August 21, 2017

Experiencing Fairy Tales in Germany

The image that comes to your mind when you hear the words Germany and fairy tale is probably the oft pictured Neuschwanstein Castle and it’s no wonder. This spectacular castle that sits deep in the countryside of Bavaria is a photographic gem and truly leaves me awestruck every time I see it.  I have often heard that Walt Disney used this castle for his image of Sleeping Beauty’s castle and while I can see the resemblance there is more to Germany and Fairy Tales than you may know!

Neuschwanstein Castle Bavaria Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle by Valerio Bruscianelli

Many of the fairy tales we grew up with were written by the Grimm Brothers who were born and raised in Germany. The areas where the brothers lived is also where they gathered the inspiration for their famous tales.  Since the Grimm Fairytales have been published in 160 languages you do not need to visit Germany to enjoy them but if you want to experience them a journey on the Fairy Tale Route is necessary.

Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm Monument Hanau Germany

Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm Monument by Renftel courtesy of Deutsche Marchenstrasse

The Fairy Tale Route has been one of Germany’s Scenic Drives since 1975 and stretches 370 miles from Hanau, outside Frankfurt am Main, north to Bremen, a major port city on the Weser River.   It is in the medieval villages along the Fairy Tale Route where you will see these tales come to life through re-enactments, costumed characters, parades and puppet shows.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were born in 1785 and 1786 in Hanau Germany. Today Hanau is home to a monument of the famous brother, an annual Fairy tale Festival and the lovely Baroque grounds of Philippsruhe Palace.

Bad Wildungen Panorama Fairy Tale Route Germany

Bad Wildungen Panorama by Asio Otus

Steinau is where the brothers spent much of their childhood. You can visit the Brothers Grimm House which was over 200 years old in 1791 when they arrived in Steinau, wander cobblestoned streets lined with half-timbered houses and visit Steinau Castle.  Originally designed as a medieval fortress and later renovated in the Renaissance style, the castle is home to a Grimm museum full of personal effects of the Grimm family including the family Bible and a copy of the original Grimm dictionary. If you spend time in the woods surrounding Steinau you may find Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel and Gretel!

Marburg on the Lahn Fairy Tale Route Germany

Marburg on the Lahn by Matthiahess

Rising up from the Lahn River, Marburg is where the brothers went to law school.  You’ll want to wander the old town full of alleys, old buildings and tons of charm.  Other highlights include a spectacular castle on top of the hill and St. Elizabeth’s Church which is the oldest pure gothic church in Germany.

Hercules Monument Fairy Tale Route Germany

Hercules Monument by MalteRuhnke on de.wikipedia

The brothers lived in Kassel for 30 years and worked as librarians at court of Jerome Bonaparte, Napoleon’s younger brother.  Main sights to see in Kassel include the Brother Grimm Museum in Palais Bellevue which possesses a personal copy of the fairytales with annotations by the brothers, the Schloss Wilhelmshohe home to the Staatliche Museen housing the 2nd largest collection of Rembrandts in Germany, the stunning Herkules Monument and the collection of medieval armor and weapons during a visit to Lion Castle.

Sababurg Castle Fairy Tale Route Germany

Sababurg Castle courtesy of HA Hessen Agentur GmbH

Above are the main cities associated with the Brothers Grimm.  Continuing along and in between is the medieval Castle of Trendelburg which was the setting for Rapunzel and the 650 year old Castle Sababurg where Sleeping Beauty slept for 100 years. A visit to the Schwalm region allows for a hike through the dark forests where Little Red Riding Hood’s adventure took place.    The legend of the Pied Piper can be relived in picturesque Hamlin and Bremen is home to the Bremen town musicians.

Forest Sababurg Fairytale route Germany

Forest Sababurg by Michael Fiegle

Yes there is an over abundance of sights and events related to fairy tales but there is much more to be found here. The Fairy Tale route crosses medieval villages with preserved city walls, romantic old towns, ruins of a fortress belonging to emperor Barbarosa, 15th century witch towers with dungeons and forests that are part of UNESCO World Heritage.

Edersee Fairy Tale Route Germany

Edersee from wikimedia

I think it’s fair to say the Brothers Grimm have made an impact on all of us. Even if you’re not directly familiar with their fairy tales you’ve experienced them through other books, movies, cartoons and cultural icons like Disneyland.   December 20, 2012 marked the 200th anniversary of the first edition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Germany will be celebrating the brothers during 2013.

