Saturday, April 23, 2016

Castleholics Anonymous with Marlene of Royal Musings

This week life (and work) simply took so that we didn't have a Castleholics Anonymous last Sunday. To make it up, I've got a lengthy one with a well-travelled fellow royal watcher, Marlene Konig of Royal Musings, that will take us to some places quite off the beaten track already today.

I might be travelling to the Balkan this or next year. Are there some castles and palaces in this part of the world you can recommend?
Old Palace in Belgrade (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
I have been to Serbia, Montenegro and Romania. Belgrade is a developing city, certainly changing and improving. The two main palaces in central Belgrade are now the residence of the President of Serbia and the city government, respectively. The former is not open the public, and neither was the latter, but I have been told that this building will be open to the public during the summer. The residence of the President is known as the Novi dvor (new palace), and was built for King Peter I (but he died before he could move into it). King Alexander I was the first to live in the palace but after his assassination in 1934, the royal family moved to the compound at Dedinje. The city assembly is in what was the Stari Dvor (the old palace) which was used by the Obrenovics and King Peter I before it was used for government and formal affairs. The two palaces are across from each other.
The Royal Compound in Dedinje, on the outskirts of Belgrade, consists of the Royal Palace and the White Palace (more like large villas). Crown Prince Alexander and his family live in the Royal palace. These two palaces and the grounds are open to the public. Highly recommended - even though you cannot take photos inside. I have had the privilege of being a guest at events on three occasions hosted by the Crown Prince so I have had private tours and permitted to take photos. You can also travel to Oplenac (Topola), where the Karageorge family has its roots. The royal mausoleum is here, as is King Alexander and Queen Marie's villa.
In Bucharest, you can visit a part of Cotroceni, the residence of King Ferdinand and Queen Marie - and there is a guided tour in several languages, including English. I was delighted that the guide spoke very highly of Queen Marie. Only a part of the palace is open to the public, as the other part is the residence of the Romanian president.
Peles Castle (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
About two hours from Bucharest in the Carpathian Mountains is Sinaia, where King Carol I built Peles and Pelisor. Both are very dramatic in style, but a joy to visit as the rooms are filled with portraits, photos, etc., of the Romanian royal family. Ownership was restored to King Michael, and the two palaces are open to the public. Wonderful vistas.
Not too far from Peles is Bran Castle, which was restored to Princess Ileana's family although there are reports that they want to sell it. Bran is also known as Dracula's castle.
In Montenegro, one must visit Cetinje, the old royal capital as King Nikola's Palace (a villa) is open to the public. The king and queen's remains were brought back to Montenegro after the fall of communism, and were re-interred in the church next to the palace. Small town, but fascinating.

More generally speaking, what do you like best about castles? Is there a building period that you like better than others?
Castles that are now owned by states or foundations, and not by families, are less interesting but remain historically fascinating. But there is a sterility to the rooms - although one can imagine what it must have been like when royals lived in these palaces. I prefer the castles and palaces that have residents - where you see family photos on tables.

I know you have also extensively travelled Germany. What are the three castles/palaces you have seen, you would recommend everyone to visit and why?
Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
I think one should see the palaces in Potsdam. I visited several as a part of a then West German tour to Sanssouci and the Neues Palais in the late 1980s. The tour guide was East German, and the palaces were in rather bad condition, especially the grounds. Shabby to say the least, but the tour guide did allow my friend and I to quickly run off to the Friedenskirche during a tea break. More of the palaces are now open and restored. This is something I would like to see again.  Probably due to my fascination and expertise with the descendants of Queen Victoria, I loved Darmstadt and Coburg. I had a private tour of Schloss Ehrenburg (it was closed) and when I was in the ballroom, I waltzed around the room. The Veste, one of the primary seats of the Coburgs, is also open to the public - again, I had a private tour, and the guide, learning I was Lutheran, took me to the archives (the Luther rooms were being renovated) and took out the Dührer portrait of Luther. Trust me. I was thrilled to bits. I recommend Schloss Langenburg because of its history and the fact that it is privately owned. Neuschwanstein is the embodiment of  a fairy tale castle... but I think it is one that everyone needs to see. I enjoyed Celle castle, while Schloss Marienburg seemed rather stark when I was there. Burg Hohenzollern and Schloss Sigmaringen can be done in a day

Schloss Arolsen (Photo: Castleholic)
And which ones are on your list to see (in Germany as well as other countries) in the future?
I do have a sort of bucket list - and I would like to see Schloss Bückeburg, Schloss Arolsen, the residences in Dresden, Schloss Glücksburg. I also would love to see Schwerin and Strelitz, even though most of the residences connected with the two branches of the Mecklenburg grand ducal families were destroyed or are now government buildings. Would love to spend a week in Potsdam visiting all the palaces. I also want to do see the castles and palaces in Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm. In the US, I want to see Biltmore, in Asheville, North Carolina. It qualifies as a castle.

Turning to the nearer future, do you already have your next royal travels planned? 
I will be in London in June for the Queen's 90th birthday.

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