How to Appreciate Castles and Palaces

Written by  Jessica Chesko

Visiting a castle or palace is like stepping out of one world and into another. To go from a world of speeding cars, roaring sirens and Starbucks on every corner, to the quiet, pristine grandeur of castle grounds. To visit these sites is to drench yourself in history and architecture. For these reasons, castles and palaces are my very favorite travelling experience.

You've just pushed and shoved your way out of a crowded train station and you begin to walk down a busy street filled with traffic jams and hurrying people. You're on your way to see your very first castle. You turn off down another street, walk a bit further and then, suddenly, you're standing in front of something massive. Set back behind ornate wrought iron gates, sits the turrets and towers you have always heard about but never seen. Your jaw drops and you can't seem to grasp your camera fast enough. Looking through the view finder you realize that it's impossible to get the whole thing in the shot. My God, this place is huge!

It sounds like quite a nice day dream but it doesn't have to be just fantasy. Castles are dotted all over the European and Asian countrysides and they are easy enough to get to. With all the film and book hype that surrounds castles, you may wonder if they are really that great or even worth a trip. I can tell you from experience that castles and palaces deserve every “ooh” and “ahh” that they receive.

If you think it looks incredible from the outside, just wait until you step over the threshold. Every castle is different in its layout and interior design, depending upon its location and year of construction. No matter which castle you visit, however, you are sure to find high ceilings, long corridors, magnificent staircases and enough rooms to start asking yourself “how many sitting rooms did they actually need?”

Once you have had your fill of the king's bedchamber, take a stroll out back. Many castles such as Versailles and Hampton Court have beautiful and extensive gardens. Don't fool yourself into thinking you are merely going to see a few roses and be done with it. Versailles, one of the larger examples, includes everything from winding pathways of trees and shrubbery to fountains and sculptures. It is so huge in fact, that there are small cafes spread around for the weary wanderer. Hampton Court has an entire maze set up in its gardens.

Castles and palaces are not something that you can just stop and glance at. If you are planning to visit a castle, you should set aside at least a half day to visit. Allow yourself enough time to wander around. Don't be in a rush to move on to the next activity, but rather, savor the fact that you are standing on a piece of history, where previously only royalty stood. Try to ignore the crowds, stand still, take a deep breath and delight in being a part of this timeless beauty.

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