Monday, May 16, 2011

Ten Places You Can’t Enter

The world is full of secret and exclusive places that we either don’t know about, or simply couldn’t visit if we wanted to. This list takes a look at ten of the most significant places around the world that are closed to the general public or are virtually impossible for the general public to visit.

10. Mezhgorye

Mezhgorye is a closed town in Russia which is believed to house people working on the highly secret Mount Yamantaw. The town was founded in 1979. Mount Yamantaw stands at 1,640 metres (5,381 ft) and is the highest mountain in the southern Urals. Along with Kosvinsky Mountain (600 km to the north), it is suspected by the United States of being a large secret nuclear facility and/or bunker. Large excavation projects have been observed by U.S. satellite imagery as recently as the late 1990s, during the time of Boris Yeltsin’s pro-Western government after the fall of the Soviet Union. Two garrisons, Beloretsk-15 and Beloretsk-16, were built on top of the facility. Repeated U.S. questions have yielded several different responses from the Russian government regarding Mount Yamantaw. They have said it is a mining site, a repository for Russian treasures, a food storage area, and a bunker for leaders in case of nuclear war.
This has been mentioned on a previous list – the archives are not secret despite their names. You can view any document you wish. But you cannot enter the archive. You must submit your request for a document and it will be supplied to you. Despite the foolishness of the recent junk from Ron Howard and Dan Brown (Angels and Demons) the documents are all available and there are no copies of suppressed scientific theories or great works that were banned. The only documents you can’t access are those which are not yet 75 years old (in order to protect diplomatic and governmental information). Indexes are available for people who want to see if a document exists in the archives. The Vatican Secret Archives have been estimated to contain 52 miles (84 km) of shelving, and there are 35,000 volumes in the selective catalog alone.
8. Club 33
Contrary to popular belief, Disneyland has a full liquor license which is used when the place closes down to the general public to accommodate private parties. But there is one place in Disneyland that is always open to sell booze: Club 33. Club 33 is a private club located in the heart of the New Orleans Square section of Disneyland. Officially maintained as a secret feature of the theme park, the entrance of the club is located next to the Blue Bayou Restaurant at “33 Royal Street” with the entrance recognizable by an ornate address plate with the number 33 engraved on it. Fees for joining range from 10 – 30 thousand US dollars and membership comes with a car park. If you want to join the club, you have to go to the end of the fourteen year waiting list.
7. Moscow Metro-2
Metro-2 in Moscow, Russia is a purported secret underground metro system which parallels the public Moscow Metro. The system was built supposedly during (or from) the time of Stalin and codenamed D-6 by the KGB. Russian journalists have reported that the existence of Metro-2 is neither confirmed nor denied by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) or the Moscow Metro administration. The length of Metro-2 is rumored to exceed even that of the “civil” (i.e. public) Metro. (It is said to have 4 lines and lie 50 to 200 m deep. It is said to connect the Kremlin with the FSB headquarters, the government airport at Vnukovo-2, and an underground town at Ramenki, in addition to other locations of national importance. Needless to say, the fact that no one confirms its existence makes it pretty difficult to visit.
6. White’s Gentlemen’s Club
White’s is the most exclusive English gentlemen’s club. It was founded in 1693 by Italian Francesco Bianco (Francis White) to sell the newly discovered hot chocolate but eventually became a typical (but extremely private) gentlemen’s club. The club is famous for its “betting book” in which members make bizarre gambles. The most famous of which is a 3,000 pound bet on which of two raindrops would slide down the window first. So why is this club on the list? Women are excluded completely from membership, so that is half our audience out. Secondly, men who want to join this exclusive club can only do so if invited by a sitting member who has the support of two other members. Unless you are a member of royalty, or are extremely powerful in politics or the arts, you are unlikely to ever see the exclusive White’s invitation.
5. Area 51
