Castles return visitors to the Middle Ages.
Medieval fortress and grand aristocratic residence from the Renaissance or Baroque period scatter the Baden-WE-rttemberg countryside, making it a fascinating destination for historians and those stirred by the atmosphere of a bloodthirsty era. On a castle tour visitors take a journey back in time to the Middle Ages of gory battles and spartan lifestyles, plus get the opportunity to explore the many opulent palaces. Meersburg, Germany's oldest castle overlooking Lake Constance looks as it did around 1500 and is still used as a residence. Although parts of the interior were renovated in the 17th and 18th centuries, it still retains some of its medieval charm and its castle kitchens, dungeons and knightly armour. The Westphalian poet Annette von Droste-HE-lshoff spent the last years of her life at Meersburg castle. Both the castle and poet were immortalised on the 20 deutschmark note until 2001. Today, many of the medieval castles only exist as ruins. The former castle of the Counts of Wertheim (12th century), destroyed in 1634, is one of the largest and most beautiful castle ruins in Germany. Kaiser Friedrich I, known as Barbarossa, also left his mark on Baden-WE-rttemberg. The remains of a large section of the greatest Staufer imperial palace north of the Alps can still be seen in Bad Wimpfen. Many undiscovered events must have taken place at the Roter Turm (red tower), palais, Steinhaus (stone house) and the palace chapel. For the aristocrats, knights of the Teutonic Order, lansquenets, sutlers, and coachmen the well-preserved palace was a symbol of power. The sound of the historical tower trumpet can still be heard from the Blauer Turm (blue tower). Schloss Weikersheim, a former moated castle, is an important Renaissance building with medieval sections (keep and commercial building) and baroque extensions (royal stables and gate building). The centre of the palace is formed by a large and magnificently furnished banqueting hall with a vast coffered ceiling. The palace garden with its orangery is one of the most beautiful baroque gardens in Germany. It once belonged to the princes of Hohenlohe, who still have some magnificent buildings to their name today, including Langenburg palace or Neuenstein castle. The influential Hohenzollern dynasty built three important monuments in Baden-WE-rttemberg: Hohenzollernburg castle in Hechingen, Sigmaringen castle and Lichtenstein castle. Hohenzollern castle stands in solitary splendour on a foothill of the Swabian Mountains near Bissingen where it can be seen from miles away. The building was renovated in the Late Romanesque style in the 19th Century. St Michael's Chapel is the only original building remaining from the 15th Century. Today it is a popular venue for weddings, especially among Japanese couples. Sigmaringen castle towers over the town of the same name and the River Danube. Originally a citadel, it was later turned into a Renaissance palace. Its collection of weapons is one of the largest in Europe and is proof of the bloodthirsty history of these noble lords.
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