So let’s all give our thanks to the Brothers Grimm and if you’re in Germany, why not stop by!

Would you enjoy a trip on the Fairytale Route??

A Summer Residence Fit for a King

Sitting just outside Berlin, Potsdam is the perfect place to escape the city, which is how Potsdam became the playground for the Prussian Royal family and explains why there are so many palaces in this one city!

Looking Back at Sanssouci Palace Potsdam Germany

Longing to get away from all the rigors of royal duties in Berlin, Frederick the Great had a beautiful Rococo palace built in Potsdam between 1745 – 1747. Sanssouci Palace became the kings summer residence and has been likened to Versailles outside of Paris.

South Side Sanssouci Palace Potsdam Germany

The Palace has 10 main rooms on one floor which are open to the public. The rooms are very beautiful and contain many memorabilia to Frederick including furniture and art.

Chandelier Gold Room Sanssuci Palace Potsdam Germany

The walls themselves are pieces of art!

Beautiful Room Sanssouci Palace Potsdam Germany

Amazingly, and luckily, the GDR maintained the Palace and grounds during their occupation. Once reunification happened many of the statues, books and art were returned to Sanssouci. Also at this time, Frederick’s wish to have his body interred on the grounds was granted.

Potato King Tomb Sanssouci Palace Potsdam Germany

The tomb of the “potato king” sits over looking the beautiful gardens. It is said Frederick the Great introduced potatoes to Germany. In fact, it seems he enjoyed them so much he served them at state dinners and handed them out when visiting other towns. True or not, people still adorn his tomb with potatoes!

View from park Sanssouci Palace Potsdam Germany

At the back of the palace there is a beautiful terraced hill leading down to a fountain and further into the park. The park is very colorful and beautiful as well as full of amazing views back up to the palace!

Fountain and Statue Sanssouci Palace Potsdam Germany

Sanssouci means “without concerns” and seems to be a very fitting name for this lovely palace. Even with the all the tourists, the palace and park feel peaceful and relaxing.

Flower Room Sanssuci Palace Potsdam Germany

Both the palace and the park have been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1990.

Fountain Sanssouci Palace Potsdam Germany

As I’ve stated before, I love visiting castles and palaces and prior to leaving for Germany was very excited to visit Sanssouci. But it was the park that grabbed me. On my next visit, I will spend more time wandering the different gardens, statues and palaces that are inside the boundary of this wonderful park.

 

These pictures are part of Travel Photo Thursday!
For more great pictures,make sure to check out Budget Travelers Sandbox.
Maybe I’ll see you there!

 

 

Many thanks to Historic Highlights of Germany for organizing this trip and to the wonderful people at the PotsdamTourist Office!  For more information please contact either organization or visit their websites.  Even though my trip was paid for by these organizations, all opinions are my own.

Royal Crypts – The Burial Places of European Monarchs

One of the reasons I love visiting Europe is its vast history. I am always awed by the depth of European history. This history is definitely intertwined with the lives of European Kings and Queens and I not only learn by visiting the places they lived but by seeing where they rest today.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy visiting cemeteries and royal crypts.

If you’re like me and enjoy visiting royal crypts, here are 6 that you may find interesting.

Speyer Cathedral, Germany

What Clovis I began in 1030 is today a symbol of Imperial power. Between this date and 1308 the cathedral became the burial site of 8 Emperors, Kings and their wives. The UNESCO World Heritage site is known as one of the most important Romanesque sites in Germany and the crypt is actually the largest Hall Crypt in Europe.
Speyer Cathedral Hall Crypt Germany

Speyer Cathedral Hall Crypt by Mussklprozz at de.wikipedia

Church of Our Lady in Laeken Belgium

This neo-Gothic Catholic church contains the Royal crypt that is the final resting place of the Belgian Royal family including the first King and Queen of Belgium, Leopold I and Louise-Marie. In fact, it was King Leopold I that originally had the church built in memory of his wife, Queen Louise-Marie. Built during the 19th century, today the Royal crypt holds the remains of all Belgian Kings.