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I have put this so high on the list because it is the one place most readers are likely to expect to see. Area 51 is a nickname for a military base that is located in the southern portion of Nevada in the western United States, 83 miles (133 km) north-northwest of downtown Las Vegas. Situated at its center, on the southern shore of Groom Lake, is a large secretive military airfield. The base’s primary purpose is to support development and testing of experimental aircraft and weapons systems. The intense secrecy surrounding the base, the very existence of which the U.S. government barely acknowledges, has made it the frequent subject of conspiracy theories and a central component to unidentified flying object (UFO) folklore. The sign above states that deadly force can be used if people enter the Area 51 zone.
4. Room 39
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Room 39 or Bureau 39 is arguably one of the most secretive organizations in North Korea that seeks ways to obtain foreign currency for Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s Chairman of the National Defense Commission. Room 39 was established in the late 1970s. It has been described as the lynchpin of the North’s so-called “court economy” centered on the dynastic Kim family. It is unknown how the name originated. Very little is known about Room 39 due to the secretive nature surrounding the organization, but it is widely speculated that the organization uses 10 to 20 bank accounts in China and Switzerland for the purposes of counterfeiting, money laundering, and other illicit transactions. It is also alleged that Room 39 is involved in drug smuggling and illicit weapon sales. It is known, however, that the organization has 120 foreign trade companies under its jurisdiction and is under the direct control of Kim Jong-il. North Korea has denied taking part in any illegal activities. Room 39 is believed to be located inside a ruling Workers’ Party building in Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea.
3. Ise Grand Shrine
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The Ise Grand Shrine in Japan (which is actually a series of over 100 shrines) is the most sacred shrine in Japan. It is dedicated to Amaterasu (the Sun goddess) and has been in existence since 4BC. The main shrine is alleged to hold the most important item in Japan’s imperial history: the Naikū (the mirror from Japanese mythology which eventually ended up in the hands of the first emperors). The shrine is demolished and rebuilt every 20 years in keeping with the Shinto idea of death and rebirth (the next rebuilding will be in 2013). This ranks very high on the list of places you will never go because the only person who can enter is the priest or priestess and he must be a member of the Japanese imperial family. So unless we have a Japanese prince or princess reading the site, no one here will ever see anything more than the thatched roof of the Ise Grand Shrine.
2. Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center
This is a place that is not only closed to the public, but it is a place that the public hope to never have to enter! In most “end of the world” films we see these days, there is always a highly classified area where US government officials and a chosen few get to go in the hopes that they can escape the impending doom. The Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center is the real thing. It was set up in the 1950s due to the cold war but continues to operate today. It is a “last hope” area. For obvious reasons its operations are highly classified. It is run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The center is already functioning and even in small local disasters in the US, much of the telecommunications traffic is routed through it.
1. RAF Menwith Hill
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RAF Menwith Hill is a British military base with connections to the global ECHELON spy network. The site contains an extensive satellite ground station and is a communications intercept and missile warning site and has been described as the largest electronic monitoring station in the world. The site acts as a ground station for a number of satellites operated by the US National Reconnaissance Office, on behalf of the US National Security Agency, with antennae contained in a large number of highly distinctive white radomes, and is alleged to be an element of the ECHELON system. ECHELON was reportedly created to monitor the military and diplomatic communications of the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc allies during the Cold War in the early 1960s, but since the end of the Cold War it is believed to search also for hints of terrorist plots, drug dealers’ plans, and political and diplomatic intelligence. It has also been involved in reports of commercial espionage and is believed to filter all telephone and radio communications in the nations which host it – an extreme violation of privacy.

