Tag Archives: Castles & Palaces

Avignon – palace of the popes

And the view on the Fort St Andre


San Marino – the most Serene Republic of..

A tiny little enclave in Italy, San Marino is nevertheless the oldest constitutional republic in the world. The monastic community got their independence from the Roman Empire no less. On 3 September 301 🙂

Their motto is Libertas – freedom 🙂

This is what it looks like in San Marino


starting to get the idea of how they managed to convince the Romans to leave them alone?



The theme is expended on with more walls, towers, cliffs and castles

and then people and monks can also call on a higher power




Nothing like a fire on a chilly spring morning..


Doesn’t matter how small your country is, you get your own international code and EU number plate. You can also put an Afrikaans word on your Italian car to make it more romantic…






San Marino – Build good walls + Write a good constitution + Pray = Freedom



Seems ‘Most Serene’ to me 🙂

Brugge – Provinsiaal Hof


From 1500 the river silted up and water traffic was no longer possible. The city lost its reason d’être, and stayed in medieval style, unique in Europe.

This court is in neo-gothic style.


Nazrid Palaces – Al Hambra, Granada

In Granada, the famous Palaces of the last Moorish rulers in Europe.


A view on one of the courtyards.

Wood inlay on a ceiling board


You simply can’t do justice to the grace of these designs.

All 17 mathematically possible wallpaper groups are represented at the Al Hambra. A feat not repeated in architecture anywhere else.

And you still have to imagine the whole lot in colour. Some remaining colour here and there gives us some idea.


Those Majorica tiles were added by a later and somewhat less subtle stylist.

Another charming courtyard.



The Catholic Kings Ferdinand and Isabella set up their cannons on a opposing hill in 1492 and threatened to bombard the Al Hambra. This was too much for the emir of the time and he surrendered.

According to legend the emir’s mother berated him on the way out of the region, – you couldn’t fight like a man to keep the city and now you are crying like a woman because you lost her.

Well perhaps he was right, they survived him by centuries, even in a ravished state, and we can still wonder at them today.

The Generalife are gardens surrounding and completing the palaces. They are a story on their own. Here is just a glimpse.


The water for the gardens and fields for feeding the city comes from these mountains. Its is one of those magic spots where you can ski in the morning and go to the beach in the afternoon.


Himeji Castle – Honshu

What used to be the biggest castle in all Asia. Not far from Kobe, is the city Himeji with her beautiful castle and gardens.

Its a wooden building that is plastered to protect it from moisture and fire. The tile roof is also sealed with plaster, – thats why its so white.

The egret nest castle.


Cathar Castles

In the south of France, – the Corbières district – (reputedly the biggest vineyard in the world), on the French side of the Pyrinees you find the Cathar Castles.

06-Uitsig Corbiere distrik

The Cathars were a religious group in the late Middle Ages. According to some they were mystics and according to the church, – heretics.

Their name is from the Greek katharoi, – the pure ones. Interestingly enough, not a name they chose for themselves but given to them by their enemies.

By the middle of 12th century they were spreading over western Europe. They had quite a lot of support from the nobility and were a thorn in the flesh of the church, who at the time was ruling. It is decided to get rid of them and crusades follow.

The region today en route to the mountains.

The medieval town of Carcassonne was one of their main strongholds and is restored to look almost new. Alas not a single photo, the camera’s battery if I remember..

When this town fell, the Cathars retreat to the mountain castles which were a lot more difficult for their enemies to access. Puylaurens (Laurens Mountain) and Queribus are two of the most well known. Fighting continues another twenty year. Where they are caught the whole group is gathered in a group and burnt alive.

07-Chateau Puylaurens
Chateau Puylaurens

As you can imagine the road is quite steep. When I arrived back down there was an old guy waiting on a bench. He wanted to know if I had seen a women of a certain age on my way; – I had not. Ah, perhaps she’s dead he says 🙂

Down in the valley is an old Roman viaduct.

Lapradelle viaduc
Lapradelle viaduc

and Queribus castle on the horizon.

32-Chateau Queribus op afstand
Chateau Queribus

Some say these castles are much older than the Cathars and they used them but did not build them.



As promised the post on the czar’s palace on the Baltic.

The palace is situated outside Saint Petersburg. After walking two blocks in St Petersburg your feet are black even on top, so I can understand anyone wanting to get out of the city. Whether it is those terrible cars they drive or the ships or perhaps the factory where they make those terrible cars I don’t know..

But if you have a little place outside of town life is good. Just a short boat ride and you reach your own little paradise on the Baltic, – let them eat cake.




Continue reading Peterhof