Imperial Crypt Austria

The Imperial Crypt in Vienna has been the main burial site for the members of the Hapsburg family since 1622. It was Anna of Tyrol who, in her will, gave the funding for the crypt. Today it is one of the most visited places in all of Vienna. As I mentioned in The Hapsburgs: Living Large in Life and Death, this is the final resting place of 12 Emperors and 18 Empresses. The sarcophagi range from rather plain to very ornate and the amount of decoration seems to correlate to the importance of the person.
Crypt Charles VI Holy Roman Emperor Vienna Austria

Crypt of Charles VI Holy Roman Emperor

Roskilde Cathedral Denmark

The Roskilde Cathedral was constructed during the 12th and 13th centuries and is located on the island of Zealand. Besides being the main burial site of Danish Royalty this is the first Gothic cathedral to be built of brick. There are many burial chapels within the cathedral containing the remains of Danish royalty.
Roskilde Cathedral Crypt Denmark

Roskilde Dom by Fingalo

Westminster Abbey England

The oldest part of Westminster Abbey dates from 1050 and until 1760, this mainly Gothic church in London, was the burial place for English and British monarchs. The monarchs are buried inside the chapels of the church while other significant persons are buried in the cloisters and other areas on the grounds. Queen Elizabeth I and Bloody Queen Mary are among the monarchs buried in the Abbey.
Tomb Effigies of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York Westminster Abbey London England

Tomb Effigies of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York by lisby1, on Flickr

St Denis Basilica France

Located near Paris, this medieval Abbey was a burial place of French Kings and their families from the 10th – 18th centuries. In fact, all but three Kings of France are buried here many in “cadaver tombs”. These double-decker tombs have the person’s effigy on top and a decomposing effigy underneath. Among those buried hear include Clovis I and what remains of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
St Denis Cathedral France

St Denis by Roi Boshi

Do you visit Royal Crypts?

Alexandrowka – Potsdam’s Russian Colony

Knowing a little of Germany’s history with Russia, there was one neighborhood in Potsdam I was a bit surprised to find!Russian Colony Potsdam Germany

In the northern corner of Potsdam sits an unusual neighborhood, Alexandrowka. This Russian colony was built by Frederick Wilhelm III from 1826-27 to honor his great friendship with Czar Alexander I.Russian Colony Potsdam Germany

The 13 wooden houses in Alexandrowka and the Russian Orthodox Church sitting on nearby Kapellenberg hill are all built in the Russian style.Russian Church Potsdam Germany

In 1999, the Alexandrowka colony became a member of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.Russian Colony side yard Potsdam Germany

Today, the peaceful Russian Colony is home a few descendants of the original inhabitants and is still full of orchards. Time your visit right and you could enjoy a wonderful Apple strudel for your afternoon Kaffee und Kuchen 🙂Orchard Russian Colony Potsdam Germany

 

Would you be surprised to know this Russian Colony is in Germany?

 

These photo’s are part of Travel Photo Thursday.
For more great pictures, check out Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

Dreaming of a European River Cruise

The other day I received an email from Viking River Cruises that got me thinking.  The subject of the email was “Where would you go?” and now I’m dreaming about which European River Cruise I would most like to enjoy!

I’ve never been on a river cruise for more than a day but have to admit I am intrigued by them. The friends and relatives I know who have taken river cruises have all returned with rave reviews.  Without fail they have enjoyed the educational and cultural aspects along with the views and social camaraderie!  One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about the day cruises I’ve taken on some of Europe’s greatest rivers- Seine, Rhine, Thames and Danube – are the spectacular view you get from the river.  What could be better than arriving in Europe’s cities in the same manner as the discovers of yesterday?

So where is my dreaming taking me. . .


Portraits of Southern France 

Saone river at Lyon France

Saone river at Lyon by Jack

Gliding along the Saône and Rhône rivers from Chalon-sur-Saône to Avignon includes beautiful vistas, wonderful medieval villages of the Burgundy region and the splendor that is Provence. I’ve never been to this part of France but when you combine medieval villages, Roman ruins, history, cathedrals, cobbled street and scenery that has inspired artists like Van Gogh, well how could you go wrong?!  Add in the wine and cuisine this region is known for and you’ve got a winner.

Portugal’s River of Gold

Porto Portugal

Porto by Benjamin Dumas, on Flickr

Slowly floating along the dramatic Douro River in Portugal would offer a unique glimpse into this wonderful region. After having a chance to visit Lisbon, the cruise starts in Porto which, in my opinion, is one of the most picturesque cities in the world.  The cruise offers an opportunity to view a region that some say is still unspoiled!    Along the way glimpse vineyards set on steep hills, castles, Baroque architecture, UNESCO Heritage cities and sites as well as Gothic cathedrals.  Oh and don’t forget the food and drink the region is known for including Port and regional wine!  Yes, I think the magical Douro would be a perfect setting for my first river cruise.