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Top 5 attractions in South Korea outside of Seoul

When it comes to global travel and tourism, Asian countries have no problem coping with their rising popularity among travelers. The influx of tourists from different parts of the world provides good business for Asian countries, especially after the recession struck in 2008. With the help of discounted travel packages and a new line of budget airlines, the Far East is now easily accessible to backpackers, families going on a holiday, and even students on a budget who have a bit of time off from school.

Many travelers now seek out the mystical ashrams in India, the lush rice paddies in Vietnam, the many modern buildings that continue to crop up in China, the relaxing baths in Japan in contrast to their buzzing cities, and the beautiful beaches in the Philippines. These days, Korea is also nudging its way in the market, with a steady stream of tourists visiting this country each year.

Most of the travelers who fly to Korea tend to visit the city of Seoul. But for those of you who have never been or are planning to come back, expand your horizons and dare to venture outside the city. This charming peninsula, home to over 48 million residents including the likes of international pop star Rain and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, has a lot to offer if you just take the time to get to know your surroundings better.

Here are a couple of places you might want to check out if you want to step outside the busting city of Seoul.

1. Busan

Compared to the country’s capital, Busan is a more diverse city. In this modern and bustling city, you will find a mix of different cultures that are not present in Seoul. Busan is the second largest city in the country, next to the capital Seoul. Visitors to the city can check out Texas Town, which used to be a United States military base. Interestingly enough, the entrance to Texas Town is through a beautifully carved gate inspired by Chinese influences. If you’re feeling peckish, try one or two of the Russian pierogies to abate your hunger pangs. For those who aren’t familiar with this food, a pierogi is similar to a tart that is filled with meat, vegetables, potatoes and cheese; it is usually fried or cooked through boiling and then served with a generous helping of sour cream.

Busan is actually a coastal city that is otherwise known as South Korea’s own version of San Francisco. It overlooks the Sea of Japan and is also a hub for traders and other small, international companies.

As the years went by, more and more people belonging to different cultures gradually came to Busan and settled into their own communities in the area; this in turn gave the city a warm and friendly atmosphere, and always welcome to visitors.

What makes the city unique and attractive is the balance between its natural features and the urban city. Nature lovers can enjoy a weekend hike at the tall, lush mountains after a week’s worth of hard work in one of the many office buildings in the city.

Numerous beach resorts line the coast that cater to different personalities; the serene beaches in Songdo, and Haeundae’s high profile resorts are all ideal places to soak up the sun and have some fun in the water. You can even check out the summer attractions in Haeundae including the exhibit for sandcastles and also the rock festivals. Recently, Haeundae also garnered worldwide recognition when it achieved the Guinnes world record for having the most number of parasols put up in one beach.

For some attractions off the beach, feel free to visit the galleries or shop in the boutiques in the area. At noon, you can go up the mountain for a quick hike and cool off at the beach by sundown.

2. Damyang

Damyang County is nestled between two massive mountains in the southwestern region of the country. The town is small and quaint, but the real reason why people come here is the 25 hectares of lush, dense forest filled with thousands and thousands of bamboo. Modern technology has undoubtedly given us plenty of luxuries in our time, but along with it came pollution and now, global warming. Other cities in the area often suffer from smog and too much humidity, but this rich natural reserve manages to keep things in the right balance. In the bamboo forest, temperature sare usually about five degrees lower compared to other parts of town.

Visiting Damyang is ideal in the summertime when everyone is complaining of the heat and shying away from the sun. Even the locals who live in far off cities take the trip to Damyang to enjoy the cool, fresh air. However, a vacation here during the latter part of the year is a visit to a winter wonderland that you’ll surely enjoy.

There are a number of activities that you can do in Damyang whether you’re by yourself or traveling with your family. For instance, you can have a nice picnic under the swaying bamboo stalks; couples can take a romantic walk among the bamboo and even carve out their initials on the soft wood. Local vendors also offer a number of products made of bamboo: panpipes, placemats, and even wind chimes.

If you’re feeling hungry, don’t be surprised to find bamboo in every single one of the dishes offered in the local restaurants. There’s no better day to sample the bamboo stew, bamboo pastries, bamboo soup, and oh yes, bamboo noodles!

3. Jeju

If you want to spend your honeymoon in Korea, look no further that Jeju Island. This spot is undoubtedly the most popular island in Korea among newlywed couples who are going on their honeymoon. The island will remind you a bit of Hawaii and also South Padre Island in Texas.

Not all the areas in Jeju island are occupied by sandy beaches. The Hallasan mountain stands tall at Jeju, looking over the metropolis; the volcano, which has remained dormant for quite some time (others even believe it to be extinct) is also considered as the highest mountain in all of South Korea. If you’re in the mood for some hiking, you can follow the trail to the mountain top and take some pictures against the amazing backdrop.

Horses are common in the island, and equestrianism is quite popular among the locals. For travelers who are confessed animal lovers, you won’t run out of the places to visit where you can go horseback riding. In a lot of these facilities, you can even don a cowboy costume just for the heck of it.

