorgeous Autumn Day
Gorgeous Autumn Day

Dramatic Bran Castle in Romania

Bran Castle is often referred to as Castle Dracula, but its history has very little to do with Vlad the Impaler who most people associate as being the inspiration of the novel. Apparently, Bram Stoker based his description of Dracula’s castle on a description of Bran Castle that he had read about during the time that he was writing the book. The castle does indeed match his description in that it does sit on the edge of a cliff overlooking the valley below. Bram Stoker never actually visited Transylvania, but the illustration of the castle in the original novel is supposed to match Bran Castle pretty closely. The only actual relationship the castle has with Vlad Dracul is that it was where the tax officers resided who collected taxes from the aristocrats of Bran. Vlad was also reportedly held in the castle for two months by the Hungarian’s after being defeated by their armies. Regardless of whether you go to the castle because of its association to Dracula or just because you enjoy historic castles, the visit is certainly worthwhile.

Bran Castle
The Courtyard
Enjoying the Day

We read a lot of complaints about the size of the crowds visiting the castle before our arrival and needless to say, it is true. As with any popular tourist destination, complaining about the crowds is beyond ridiculous, what else would you truly expect. With that said, we were fortunate to be there during the off-season, so it could have definitely been worse. The second thing that we read was that the castle has been refurbished, not restored, so don’t expect what you see to be truly authentic to the period. Although there are some historic pieces of furniture scattered throughout the rooms of the castle, it is the dramatic views and the castle courtyard in the heart of the castle.

Inside of the Castle
Looking Up at the Tower
Inside of the Castle

It is truly a beautiful part of the country and the views from the castle are quite amazing. Although its popularity is based simply on being the inspiration to the castle in Bram Stoker’s novel, it is quite dramatic to see it almost rising out of the rocky cliffs below. Maybe it is the romantic notion of the folklore, the desire to transcend time and live forever, or just to say we have been there, we enjoyed our brief visit to the castle. There are certainly plenty of things to see in the Carpathian Mountain region of Brasov in Transylvania, but any trip there should probably include Bran Castle.

From Inside of the Courtyard
Gorgeous Views
Medieval Architecture

Bergpark Wilhemshöhe in Kassel, Germany

The very first trip that we took while staying in Germany was to the city of Kassel where we spent most of our time at the incredible Bergpark Wilhemshöhe. There are so many wonderful sights to see on the grounds of the largest European hillside park. Due to it’s size of 590 acres as well as the fact that it sprawls across a steep hill makes it a strenuous day of walking, but the views and historic sites are well worth the effort. The park is made up of four major points of interest, Schloss Wilhemshöhe, Lowenburg Castle, Hercules Statue, and the fountain and water feature that cascades down the hillside.

Schloss Wilhelmshöhe

Entrance to Lowenburg Castle

Hercules Statue

As you enter the sprawling estate, Schloss Wilhemshöhe looms large across the landscape as the prominent feature for anyone who enters the park. As the one-time summer home of Kaiser Wilhem II in the early 1900’s, this magnificent palace was originally built in the 12th century as a monastery and used as a castle for centuries before becoming the summer home of the aristocratic elite. There is no doubt as to the reason that this site with it’s beautiful gardens is still the site of many fairytale weddings, which was also the case on the day that we visited.

Part of the Palace

Pond Behind the Palace

Front of the Palace

For us, the Lowenburg Castle was one of the highlights of our visit to Bergpark Wilhemshöhe. First of all, it was the first true castle that we visited while staying in Germany. It has all of the typical features that one would expect of a castle such as the turrets and fortress walls. In order to reach the castle, you have to walk through a relatively dense forest, which certainly fosters the images of the stories of the Brother’s Grimm who came from the area and whose museum can also be found in Kassel. Walking the grounds of the castle certainly provided all of the images that we had imagined when we envisioned ourselves travelling to Germany.

View of the Castle

Castle Turret

View of the Castle from the Trail

Hercules Statue is certainly a site that cannot be missed. Mostly due to it’s prominent location at the top of the hill and presiding above the cascading fountain, it can be seen from throughout the park. To reach the statue itself, you must scale a long series of stairs the climb steeply up the hill. We chose not to go all of the way to the top, mostly due to the fact that we had a single day in Kassel and we were quite exhausted at this point with all of the walking that we had done through the park. It was certainly an impressive sight to see.

The View from the Bottom

Under Construction

Palace Grounds

Unfortunately for us, the cascading fountain was not running at the time that we visited, but it was still wonderful to see and we could imagine how impressive it must be when it is running. The thought that the statue and the cascading fountain were created in the early 1700’s is something truly hard to imagine. We can only imagine what it must have been like for the elite of Germany society to visit to walk along the grounds and see such an amazing sight.

Bottom of the Falls

Water Cascades Down from the Statue

Pond on the Property

Kassel was definitely a worthwhile location for our first exploration of Germany outside of Frankfurt. Specifically Bergpark Wilhemshöhe was truly incredible to see with everything that is located inside of this incredible UNESCO Heritage site.