Vineyards & Vistas 

Aschaffenburger Schloss along the Main River Germany

Aschaffenburger Schloss along the Main River by Carschten

The Vineyards & Vistas cruise sails along the Rhine, Main and Moselle rivers in wonderful Germany! Yes I’ve been along the Moselle and have enjoyed day cruises on the Rhine.  I’ve even been to Bamberg, Rudesheim and Trier, so why would this cruise interest me??  I LOVE the Moselle and crave to return so I can further explore this river and the surrounding small villages that are bursting with the wonderful wine of the area. Dotting the banks of the Main River are small quaint villages such as Miltenberg, which is a city that calls me! All of these rivers are full of castles, cathedrals, medieval towns, Roman ruins, history and Baroque palaces.  Plus there is also the German cuisine I love so much and cities famous for their Beer!

If I were going on a River Cruise, it would be one of these three options.  Now it’s your turn …

Where would you go on a European River Cruise?

Historic Cecilienhof Palace

Sometimes traveling take us places whose beauty belies its enormous history.

Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam Germany is one of these.

Cecilienhof Palace Potsdam Germany

Cecilienhof Palace was the last palace built (from 1914 to 1917) by the Hohenzollern Dynasty and is beautifully placed in the northern part of the Neuer Garten, where views include a lake and the Kings Forest.

 

Outside Cecilienhof Palace Potsdam Germany

The simple but elegant palace was built in the English Tudor style and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1990.

 

Views from Cecilienhof Palace Potsdam Germany

The feeling you get here is one of peace and tranquility.  School children even come to play in the meadows.

 

Cecilienhof Palace Courtyard Potsdam Germany

It’s so peaceful that it’s hard to imagine the gravity of the meeting that took place here in 1945.  In attendance at the Potsdam Conference were Churchill, Truman and Stalin, world leaders who would make history and change the face of Germany for decades to come.


Stalins Star Cecilienhof Palace Potsdam Germany

The center point of this beautiful courtyard are flowers in a red star design, Stalin’s Star, which were planted in 1945 by Soviet soldiers.


Cecilienof Palace Potsdam Germany

As I wandered the grounds I kept thinking “If only these walls could talk.  What would they say?”

 

These photo’s are part of Travel Photo Thursday.
For more great pictures, check out Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

Many thanks to Historic Highlights of Germany for organizing this trip and to the wonderful people at the PotsdamTourist Office!  For more information please contact either organization or visit their websites.  Even though my trip was paid for by these organizations, all opinions are my own.

Roman Trier Germany

When visiting Europe, you expect to run into Roman ruins in Britain, France and, obviously, Rome Italy!  But you might be surprised running into Roman ruins in Germany.

Yes, I said Germany.  Sitting in the lovely valley created by the Moselle River is Trier, Germany’s oldest city.  Founded around 16 BC, Trier has had quite a history including the Roman kind!

Trier and Moselle River Germany

Trier and Moselle River

At one time Trier was the capital of the Western Roman Empire and this included being the residence of the Western Roman Emperor and his son, Constantine the Great.  During this time, Trier was known as the 2nd Rome and it was Constantine that developed the city including the beautiful Imperial Baths.

Roman Imperial Baths Trier Germany

Imperial Baths- Trier are known as the largest outside Rome and were built in 4th century

There is one of the four old Roman gates still standing in Trier, the Porta Nigra.  Built in the 2nd century this city gate is the oldest defensive structure in Germany.

Roman Porta Nigra Trier Germany

Porta Nigra Trier by Berthold Werner

During Roman times, an amphitheater was a clear sign that your city was very important.  The amphitheater in Trier was the site for gladiator fights and animal contests.

Roman Amphitheater Trier Germany

The Roman Amphitheater Trier once seated 25,000 people!

To commemorate their Roman history, Trier hosts Germany’s biggest Roman festival each year.  The Brot und Spiele festival show cases history through actual depictions of gladiator fights at the amphitheater and exhibits of Roman civil and military life at the Imperial Baths.  If you’re in Germany from August 31 through September 2 stop by Trier for some good ole Roman fun!

This is just a glimpse of the Roman history in Trier.  This UNESCO designated city has so much more to see!


These photo’s are shared as part of Travel Photo Thursday.
For more great pictures, check out Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Maybe I’ll see you there!