A good way to check out the various beaches in the island is to go and rent one motorbike that you can drive around the town in. The waters here remain cool and unbelievably clean even during the summer. During the winter months however, a lot of penguins come to Jeju Island for some fun in the water.

When it comes to accommodation, you can choose from a variety of hotels that will suit your budget and even your fetish. You can get a standard hotel room, or opt for one that stricly follows the honeymoon theme (think heart shaped everything, from bath tubs to rugs, to beds and even the light fixtures.

Night life on the island is never dull. In preparation for a night of (ahem) romance, you can visit Jeju Loveland, which just happens to be Korea’s one and only theme park dedicated to sex. Thanks to a small group of art students in one of the local universities, you can visit the theme park and walk past a number of sculptures that depict couples in midcoitus, people going solo, not to mention the sex organs in humongous proportions.

4. Gyeongju

Gyeongju is ideal for travelers who want to sit back and take it easy. A visit to Gyeongju will not only infuse your body with fresh, clean air, it will also clear your mind of unwanted noise and mental clutter. The coastal city of Gyeongju will transport you to another place in time, where there are no tall buildings to be seen, no wide concrete roads, and no escalators, either.

The pace here in Gyeongju is nothing like the hectic atmosphere in bustling cities like New York or Tokyo. Here’s no one rushes because they’re not hurrying somewhere; instead, people take their time as they go about their day to day lives. For visitors, this means you have plenty of time to admire the various historical sights to be found in the city. Don’t rush yourself when you visit the different structures. Instead, explore and immerse yourself in your journeys. Take the time to learn about the local culture and history and at the same time, the people that make up this island.

There is a temple complex in the city that houses the Seokguram Grotto. This grotto is considered to be among South Korea’s proudest and most famous historic structure. There is also a beautiful Buddhist park where you can linger and dawdle and do practically nothing but relax. There are also a number of art pieces here depicting Eastern influences, which makes the park a sort of museum set out in the open.

Here, you can find gilded Buddhas and also stone pagodas. Another place worth visiting is the Bulguksa temple, which was also declared a national treasure. All the artifacts and most of the structures you will find in the city are part of the once named Silla Dynasty, giving you a glimpse of what the place was like in earlier years.

If you feel that you’ve had enough rest and can take on a short adrenaline rush, you can opt to visit Han-Ho, which is known all over the world for its go-karting track.

Visiting Gyeongju in April will guarantee you a wonderful experience as the town celebrates two festivals: one dedicated to rice cakes and the other dedicated to soju. If you’re not too familiar with the local cuisine, Korean rice cakes are a kind of sweet dessert which can be quite addicting; and the soju is an extremely potent alcoholic beverage that is popular with Koreans.

5. Boseong

Tea is quite popular in Boseong County, so if you want to enjoy a cup or two of this refreshing beverage, then don’t wait any longer. Boseong is home to miles and miles of fields growing green tea. We don’t exaggerate when we say that the county is complete with rolling hills and acres of tea in varying hues of green, and leaves that are wet from the early morning dew.

These fields all full of green tea are extremely popular with filmmakers and tv producers. There are many times when this are has been used by filmmakers as the location for their movies and perhaps one or two television drama series. Every now and then, a crew makes its way to the fields to shoot a tv commercial. This area is also popular with the locals who like to go on day trips. If you visit Boseong, a lot of companions will be the Koreans themselves armed with big cameras trying to take numerous pictures of the fields.

Boseong County is located in the province of South Jeolla. The word among insiders is that this area produces the best green tea that you can find in all of South Korea. If you want to confirm or debunk this rumor, you can make your way to the Daehandawon plantation and sample their local product. The Daehandawon plantation is considered to be the oldest in the area, not to mention the largest, too. The plantation is located inside a cedar forest which makes it even more charming than it already is.

If you’re finished with your cup of tea, you can hail a taxi or hop on a bus and make the 15 minute journey to Hwa-dong. This is a small village built by the coast that offers the most relaxing baths you can imagine. And to add more enjoyment to your experience, the locals add green tea to your bath.

