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9 Breathtaking German Castles

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Germany, in its many geographical and cultural incarnations, has always been both a crossroads and a political player in Europe. Over the past millennium, the nobility has responded to frequent wars, danger, and even wildlife by building large, sturdy castles—many of which survive today, and most are open for tourism.  

1. MARKSBURG

Marksburg Castle on the Rhine River in Braubach, Germany, has been occupied continuously for over 700 years. Construction began in the 12th century, and the castle was gradually expanded to its present size over the next several hundred years. It is open for tours, and it also serves as the headquarters for the German Castles Association. Yes, there are so many castles in Germany that the owners and preservationists have their own trade union.

2. SIGMARINGEN

Berthold Werner via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

Sigmaringen Castle in the Baden-Württemberg region of Germany was built for the Sigmaringen family, which eventually became a branch of the Hohenzollern family. The earliest part of the castle was built prior to 1077, the date of its earliest written reference. The castle has been expanded many times since then, but the original edifice still exists, buried under additional construction. The castle is owned by Prince Karl Friedrich of Hohenzollern and is open for tours.

3. REICHSBURG COCHEM 

Holger Weinandt via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Cochem Castle in Cochem, Germany, was built by Count Palatine Ezzo of Lotharingia, whose wife was the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Otto II, around 1000 CE. That castle was traded among royalty until it was destroyed by King Louis XIV’s French forces in 1689. It lay in ruins for almost 200 years, until it was purchased by Louis Ravené, who had it rebuilt in 1868. Instead of the original Romanesque style, the new castle is mostly Neo-Gothic. It is open to visitors for guided tours.

4. CHARLOTTENBURG 

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Construction on Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin began in 1695 and was completed in 1713. During that period, Friedrich III of Brandenburg became King Friedrich I of Prussia, so his home became the royal palace. The palace is named for his wife Sophie Charlotte. It was the original home of the legendary Amber Room, built for Sophie Charlotte and given to Peter the Great of Russia in 1716. The room was installed in St. Petersburg until it was dismantled by German soldiers in 1941, and hasn’t been seen since.  

Charlottenburg was mostly destroyed by British bombs during World War II. Berlin officials considered demolishing the remains, but since East Germany razed the Berlin Hohenzollern palace, they became determined to save Charlottenburg. The restoration is still ongoing, but visitors are welcome.       

5. ELTZ

kaʁstn Disk/Cat via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Eltz Castle is near Münstermaifeld, Germany. It is a complex of palaces serving different parts of the original family of the House of Eltz, first mentioned in official records in the year 1157. The manor house of that time, called Platteltz, has been added to over the centuries. The section called Rübenach house was completed in 1472. The Rodendorf house section was built over the next 50 years, and the Kempenich house was completed around 1530. The current owner is Dr. Karl Graf von und zu Eltz, part of the 33rd generation of the family to own Burg Eltz. The castle is open to tourists for part of the year.

6. HOHENZOLLERN

Hohenzollern Castle near Hechingen, Germany, is the ancestral home of the royal Hohenzollern family of Prussia. The original castle was built prior to 1267, which is the oldest written reference found. It was destroyed in 1423 and rebuilt beginning in 1454, but that version fell into ruin after centuries of neglect. Crown Prince Frederick William of Prussia began a reconstruction in 1850. The castle, stilled owned by the Hohenzollern family, is open for tours.

7. LOHR

The Lohr Castle is in the town of Lohr am Main, Germany, and currently houses the Spessart Museum. This Bavarian castle was the birthplace of Maria Sophia Margaretha Catharina von Erthal, believed to be the inspiration for the Brothers Grimm tale "Snow White." To this day, the castle has a mirror on display known as the "Talking Mirror,” which Maria’s father bought for his new wife after her mother died. You know, her stepmother. Many such mirrors were made in Lohr, which was known for its fine glassworks. Lohr mirrors were said to “always speak the truth.”

8. PFALZGRAFENSTEIN

While most castles are built as either a home or a fort, Pfalzgrafenstein Castle on the Rhine River near Kaub, Germany, is neither. It was built in 1327 under King Ludwig of Bavaria as a toll station. The well-fortified, boat-shaped edifice was built on a river island, and a chain from the station to the shores forced river traffic to halt and pay the toll. Armed men in turrets and a dungeon for uncooperative boatsmen helped Bavaria profit mightily from the control of the river. The castle is now a museum, reachable by ferry.  

9. NEUSCHWANSTEIN

Jeff Wilcox via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Neuschwanstein Castle is not medieval, as construction began in 1869. King Ludwig II of Bavaria commissioned the building to resemble earlier German palaces. However, the result combines elements of Romanesque, Gothic, and Byzantine architecture. The king died in 1886, but construction of the palace went on until 1892. Neuschwanstein Castle is still not totally completed. The Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland was modeled in part on Neuschwanstein Castle.

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MODS International, Amazon
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You Can Now Shop for Tiny Houses on Amazon
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MODS International, Amazon

Whether you’re in the market for board games, boxed wine, or pickup trucks, you can likely find what you’re looking for on Amazon. Now, the web retailer’s catalogue of 400,000,000 items includes actual homes. As Curbed reports, Amazon will deliver a tiny house made from a shipping container to your current place of residence.

The pint-sized dwelling is made by the modular home builder MODS International, and is selling for $36,000 (plus $3754 for shipping, even for Prime members). The container is prefabricated and move-in ready, with a bedroom, shower, toilet, sink, kitchenette, and living area built into the 320-square-foot space. The tiny house also includes heating and air conditioning, making it a good fit for any climate. And though the abode does have places to hook up sewage, water, and electrical work, you'll have to do a little work before switching on a light or flushing the toilet.

Becoming a homeowner without the six-digit price tag may sound like a deal, but the MODS International home costs slightly more than the average tiny house. It’s not hard for minimalists to find a place for about $25,000, and people willing to build a home themselves can do so without spending more than $10,000. But it's hard to put a price on the convenience of browsing and buying homes online in your pajamas.

[h/t Curbed]

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For the First Time in 40 Years, Rome's Colosseum Will Open Its Top Floor to the Public
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The Colosseum’s nosebleed seats likely didn’t provide plebeians with great views of gladiatorial contests and other garish spectacles. But starting in November, they’ll give modern-day tourists a bird's-eye look at one of the world’s most famous ancient wonders, according to The Telegraph.

The tiered amphitheater’s fifth and final level will be opened up to visitors for the first time in several decades, following a multi-year effort to clean, strengthen, and restore the crumbling attraction. Tour guides will lead groups of up to 25 people to the stadium’s far-flung reaches, and through a connecting corridor that’s never been opened to the public. (It contains the vestiges of six Roman toilets, according to The Local.) At the summit, which hovers around 130 feet above the gladiator pit below, tourists will get a rare glimpse at the stadium’s sloping galleries, and of the nearby Forum and Palatine Hill.

In ancient Rome, the Colosseum’s best seats were marble benches that lined the amphitheater’s bottom level. These were reserved for senators, emperors, and other important parties. Imperial functionaries occupied the second level, followed by middle-class spectators, who sat behind them. Traders, merchants, and shopkeepers enjoyed the show from the fourth row, and the very top reaches were left to commoners, who had to clamber over steep stairs and through dark tunnels to reach their sky-high perches.

Beginning November 1, 2017, visitors will be able to book guided trips to the Colosseum’s top levels. Reservations are required, and the tour will cost around $11, on top of the normal $14 admission cost. (Gladiator fights, thankfully, are not included.)

[h/t The Telegraph]

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