Europe’s Natural Monuments

While traveling we all visit monuments erected to honor those who have helped shape our history, but sometimes it is the world’s Natural Monuments that leave us speechless.

I am no spelunker but I am intrigued by caves and the underground world created by a Karst landscape.

A Karst is a unique landscape formed by the weathering of water soluble rock like Limestone, Marble and Dolomite. Rain water trickles down through openings in the rock and over time erodes the rock creating passages. Some of the larger passages we know as caves or caverns. Obviously this process takes eons to develop but it is this process that makes the beauty that lies beneath the ground.

Skocjan Caves Slovenia

Skocjan Caves Slovenia by Jabbi

The Karst landscape is identified by a lack of surface streams and a network of openings below the surface. The openings can be sinkholes, disappearing stream, springs and even caves. This fragile ecosystem is home to many plants, bacteria, fish and spiders that flourish in a dark and static world.

Domica Cave near Slovakia and Hungary

Domica Cave by jojo

It is estimated that 10% of the Earth is composed of a Karst landscape and although it is the underground wonders that we are most familiar with, I’m sure you would recognize some of the above ground Karst landscapes too!

El Torcal near Malaga Spain

El Torcal near Malaga Spain by Jakub Botwicz

Karst Landscape Minerve France

Karst Landscape Minerve France by Hugo Soria

Here are a few below the surface natural wonders you might want to visit while wandering through Europe.

Moravian Karst
Moravia is a well known part of the Czech Republic but this natural beauty sits in 120 square kilometers of landscape that includes caves, caverns, underground lakes and rivers. There are 4 caves that are open to the public but the Macocha Gorge is the most famous. The gorge is over 500 feet deep and includes 2 ponds and the Punkva River which runs underground for part of its journey. During your visit to the caves you can explore both on foot and by boat and you will be thrilled by the beauty and serenity of the cave which includes many stalactites and stalagmites. There is even a chair lift to the top of the gorge allowing amazing views across the landscape.

Moravian Karst Czech Republic

Moravian Karst by YuKengShih, on Flickr

Skocjan Caves
These UNESCO listed caves are part of an amazing limestone plateau that is full of stunning caves and tunnels near the tiny village of Skocjan in Slovenia. The landscape has been carved over time by the Reka River which actually disappears underground near Skocjan and reappears 27 miles away. While underground, the river carves through rock leaving behind amazing scenery! Near the exit you will hear the rushing river from below and see the huge Murmuring Cave, which is actually the largest underground canyon.

Škocjan Caves Slovenia by Ramon

Škocjan Caves by Ramon

Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst
Located near the border of Hungary and Slovakia is another UNESCO listed site that is also the most explored Karst area in Europe. To date, there have been 712 caves identified including an Ice cave and one known as the Fairy Tale cave. This area shows both tropical and glacial climatic affects which allows for an even greater variety of wonders! The caves in this area offer a glimpse into evolution, archeology and local cultures. The Baradla-Domica Cave system actually connects Hungary and Slovakia and is home to the world’s highest stalagmites!

Domica Cave near Hungary and Slovakia

Domica Cave by Jojo

All these caves are beautiful, distinctive and breathtaking. Touring them will leave you marveling at these Natural Monuments!

What Natural Monuments do you enjoy?

 

Oh La La, La Seine!

It is no mistake that most of the world’s largest cities are located along major rivers. As our ancestors explored new areas they settled along rivers which offered them food, water, transportation, trade and more.

Among these grand European rivers are the Thames, the Danube, the Volga, the Rhine and madam La Seine!

Seine View Paris France

Seine View by polarjez, on Flickr

The 2nd largest river in France is 482 miles long and traverses through some of the most wonderful French landscapes before reaching the English Channel.  The Seine’s humble beginnings are about 19 miles northwest of Dijon deep in the Burgundian wine area. From here it meanders through or near Troyes, Fontainebleau, Paris, Giverny and Rouen before reaching the 6 mile wide estuary separating Le Havre and Honfleur.

Giverny France

giverny 2009 by ho visto nina volare, on Flickr

Outside of the large cities, a journey along the Seine passes Gothic cathedrals, battlefield remnants of past wars, tiny hamlets, forests that were the playground of Kings and rolling countryside with superb scenery.

The Seine is navigable by ocean vessels 75 miles inland to Rouen, by commercial river boats to Burgundy and can be enjoyed for recreational purposes along most of the length.

