Just a short drive from the Stuttgart area, perched almost impossibly atop a rocky cliff face, rests a castle that looks like it jumped right off of the pages of an old fairy tale.
The imposing tower of Lichtenstein Castle near Honau in the Swabian Alps looks as if one could reasonably expect to find Rapunzel letting down her hair from an upper window, or a dragon sitting on the roof.
A castle of one form or another has been on the site since about 1200, but the original castle was seriously damaged during a regional conflict in the early 1300s and later destroyed by the city-state of Reutlingen in the late 1300s.
After falling into ruin and changing hands a few times, the existing neo-gothic castle was designed by architect Carl Alexander Heideloff and built in the early 1840s for Duke Wilhelm of Urach, Count of Württemberg.
The Duke was inspired by a novel entitled Lichtenstein by author Wilhelm Hauff and is still owned today by the Dukes of Urach.
One of the main rooms open to visitors contains an impressive collection of historic European armor and weapons, which surprisingly includes a complete set of antique Japanese Samurai kabuto (armor) and katana (swords).
The castle grounds are also quite impressive with a good picture location that allows visitors to get a postcard-ready shot of the castle and an impressive view of the valley below the castle.
The castle is a short drive from Stuttgart on route 312/313, not far south of Reutlingen.
The castle is open 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day from April through October and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends and holidays February, March, and November. The castle is closed in December and January.