So, there you go. We’ve done our part and given you five places in South Korea where you can experience history (Gyeongju), a mixture of different cultures (Busan), sensual pleasures (Jeju), nature’s wonders (Damyang), and extreme relaxation in a tea-riffic bath (Boseong). Now, do you part and book a ticket to Korea.

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What you need to know about – Bahamas vacations

Bahamas is one of the favorite, hot and evergreen tourist spot. The charisma and the aura of the place are spell- binding. It seems that nature has given it all to this place with its 15 superb and exclusive islands, beaches, and the lovely Bahamians. The location of the place is such that it brings it nearest of al the Caribbean islands. Situated a few miles away from the tip of Florida, Bahamas has everything to mesmerize its visitors.

The two well known islands of this place are–The Out Island and the Nassau or Paradise Island. The Nassau is also the capital of Bahamas. The Out islands are a bunch of several islands like- the Abacos, the Acklins also known as the Crooked Island, the Andros, etc. then there are also breathtaking Brry islands, Bimni, Cat Island with the amazing landscapes, the Exumas famous for scuba dive, fish and the like. The rare West Indian Flamingos can be a treat to the eyes at the Inagua islands; the pulse of romance can be aggravated at the calm, quiet yet beautiful Mayaguana islands. Last but not the least the San Salvador Island that take to a journey into the past when Christopher Columbus first stepped there.

Besides the islands there are horde of soft and sandy beaches with turquoise blue water that make you experience paradise on earth. The most vibrant, active and lively beach is the Cable beach Nassau where you and your kids can take up any activity from snorkeling, scuba diving to bouncing banana boats. The Guana Beach at the Abaco islands has eye catching corals in waters while the Pink Sands beach of Harbour islands are endowed with mystifying pink sand. Along with these there are fine Beach at the Cat Islands, Taino Beach with outstanding oceans, water slides, restaurants at the Freeport. The Stocking Island Beach facilitates you with a rented scooter or bike to explore the beach differently.

Apart from the scenic splendor, Bahamas is also admired for its ecstatic nightlife. The casinos, discos, bars, restaurants all are meant to keep up your spirits even at night. The casinos on the islands of Nassau and Freeport like Atlantis Resort, Marriott Crystal Palace Resort or the Bahamas Princess casino offer you all types of gambling games. Be it slots, Caribbean stud poker, slot machines, roulette etc. the casinos have them all. There are games for kids too at the Atlantis casino situated at the Paradise Island.
The means to Reach Bahamas, the people, the culture and some do’s and don’s-
There are two ways to reach this land of water. You can take either take a plane or the sea route. You can choose amongst a private jet or a relaxing Mailboat, which takes just $35 a trip. Cruise liners are also a pleasant idea to reach Bahamas.

Once you reach the place you might not have problems in interacting for the language spoken there is English. You will start having the wonderful fragrance of the place the moment you step there for Bahamians are too keen to warmly and whole heartedly welcome their guests. The perfect time to go to Bahamas is between September and May when the temperature of the place is around 70 to 75 degrees. Bahamas has something different to offer like its dress codes which is a little strict in the capital but benign at the Out Islands. Most of the Bahamians are West Africans. They are amiable, gentle and generous people who are too social and fun loving.

While heading for this ravishing place, do not forget to bring a photo identification proof besides your passport. It can be your license, Identity card or any such proof. There is an immigration form to be filled before stepping in Bahamas. Your luggage will be carefully checked before you move out of the island. There are several taxes like $15 departure tax, 10% tax for commodities over $600 (the duty free granted merchandise). The currency that runs is Bahamian dollars but US dollars are readily accepted.

So pack your bags and explore the allure of the land of islands and crystal blue beaches---Bahamas.
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Experience Siberia and the Famous Trans-Siberian Railway

Siberia is a country of unexplored regions, vast tundra, breathtaking landscapes, and awe inspiring power. Siberia is filled with a lot of nothing, but it makes a perfect travel destination for the true adventurer deep down inside of us. There are a number of unique things to do while visiting Siberia, including taking the famous Trans-Siberian Railway to Moscow. If you plan on visiting this country it’s probably a good idea to start with Moscow, take the train into Siberia, and then go back to Moscow. It is also important to note that the proper identification, passports, and visas are extremely necessary for travel through some of these regions.