A series of locks keep the Seine at an even depth of 9 ½ meters and helps avoid catastrophic floods like the one in 1910.  However, even with these precautions, severe storms can cause the river to rise threatening villages, farmers and the billions of dollars of artwork located in Paris.

River Seine Paris France

vue Paris depuis Notre-Dame by Myrabella

At times the Seine has been described by historians as an “open sewer”.  Today the water quality has improved but the sewage system of Paris can experience failures during heavy rainfall allowing untreated sewage to seep into the river.  Despite this, in 2009 the Atlantic salmon returned to the Seine!

Even though the Seine passes many villages and cities, it seems to be synonymous with the capital of France, Paris! Just about everywhere you turn in Paris is a reminder of the importance the river has played in the city today and yesterday.  From the cathedral of Notre Dame to the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Musee d’Orsay and many other priceless wonders, history abounds near the river! So important is the Seine to Paris, that in 1991 both the Rive Gauche and Rive Droite were added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in Europe.

Pont-Alexandre-III-et-Invalides Paris France

Pont-Alexandre-III-et-Invalides by Benh

In Paris alone, there are 37 bridges that cross the river. The Pont Neuf, the oldest, dates back to 1607.  I’m sure every visitor to Paris walks across at least one of these beautifully romantic bridges!  Or even passes under them during a wonderful tour along the Seine.

The Seine has been the subject for many artists including Claude Monet.  From his home in Giverny, Monet drew upon the Seine for his inspiration. Many of these important artworks can be seen in the cathedral at Rouen.

Rouen is another important city along the Seine.  Not only famous for its display of artwork inspired by the Seine but for being the site of the execution of Joan of Arc whose ashes were said to be thrown into the Seine after her fiery death in 1431.

Pont de Normandie Le Havre Normandy France

Pont de Normandie by François Roche

Finally at rivers end is the Seine estuary which is flanked on either side by Le Havre and Honfleur.  Here is another of the many bridges spanning the Seine.  Pont de Normandie, one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in the world, stretches between the two cities.

Pont des Arts River Seine Paris France

Pont des Arts Wikimedia Commons by Benh

Although we tend to view the Seine as a tourist attraction, you can see that this river is still important to France today!

 

How have you enjoyed the Seine?

Domestic Security in Wales a la Edward I

Castles. What images come to your mind when reading this word?  If you’re like me, you may imagine a beautiful structure that feels romantic and rich.  A place where grand parties or celebrations occurred and sumptuous food was enjoyed along with the best wine.

Harlech Castle Wales by Jelle Drok, on Flickr

We travel miles and miles to see what we think of as romantic castles but did you know most castles were actually built as a method of domestic security?  No other place is this more true than in Wales and the castles of Edward I.

Caernarfon Castle Wales by Jelle Drok, on Flickr

For years the Welsh warlords wreaked havoc against the English kings.  So much so that in 1267 Henry III recognized Welsh independence.  But his son, Edward I, had other ideas and spent years fighting to bring the Welsh back under English rule.  After his successful bids, he spent time securing his lands by building a series of strongholds we now adore as castles!

Conwy Castle by Eifion, on Flickr

Conwy Castle by Eifion, on Flickr

It was during this medieval period that Edward commissioned great architects to build or upgrade a series of impenetrable fortresses that would help protect his lands.  This so called “Iron Ring” was a modern attempt to protect the villages of medieval Britain.  By strategically placing the castles near the sea, Edward’s navy was able to send provisions to the people during uprisings thus ensuring his military success.

Beaumaris Castle Wales by Jelle Drok, on Flickr

Beaumaris Castle Wales by Jelle Drok, on Flickr

After the first uprising in 1277, Edward built castles such as Flint, Rhuddlan and Aberystwyth as well as began upgrading other Welsh castles.

It was after the second revolt that Edward extended his fortifications by commissioning the work of a master architect, James of St. George whose work is now recognized by UNESCO.  It was during this time that the castles at Harlech, Caernarfon, Conwy and Beaumaris were built.

Conwy castle Wales Britain

Conwy Castle by Sarah Lionheart

The castles of Harlech, Caernarfon, Conwy and Beaumaris are known as the big Four Castles of Edward I.  They are also the ones that have survived the years mostly intact.

Caernarfon Castle Wales Britain

Caernarfon Castle interior by Petrusbarbygere

Whether you spend time exploring the ruins of these medieval masterpieces or wandering through one of the more intact castles, the Edwardian castles allow us to explore and touch history.

 

Do you tour castles?  What are your favorites?