#traveltomorrow Castles And Palaces You Can Explore From Your Couch

Castles And Palaces
You Can Explore From Your Couch

The travel and tourism industry has practically grounded to a halt within a few weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But that doesn't mean we stop dreaming...

While we're all stuck indoors, you can experience some of the world's most breathtaking castles and palaces from your living room.

Neuschwanstein, Bavaria, Germany

Image by Helmut H. Kroiss from Pixabay 
Walt Disney based his Cinderella castle on this impossibly ornate fairy tale castle in the 19th century Romanesque Revival style. Perched on the top of a steep hill in the village of Hohenschwangau, Bavaria. They didn't call Ludwig II of Bavaria "Mad Ludwig" for nothing - the sheer mania that must have been behind the construction of a palace in that location must have been formidable.
Neuschwanstein interior courtyard - Image by ian kelsall from Pixabay 
Ludwig, aka the Swan King or der Märchenkönig ("the Fairy Tale King"), Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria, Duke of Franconia, and Duke in Swabia, drained his personal fortune on various palace building projects, and once threatened to commit suicide if his creditors took them over.
Singer's Hall, Neuschwanstein Castle - Image by 272447 from Pixabay
Sadly, in the end Ludwig only spent 11 days in the not-yet-finished castle before his death at age 41 in 1886 in what was deemed to be suicide by drowning. Shortly before his death, the Bavarian parliament had him declared legally insane. The drowning verdict didn't hold up under scrutiny, and anecdotal testimony says he was shot trying to escape the virtual coup.

Ironically, it is tourism revenues from his palaces that funded the House of Wittelstein until after WWI, when the state took control of the heritage site. From the entrance to the highest turret, it's a fantasy come to life.

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The Taj Mahal, Agra, India

Taj Mahal, exterior - Image by Volker Glätsch from Pixabay 
The iconic spires of the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, have captured the public's imagination since it was built in 1632 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as the world's most romantic mausoleum. It was built to house the remains of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth, and eventually became Shah Jahan's tomb as well.
Taj Mahal colonnade - Image by DEZALB from Pixabay 
At the time, it was said to cost 32 million rupees, or about $960 million in today's USD, and is an excellent surviving example of Persian and Mughal architecture of the time. The use of white marble set with semi-precious stones is said to have been the Shah's own idea.
Taj Mahal exterior detail - Image by Balaji Srinivasan from Pixabay
The large marble dome is perhaps its most well known and renowned feature, with a dome about 35 metres high, and the minarets reach more than 40 metres into the sky. Intricate decorations on the exterior as well as interior make it one of the most celebrated works of architecture throughout history.

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Versailles, France

Chateau Versailles - Image via www.all-free-photos.com through a CC license
The Palace of Versailles became the principal residence of the French royal family from the days of Louis XIV, the Sun King, until the French Revolution in 1789.
Cour de Marbre du Château de Versailles - Image by Kimberly Vardeman under a CC license
The site had been used by the royal family as a hunting lodge, and a small château occupied the area until The Sun King decided on a super-royal makeover in 1661. It took about 21 years until he deemed the palace large enough to house the entire royal family and their entourage.
Galerie des Glaces du Château de Versailles, à Versailles en France - Image by Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Built in the opulent French Baroque style, some of the original furnishings were made of solid silver - but had to be melted down and sold in later years to help cover the costs of war. It was designed and supervised by architect Louis Le Vau, with subsequent work by young architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart.

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Bran Castle, Romania

Image by Dobre Cesar (used under a CC 3.0 Romania license)
Interestingly, Bram Stoker never actually visited Bran Castle in Romania before writing his seminal novel, Dracula, but went only by descriptions he found. The castle is surrounded by the five villages that make up the commune of Bran, near the city of Brașov.
Castle Bran - Image by danieldudu from Pixabay
Stoker's Dracula is often thought to be based on Vlad Tepes, aka Vlad the Impaler of Vlad Dracul, a Walachian Prince whose castle ruins are in Transylvania. Castle Bran came to be associated with Stoker's novel and the growing vampire legend because its location corresponds to the book's description:  “...on the very edge of a terrific precipice...with occasionally a deep rift where there is a chasm [with] silver threads where the rivers wind in deep gorges through the forests.”
Bran Castle, interior courtyard - Image by falco from Pixabay
Old supersitions in the area do speak of strange spirits who live as humans by day and evil demons as night. Thought to have been built around 1377, the castle became a royal residence in 1920, and today houses a collection of period furnishings and art.

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Blarney Castle (Caisleán na Blarnan), Blarney, Ireland

Blarney Castle - Image by Len Williams (CC BY-SA 2.0)
This splendid medieval ruin is located near Cork, Ireland, and was originally built around 1210. That structure was destroyed, and rebuilt in 1446 by Cormac Láidir MacCarthy, Lord of Muscry.
Blarney Castle, interior family room - Image by Ben Snooks (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The castle suffered through the ups and downs of the Ireland, taken by Parliamentarian forces in 1646, but given back to Donough KMacCarty, the 1st Earl of Clancarty, after the Restoration. The structure is a partial ruin today, with some accessible areas, and is home - of course - to the legendary Blarney Stone, which is said to bestow the gift of the gab.
View from the top of Blarney Caslte - Imagey by Martie Swart (CC BY 2.0)
The grounds include extensive gardens with natural rock formations called the Rock Close, and a collection of native plants. You can explore the grounds through magical pathways in the forest.

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