Although designed and built for the prominent purpose of defense, today the castles seem like somewhat unrealistic constructions straight from the fairytale world. From solid strongholds to oriental fortresses and highly decorative palaces, the castles are our connection to the past, where legends mix with history and reality blends with a fairyland.
1. Hohenzollern Castle. Germany. This fairytale castle is the historical seat of the Prussian Kings and German Emperors. Its origin dates back to the Middle Ages - it was built in the 11th century, then completely destroyed in 1423 and reconstructed in 1461.
The view from the castle that stands on top of Mount Hohenzollern (855 m) is as stunning as the complex itself. The castle is located about 50 kilometers (30 mi) south of Stuttgart, the capital of the Baden-Württemberg state.
2. Castle Howard. England.
Although it looks like a castle, Howard is actually a stately home - a private residence of the Howard family that has resided in the complex for more than 300 years. The house, located in North Yorkshire, England, is one of the largest residences in Britain. Its construction commenced at the end of the 17th century and lasted around 15 years. Among the remarkable features of the castle are fabulous gardens and a vast expanse of parkland surrounding the whole complex.
3. Alcázar of Segovia. Spain. Segovia Castle, located in an ancient town of Segovia in central Spain, started off as an Arab fort in the 12th century. Its unique shape of the bow of a ship makes the fortress one of the most distinctive castles in the country. In the Middle Ages Alcazar was a key fortress in the defense of the country. Apparently, it was a source of inspiration for many of the castles produced by Walt Disney.
4. Himeji Castle. Japan. Himeji Castle, also known as White Heron Castle due to its amazing white exterior, is a stunning complex comprised of 83 wooden buildings. One of the most extraordinary defensive elements of the castle is the maze of paths leading to the main keep. The gates and baileys are designed so as to force approaching intruders to travel into spiral pattern, facing many dead ends. It was originally built in the 14th century and is located in the Kansai region of Japan.
5. Prague Castle. The Czech Republic. Prague Castle, an iconic site of the capital of the Czech Republic, is one of the largest and oldest castles in the world. It is about 570 meter long and 130 meter wide, and its design represents literally every architectural style of the last millennium, from Gothic to Romanesque and Baroque features. The first buildings of the complex emerged as early as in the 9th century.