Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. The quintessential fairy-tale castle.

Castles are amazing, mythic places that always inspire the fantasy novelist in me. Towers, barbicans, winding staircases, crenellation — the very words evoke magic and wonder.

Budapest, Hungary. I’m not sure if this bastion is actually part of the castle, but it’s still beautiful.

Of all the “standard” elements of fantasy stories and games (things like dragons, unicorns, and elves), castles are among my favorites because they exist both in the imagination and in the real world. You can visit an actual castle. You can walk inside it and look out from the tower windows.

A staircase in the Rosenkrantz Tower in Bergen, Sweden.

Fantasy authors can describe a character walking down the narrow staircase to the castle dungeon. No words, however, will match the feeling of those steps beneath your shoes or the sensation of running your hand along the uneven walls to brush your fingertips against the cold stones.

Bunratty Castle in County Clare, Ireland.

Historic castles can differ from what you expect. The first time I visited a real castle when my family went to Europe in the 1970’s, I was surprised by how drafty and damp it seemed. Castles were no doubt warmer when people actually lived in them, but it was still a surprise to me.

One of the fortifications on the island of Rhodes in Greece.

When I asked John his impression of the castles we had visited, he said he was surprised by how small the interior rooms were. Based on the way castles tend to be portrayed in fantasy media, it is easy to expect huge halls with vaulted ceilings

Cesky-Krumlov, Czech Republic. This arched walkway was one of my favorite parts of the city. I think it is considered part of the castle, though I could be wrong.

As much as I adore historic structures, I must admit that I also love that magical castle in Anaheim. It was the first castle I ever visited, back in the days when I was so young that “Fantasyland” still seemed like a real country to me.

-Susan 5/28/2021

p.s. This was my first attempt to incorporate multiple pictures into a blog post. (I hope it works!) Although I took all the pictures posted above, I am not responsible for the photo quality — some of them were scanned from old 35 mm prints in my photo albums and one was taken with a very early digital camera. Photography has come a long way since I first started visiting castles. Any weaknesses in photo composition, on the other hand, are entirely my fault.

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