header-About. photo of Auerbach castle

The Long Journey Through the Middle Ages

The seed for Roads to Ruins was planted decades ago while serving with the U.S. Army in Germany. It took years for the seed to germinate and many more years to blossom into what is now the book. Before the book was possible Roads to Ruins became one of the earliest web sites dealing with the subject of the medieval castles of Germany.

There is a difference between "castle" (Burg) and "Palace" or "mansion" (Schloss). It is a difference that now blurs because, in large part, the term castle seems far more romantic for the sake of tourism and P.R. It is now used to refer to any large, old building in Europe. It is, however, also because many buildings that now exist as mansions or palaces did begin their existence as castles. Roads to Ruins is about the warrior castles of the Middle Ages. So, what makes a castle? The positions on this are as distinct as are the positions on exactly when the Middle Ages began and ended. For the sake of this book and website I will place the motteand bailey castlemedieval (Middle Age) period as roughly between the year 1,000 and the year 1550. This period closely coincides with the era of castle building in most of Europe. There were the forerunners of castles before this Middle Age era that were wood structures surrounded by palisades and often moats. These have all either decayed or were built over with stone.

My selection of buildings that fit the castle category was determined by their appearance and the years in which the records or claims establish their origins. Castles were designed to provide protection from hostile forces and as a means of defense to ward them off. They also served a second purpose that was offensive in nature. They were built to dominate and control villages as well as vast regions, particularly agricultural regions as well as travel and trade routes. Most often this means strong walls with parapets topped off with crenellations. The earlier wood fortifications, called motte and bailey, included a primary observation tower atop the motte and perhaps additional towers on the walls surrounding the bailey. With the introduction of stone structures everything became larger, stronger and more sophisticated. But every advance in construction was matched with advances in assault tactics and weapons technologies. Castles, no matter their defenses or strength, were too easily overcome by forces employing the weapon that brought the castle era to an explosive end - cannon. Gunpowder and cannons were cheap, whereas castles were becoming too complex and expensive for knights and lower nobility, and took far too long to make ready. It was not unusual for a castle to become engaged in the defense of the structure while in the middle of the long periods of construction.

Germany's 16 States and their Coats of Arms

Map of Germany and its state borders

The greatest numbers of Germany's castles are located in the states of the lower 60% of Germany. They can also provide the most dramatic visions as many are located on the precipices of steep, rocky, river side hills. The hills gradually give way to mountains as you approach the Alps along Germany's southern borders.Those terrain features offered the greatest natural points of observation and defenses against invasion.
Upper Germany, where the terrain levels off as it approaches the sea, is host to some of the more romantic appearing structures that often have draw bridges across surrounding moats and multiple towers that afford higher points of observation.

Your Journey - Finding Your Own Castles

The world is again openning to travelers and adventure seekers. That you are investigating Roads to Ruins, either the website or are interested in the book, shows a desire to have something more than a beach-lounging experience abroad.
Every country has carved out a particular tourism niche or two to attract visitors. In Germany (and other lands) the niche has been laying around for centuries. All that was needed was for travelers to discover the Middle Ages and the many mysteries attached to that period.
Until Roads to Ruins evolved, locating castles was a rather hit or miss process that too often resulted in disappointment or worse, valuable vacation time wasted because of high expectations and low realizations. Exceptions were for guided tours to the more popular locations such as Neuschwanstein (not a warrior castle) or Heidelberg, a true castle.
Roads to Ruins reduces or eliminates those complications and disappointing searches. As a guide the book will pinpoint down to the precise location (with the help of high tech devices such as navigators) or to the exact village or general area hosting the castle. The book will provide, through its photographs, a good idea of the relative worthiness of taking the time and effort for that particular medieval site. NOTE: a wasted effort will be far more expensive than the cost of the book.
Finding medieval structures on your own is certainly possible with the help of highly detailed maps or atlases. And the best experience is best pursued with your own means of transportation - either motorized or pedal-powred. At the front of the atlases are lists of icons identifying natural terrain as well as man-made features such as historic structures. In both this website and the book are contained extensive lists of all the castles in Roads to Ruins. Included only in the book is the GPS coordinates for each castle.
Below is a section of an atlas showing the castle Altenburg, SW of the city of Bamberg in Bavaria. Because it is considered worth a trip it is encircled in green in this particular publication. Above it on the map you can see an icon for a cathedral. Below, right are castle icons enlarged. If the flag is standing fully vertical the castle is well preserved , perhaps still occupied or perhaps a used as a hotel or restaurant. if the flag is leaning the structure is a ruin. However, many ruins are far more interesting to explore unhindered and usually without charge.

Map with icon for castles castle map icons

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