Eco-Tourists will relish in the Siberian landscape. Mountain climbing, hiking, and nature activities are generally appreciated by the toughest of all travelers. Lake Baikal is one of such locations. Here you will find the worlds purest water. This freshwater lake is also the worlds biggest and deepest, and provides over 1/5 of the worlds freshwater. Lake Baikal is highly protected. If visiting the area you will have to follow some strict rules regarding the safety of the wildlife here as well as the purity of the water.

Taking the Trans-Siberian Railway is an interesting experience. It will cost more if you are coming from the United States and to one of the cities where the train starts. Either way, train rides are relatively cheap considering the distance you go on each trip. Prices are currently not as well known, but you can expect to spend less than $1,000 USD for a 6 day train ride round-trip.

As far as activities go, athletic individuals will find Siberia to be very physically demanding but highly rewarding. You can whitewater raft, dog sled, pick mushrooms in the forests, and do plenty of alpine sports. Clearly if you are not physically fit, visiting Siberia isn’t for you.
Advice for Traveling Around Siberia

Always purchase tickets for the train in advance. You will pretty much be dependant on using the train, so prepare ahead. It doesn’t hurt to know a bit of Russian or at least have a Russian friend that you can trust.First class is highly recommended for the long train rides. You get a shower and you get to be alone, however being in second class will allow you to familiarize yourself with locals and people that enjoy the rugged aspect of traveling.

Always remember that visas are extremely important. You put yourself at great risk if you try to enter a country without the proper documentation. Always be sure that you have your shots as well. The best thing to do for booking trips to desolate areas, is plan ahead. Ask experts that you can meet with and never rely soley on online reservations or booking.

In general, the more you are prepared the better off you are. A trip to Siberia and through the bordering countries isn’t an easy trek, but it is highly rewarding and a wonderful experience.
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10 Most Fascinating Castles and Palaces

The Potala Palace: Tibet's greatest monumental structure

Perched upon Marpo Ri hill, 130 meters above the Lhasa valley, the Potala Palace rises a further 170 meters and is the greatest monumental structure in all of Tibet. In 637 Emperor Songtsen Gampo decided to build this palace on a hill, and the structure stood until the seventeenth

century, when it was incorporated into the foundations of the greater buildings still standing today. Construction of the present palace began in 1645 during the reign of the fifth Dalai Lama and by 1648 the Potrang Karpo, or White Palace, was completed. The Potrang Marpo, or Red Palace, was added between 1690 and 1694; its construction required the labors of more than 7000 workers and 1500 artists and craftsman. The Potala Palace was only slightly damaged during the Tibetan uprising against the invading Chinese in 1959. Unlike most other Tibetan religious structures, it was not sacked by the Red Guards during the 1960s and 1970s. As a result, all the chapels and their artifacts are very well preserved. (Photo by MC)

Mont Saint-Michel: a Medieval Castle on a Small Island

Mont St Michel France is situated on a quasi-island on the Normandy coast, near Brittany, which at high tide is almost entirely separated from the mainland. Only a narrow causeway, constructed in the 1880s preserves a link to the coast. Beware: the tide comes in quickly - many tourists have drowned attempting to cross the sandy bay. Unlike other castles in France, which began as defensive structures or pleasure palaces, Mont St Michel had its beginnings as a monastery. Today, the Castle attracts over four million visitors a year, far more than most castles in France and has been featured in numerous movies, cartoons, and even videogames. (Photo by citiesXL and lct)

Predjamski Castle: Integrated in a Cave

Every castle in the world is unique in some way, no two are the same, but this one --even though it's rather small and humble compared to some-- is probably the only one in the world who is integrated in a cave, precisely the second largest cave system in Slovenia. Its name, Predjamski Grad, literally means "Castle in Front of the Cave."

