Germany - Palaces, Parks and Gardens
The unique sites of past glory are among the most popular destinations in Germany. They take the enthused visitor on a travel back through time. Introducing a tradition and history thousands of years old.
Known all over the world as a symbol of idealised romantic architecture and the tragic tale of its lord. After Ludwig II's sovereignty was taken away, he withdrew into his own world of myths, legend and fairytales on a rugged mountain peak by the Pöllat gorge. He had already felt the lure of the Middle Ages as a child prince growing up in medieval Hohenschwangau Castle. When Ludwig II started construction of Neuschwanstein in 1869, he united aspects of the Wartburg, a quintessentially German castle that had only been restored a year before, with those described in the Castle of the Holy Grail from Wagner's “Parsifal”. Neuschwanstein Castle, which was only given this name after Ludwig II's death, unashamedly harks back to the German Romanesque of the 13th century. Indeed the southern wing was only completed in 1891, five years after the king's mysterious death at Lake Starnberg.
The longest castle in Europe (1,043 metres) and one of Germany's largest, it perches high above the small baroque town of Burghausen in Upper Bavaria on the Austrian border, just like in a fairytale. Its many towers have seen more than a thousand years of history. This monument to late-medieval fortress architecture is laid out like a vast picture spread. The castle's present appearance with its fortified towers, walls which are five metres thick in places, outer wards, keep, ditches, banqueting halls and drawbridges dates from the 13th to 15th centuries. It also has dark chapters in its history, as evidenced by the witches' tower and torture tower (now a museum), the "Spinnhäusl" for female prisoners and the Prechtl Tower, in which the executioner lived.
Wilhelmshöhe Palace & Park, Kasselb
A trip to Italy provided the inspiration for what is now Kassel's première visitor attraction. As soon as Landgrave Karl von Hessen-Kassel set eyes upon the monumental statue of Hercules in Rome, he was smitten. The task of turning the Landgrave's dream into reality fell to an architect from Rome called Giovanni Francesco Guerniero, who created a masterpiece of nature and architecture in the Habichtswald hills between 1701 and 1711. Towering atop a steep 527-metre peak is the Octagonal Palace with the famous Hercules at its very tip. From here, water gushes down a magnificent cascade, passing plateaus and grottos before emptying into the “Neptune basin”. In 1785 Elector Wilhelm I set about transforming the surrounding scenery into the wild and romantic upland forest park we see today, with its water features, embankments and bridges. Wilhelmshöhe Palace, to which he lent his name, is today a museum with an impressive collection of Old Masters.
Royal Herrenhausen Gardens, Hannover
Electress Sophie von Hannover was the mastermind behind these splendid gardens. She had the country estate and summer retreat of Herrenhausen laid out in the style of the impressive baroque gardens created by the House of Orange. At its heart is the Grosser Garten, a park resembling a vast outdoor banqueting hall, where snow-white sandstone sculptures add gravitas to the ordered nature. Herrenhausen is also home to Germany's first garden theatre: with its gilded figures, it is as spectacular a setting today as it was in Electress Sophie's day. The gardens were Sophie's great passion and Herrenhausen became a vibrant rendezvous for prominent figures in European cultural affairs. They have also preserved the history of the Guelph dynasty and illustrate the diversity of European horticulture.
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