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Marco Beck via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

9 Breathtaking German Castles

Marco Beck via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

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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Luke Hayes, Asif Khan/Getty Images
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architecture
Vantablack Pavilion at the Winter Olympics Mimics the Darkness of Space
Luke Hayes, Asif Khan/Getty Images
Luke Hayes, Asif Khan/Getty Images

British company Surrey NanoSystems disrupted the color spectrum when it debuted Vantablack: the darkest artificial substance ever made. The material is dark enough to absorb virtually all light waves, making 3D objects look like endless black voids. It was originally designed for technology, but artists and designers have embraced the unique shade. Now, Dezeen reports that British architect Asif Khan has brought Vantablack to the Winter Olympics.

His temporary pavilion at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games in South Korea has been dubbed the darkest building on Earth. The 33-foot-tall structure has been coated with Vantablack VBx2, a version of Vantablack pigment that comes in a spray can.

The building’s sides curve inward like shadowboxes. To break up the all-consuming blackness, Khan outfitted the walls with rods. White lights at the ends of the sticks create the effect of stars scattered across an endless night sky.

Child next to wall painted to look like the night sky.
Luke Hayes, Asif Khan/Getty Images

Khan told Dezeen that the piece is meant to give “the impression of a window cut into space.” He was only able to realize this vision after contacting the scientists behind Vantablack. He told them he wanted to use the color to coat a building, something the pigment wasn’t designed for originally. Sculptor Anish Kapoor securing exclusive rights to artistic use of the color in 2016 further complicated his plans. The solution was the sprayable version: Vantablack VBx2 is structurally (and therefore legally) different from the original pigment and better suited for large-scale projects.

The pavilion was commissioned by Hyundai to promote their hydrogen fuel cell technology. The space-themed exterior is a nod to the hydrogen in stars. Inside, a white room filled with sprinklers is meant to represent the hydrogen found in water.

The area will be open to visitors during the Winter Olympics, which kick off in Pyeongchang, South Korea on Friday, February 9.

[h/t Dezeen]

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Shari Austrian
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Design
You Can Order a Stunningly Detailed LEGO Replica of Your House on Etsy
Shari Austrian
Shari Austrian

LEGO blocks can be used to construct fictional starships and works of abstract art, but there's something comforting in replicating what's familiar to you. That's the concept behind Little Brick Lane, an Etsy shop that promises to custom-build detailed LEGO models of real homes.

Designer Shari Austrian tells Apartment Therapy that the idea came to her when her family was building their real-life house. Her twin boys had recently gotten her interested in LEGO, so she decided to construct a scaled-down, blocky replica to match their new home. She enjoyed the project enough to launch a business around LEGO architecture on Etsy at the end of 2017.

Austrian bases her designs off interior and exterior photos of each house, and if they're available, architectural plans. Over eight to 10 weeks, she constructs the model using LEGO pieces she orders to match the building design perfectly, recreating both the inside and outside of the house in the utmost detail.

To request a custom LEGO abode of your own, you can reach out to Austrian through her Etsy shop, but warning: It won't come cheap. A full model will cost you at least $2500 (the exact price is based on the square footage of your home). That price covers the cost of the materials Austrian invests in each house, which can add up quick. "The average LEGO piece costs approximately 10 cents," she tells Mental Floss, and her models are made up of tens of thousands of pieces. But if you're looking for something slightly cheaper, she also offers exterior-only models for $1500 and up.

For your money, you can be confident that Austrian won't skimp on any details. As you can see in the images below, every feature of your house—from the appliances in your kitchen to the flowers in your yard—will be immortalized in carefully chosen plastic bricks.

A bedroom made of LEGO

A kitchen model made of LEGO

The exterior of a house made of LEGO

[h/t Apartment Therapy]

All images courtesy of Shari Austrian.

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