Gottorf Palace. Treasures of history in the far north of Germany.

Mysterious peat-bog corpses, traces of the Vikings and exquisite paintings – all these and many other treasures can be found in the two state museums at the most important palace in the far north of Germany.

From a bird's eye view Gottorf Palace looks like a capital P, a courtyard enclosed by four irregular wings. It was originally a Renaissance stronghold but repeated renovations and extensions over the centuries eventually produced the baroque palace we see today. To this day it stands on a picturesque island on the outskirts of Schleswig, close to the Danish border. Built in around 1500 the vast, twin-aisle Gothic hall later became the famous Gottorf library. This is currently used to display medieval sculptures and altars. 1544 marked the start of the palace's golden age. As the power of the dukes of Gottorf grew, the palace also increased in size and splendour. The deer hall, completed in 1595, is one of the finest Renaissance banqueting halls and can still be seen in its original state. The magnificently decorated chapel dates from the same era, and is also well worth a visit. Highlights here include an early-baroque organ and the ducal prayer room with intricate carvings and intarsia inlays. In 1637 work began on a baroque terraced garden modelled on Italian gardens. At its heart was a magnificent pavilion containing the Gottorf globe – the world's earliest planetarium. Restored in autumn 2007, both garden and globe can once again be admired in all their baroque glory. For visitors with a thirst for culture, Gottorf Palace contains the Regional Museum of Art and Cultural History and the Regional Museum of Archaeology and is also well worth a visit. Of particular interest is the extensive collection on the history of travel, which features various travel-related artefacts including horse-drawn carriages and sleighs, painting a vivid picture of how people travelled in the 19th century. Nearby attractions: just across the water from Schleswig is the former Viking settlement of Haddeby, which is home to an enthralling Viking Museum. The Bible garden at St. John's Abbey in Schleswig is a place of peace and tranquillity offering a journey of biblical and horticultural discovery.

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