Smithsonian Earth Explores Hidden Ecosystems of Abandoned Castles in WILD CASTLES

The abandoned castles of Europe are magnificent markers of the continent's tempestuous history, but where they once hosted royalty, these empty, hulking structures are now overtaken by the wildlife and rich natural environments flourishing around them. From the exquisite brown bears and aquatic salamanders of Predjama Castle, to the Neuschwanstein Castle that inspired the fictional fortresses of some of Disney's most iconic princesses, explore the curious history of these imposing European structures and the creatures that now call them home. New episodes of WILD CASTLES will premiere on Smithsonian Earth each Friday, starting tomorrow, September 1. Smithsonian Earth is available on Apple®, Roku®, Amazon, and at SmithsonianEarthTV.com.

The series goes beyond the exterior of these massive structures to explore the life that now inhabits them, along with the storied past that got them to this point. Balancing history and untamed nature, WILD CASTLES takes viewers on a journey spanning centuries to uncover the SECRETS of these European wonders.

The premiere episode takes viewers to Heidelberg Castle, standing deep in the German countryside for over 500 years and once home to the country's first university, before becoming part of today's surrounding ecosystem. From toads swimming in the grounds' fountains to peregrine falcons ruling the bell towers, tour a medieval mausoleum steeped in wondrous wildlife. The episode will stream for free online at https://smithsonianearthtv.com/programs/wild-castles/.

Subsequent episodes of WILD CASTLES include:

CARCASSONNE

Premieres Friday, September 8

North of the Pyrenees stands the ancient Carcassonne, a stone fortress that has faced sieges, endured the brutality of the Spanish Inquisition and thrived as a center of wealth during the salt trade a millennium ago. Today, it's a protected sanctuary and an avian paradise for robust avocets, exotic flamingos and more.

PREDJAMA

Premieres Friday, September 15

Predjama Castle is carved into the heart of a Slovenian mountain and nestled among stunning natural attractions, including the eerie Postojna Caves and Lake Cerknica - Europe's largest intermittent lake. Brown bears, aquatic salamanders and more thrive in the shadow of this imposing fortress.

ALHAMBRA

Premieres Friday, September 22

In the sun-drenched plains of southern Spain, between Europe's only desert and the mighty Sierra Nevada, lies the Alahambra, a magnificent Moorish palace of lush gardens and shimmering fountains. This episode is a sweeping tour of the wildlife within, including Iberian frogs and white-bellied hedgehogs.

NEUSCHWANSTEIN

Premieres Friday, September 29

The landscape surrounding Neuschwanstein Castle is famous for its rugged peaks, deep gorges and river valleys packed with wildlife. The castle also served as inspiration for both Disney's Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty castles and was prominently featured in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Great Escape. Alpine ibex are at home on the surrounding tricky slopes, while golden eagles patrol the skies above. Embark on a rich journey through the human and natural history of these medieval grounds.

Smithsonian Earth is a subscription streaming video service specializing in original nature and wildlife programming shot in stunning 4K Ultra HD resolution that's available through Apple®, Roku®, Amazon, and at SmithsonianEarthTV.com.

Smithsonian Networks™ is a joint venture between Showtime Networks Inc. and the Smithsonian Institution. Smithsonian Networks operates Smithsonian Earth, through SN Digital LLC. Smithsonian Networks also operates Smithsonian Channel, the place for awe-inspiring stories, powerful documentaries and amazing entertainment across multiple platforms. To learn more, go to www.smithsonianchannel.com, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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