The castle wasn't built in one go; first written records exist from 13th century, though the first part (left wing) was probably built in the first half of 12th century. Middle part was added in renaissance, and the right wing was build around 1570. Some things were added and changed later, but since 1990 renovation work is in progress, restoring it to the original 16th century look. (Photo by visitareslovenia)

Neuschwanstein Castle: the Classic Fairytale's Castle

The most famous of three royal palaces built for Louis II of Bavaria, sometimes referred to as Mad King Ludwig, the Neuschwanstein it’s a royal palace in the Bavarian Alps of Germany. egun in 1869 and left unfinished at Louis's death in 1886, the castle is the embodiment of 19th century romanticism. In a fantastical imitation of a medieval castle, Neuschwanstein is set with towers and spires and is spectacularly sited on a high point over the Pullat River gorge.

The construction of the castle was carried out according to a well thought-out plan. The castle was equipped with all kinds of technical conveniences which were very modern, if not to say revolutionary at that time. Running water on all floors. There were toilets equipped with automatic flushing on every floor. A warm air heating system for the entire building. American tourists are already familiar with Neuschwanstein; the sleeping beauty Castle in DisneyLand, was modeled on it. (Photo by grotsasha)

Matsumoto Castle: Japan's most fascinating castle

Matsumoto Castle, locally known as Matsumotojo, is one of the most complete and beautiful among Japan's original castles. It is also a good example of a so called "hirajiro", a castle built on the plain rather than on a hill or mountain. Matsumotojo's castle tower and smaller, second turret were built from 1592 to 1614 and were both well defended, as peace was not yet fully secured at the time. In 1635, when no more military threats existed, a third, barely defended turret for moon viewing was added to the castle. (Photo by lpq)

Hunyad Castle: were Dracula was held prisoner

Now located in Hunedoara, Romania, the Hunyad Castle was part of Principality of Transylvania, and it’s believed to be the place where Vlad III of Wallachia (commonly known as Dracula) was held prisoner for 7 years after he was deposed in 1462. The castle is a relic of the Hunyadi dynasty. It was built in Gothic style, but has Baroque and Renaissance architectural elements. It is a large and imposing building with tall and diversely colored roofs, towers and myriad windows and balconies adorned with stone carvings. (Photo by ctc)

Malbork Castle: World's Largest Brick Gothic Castle

The Castle in Malbork was built in Prussia by the Teutonic Order as an Ordensburg. The Order named it Marienburg, literally "Mary's Castle". The town which grew around it was also named Marienburg, but since 1945 it is again, after 173 years, part of Poland and known as Malbork. The castle is a classic example of a medieval fortress, and is the world’s largest brick gothic castle. UNESCO listed the castle and its museum as World Heritage Sites in December 1997. (Photo by ordensland)

Palacio da Pena: Oldest Palace inspired by European Romanticism

The oldest palace inspired by European Romanticism, the Pena National Palace in Portugal stands on the top of a hill above the town of Sintra, and on a clear day it can be easily seen from Lisbon. First built in the 15th century as a palace, it was later reconstructed and donated to the church as a monastery. An earthquake in 1755 ruined most of it, until Prince Fernando acquired it in 1838 rebuilt it. The style of the palace is an eclectic combination of the original and subsequent styles, plus Romantic, Bavarian, and Moorish architecture, plus an English garden. (Photo by cm-sintra and Matt & Isabel)

Löwenburg Castle: The Disneyland of the 18th century

Within the Wilhelmshöhe Hill Park which sits on one end of the city of Kassel, there stands what appears to be a medieval castle. However, the Löwenburg or "Lion's Castle" was ordered to be built by the Landgrave Wilhelm IX from Hessen Kassel (1743 -1821), the Walt Disney of his era, over a period of eight years between 1793 and 1801 as a romantic ruin. It was carefully designed by his royal court building inspector Heinrich Christoph Jussow who had gone to England specifically to study romantic English ruins and draw up a plan for the Landgrave's garden folly. Today scholars regard Löwenburg Castle ruins as one of the most significant buildings of its genre, in addition to being one of the first major neo-Gothic buildings in Germany. (Photo by Ben)

Prague Castle: World's Largest Ancient Castle

One of the biggest castles in the world, and according to Guinness Book of Records, the biggest ancient castle, Prague Castle is about 570 meters in length and an average of 130 meters wide. The Czech Crown Jewels are kept here, and it was the place where the Czech kings, Holy Roman Emperors and presidents of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic have had their offices. (Photo by liberato)

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