Burg Frankenstein

On our drive from Heidelberg to Frankfurt, we stopped off to visit Frankenstein Castle (Burg Frankenstein).  No kidding.  It is thought that this castle may have been an inspiration for Mary Shelley when she wrote her 1818 Gothic novel, Frankenstein.

Frankenstein Castle

Frankenstein Castle (actually the ruins of the castle) is located in the Odenwald mountain range, overlooking the southern outskirts of Darmstadt, Germany.  Before 1250, Lord Conrad II Reiz of Brueberg built Frankenstein Castle.  He was the founder of the free imperial Barony of Frankenstein.  The castle fell into ruins in the 18th century.

Frankenstein Castle

In 1673, Johann Conrad Dippel was born in the castle, where he was later engaged as a professional alchemist.  There are rumors that during his stay at Frankenstein Castle, Dippel not only practiced alchemy but also anatomy and may have performed experiments on dead bodies that he exhumed.  It is suggested these rumors about Dippel influenced Mary Shelley’s fantasy when she wrote her Frankenstein novel.  It is known that in 1814, Shelley took a journey on the river Rhine and spent some time in the area near the castle.

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Heidelberg, Germany

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The city of Heidelberg is located about 48 miles south of Frankfurt on the Neckar River.  The village of Bergheim, which now lies at the heart of modern Heidelberg, was first mentioned in documents dated 769 AD.  The founding of Heidelberg is considered to be 1196 when that name was referred to in a document in Schönau Abbey, a 12th century monastery.

Schloss Heidelberg

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Neuschwanstein Castle

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Schloss Neuschwanstein is a 19th century palace built on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near the town of Fussen in southwest Germany.  The castle was commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat.  Construction began in 1869 on the site of the ruins of two castles from the middle ages: Vorderhohenschwangau Castle and Hinterhohenschwangau Castle.  The castle was far from complete when the King died in 1886 at the age of 40.

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Innsbruck, Austria

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Innsbruck sits in a valley with mountains to its north and south and the Inn River running through it.  Just on the other side of those mountains is Germany to the north and Italy to the south.  With relatively accessible mountain passes in both directions and a bridge across the Inn River (thus the name “Innsbruck”), this town became a very important trade route.  Innsbruck is the capital of the Austrian Federal State of Tirol (or Tyrol).  This region was much larger but the area of South Tirol was ceded to Italy at the conclusion of World War I.

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Barcelona, Spain

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Once again, we began our visit to Barcelona with a walking tour.  We were told that Romans founded the city in 38 B.C.  In the first 200 years they built a walled city that defined the boundaries of Barcelona for the next 1600 years!  During this time they had to build higher since they could not build out, given that they could not extend the city beyond the walls.  Not until the mid-1850’s did they break out of their medieval walls.  People were dying very young from disease caused by the overcrowding.  Previously unknown engineer Ildefons Cerda created a plan for the expanded city that turned out to be extraordinarily visionary ultimately leading to him being credited as having defined “urbanization”.

Barcelona is part of Catalonia, an “autonomous community” in the northeast corner of Spain.  It is also referred to as a nationality for the people in this region who for centuries have been agitating for the creation of an independent state for Catalonia.  Before the 18th century it was a principality of the Crown of Aragon with its own language.  Today, Catalan, along with Spanish is the official language of this region.

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