You want castles?
I’ll give you castles. My students’ language course visited the Wartburg in Eisenach this weekend. The Wartburg’s foundations are very old–12th century–and it has been remodeled and updated throughout the centuries, with a particular Grand Duke in the nineteenth century taking a shine to it and making sure that glass mosaics and “authentic” knights’ bathing quarters were incorporated. (The bath house is actually lovely–it was modelled on bath houses the 12th-century knight might have encountered on the Crusades–very Muslim-looking.)
The Wartburg is where Luther hid out for 10 months or so while the Pope was out looking for the traitor to Church and Crown. He translated the New Testament into German here, creating the first unified, written, “high” German language in the process.
He used a whale vertebra as a foot stool while he worked. It is still here.
The spot of ink on the wall where, legend has it, Luther threw his ink well at an apparation of the devil, is no longer visible. The faithful chipped it away with their fingertips–to have a piece of a Reformation Relic with them always.
Students: suitably impressed. When the beams in the room in which you stand were felled over three hundred years before Columbus discovered America, you know you’re in Europe, having an authentic cultural experience!