Architecture of Neopia: Meridell
Meridell is to Brightvale what Corbin is to Kell, and what a hill is to the prospect of cheese rolling. In my opinion, inseparable yet peculiarly different.
As a scholar of architecture, I couldn't visit Brightvale and not take a look at Meridell. It is the vastly larger region to the east of its twin, famed for its simplistic way of life. Meridell is a home of merriment and some of the most delicious seasonal harvest from all of Neopia. Those not enlisted in its vast military are farmers, mostly subsistence as a result of heavy taxation but there is an abundance of bustling trade in the local town each Sunday (which slightly off topic, I would recommend, but some farmers are more than happy to let you 'pick your own').
Architecturally speaking, the landscape planning of Meridell is quite interesting. It sits comfortably near the shore by a large cove that separates it from its neighbour. The cove is very beautiful but experiences a lot of wet weather, both times I attempted to walk it I was met by feet high waves crashing about my ankles and a dangerous wind. Noticing the lack of lighthouse only reaffirms my belief in Meridell's vast fortification; it is relentlessly glaring down any attack from the sea, if any vessel were able to navigate the rocks. Aesthetically, the castle must look majestic sitting atop the tall grey cliffs, but this is not the purpose of its architectural location. Neither is it any coincidence that Meridell is surrounded by the Lightwater River, which acts as a moat separating castle from its people. The symbolism and significant suggestion is although Meridell has faced many battles and enemies, some of its greatest enemies may be its own overtaxed and overworked peasantry populace- but that's not for me to judge.
Meridell castle itself is difficult to gain access to beyond the public area, but speaking to a friend of a friend of a friend (and only after I told some many hilarious jokes), I managed to gain access to some of the lesser-known reaches of the castle. The interior is unimpressive, plain ashlar stone but roughly 5m thick but with typical wooden oak doors. At first look, it seems as if the stones are a type of dry-stone walling you can see on almost all walls around the peasantry buildings in the local towns, however they are fixed together with a mortar of lime, soil and water. The exterior is a sight more impressive than the interior, where even the grandest of rooms resemble a dungeon, gloomily illuminated from the fireplaces and the occasional arrow loop. I found myself wandering down long narrow walkways in dim light, dark and shivering. But for all its sombreness the exterior is a dazzling white with well-maintained crenulations about the walk. Once inside the keep (the large interior tower, most heavily defended section of the castle. Basically the castle within the castle) I was able to visit the actual living accommodation and armouries. These areas were slightly more aesthetically pleasing, but from a militaristic point of view far more interesting. At each four corners of the keep are further defence towers, wrapped around spiral staircases. As I walked past, there were a group of lazy guards leaning out the towers signalling amusing gestures to another group of guards sitting about the external tower defences. It struck me as a pleasant place to work, at least in peacetime. The view was stunning anyhow. I was not shown into the King's actual living chambers, or the money house, or anywhere that politically important of course – but instead got a sense of the overarching medieval architectural theme. The courtyards were indeed extensive, and quite beautiful but nothing compared to anything I saw in Brightvale. The dungeons similarly, a vast complex of entirely unlit and damp area haunted by the moaning of distant ghosts… or at least I hope they were ghosts. It is interesting how the technology is there to produce a far more aesthetically pleasing building but each time the castle was rebuilt, it was rebuilt to the exact same style by the exact same architect (whose name has disappeared in the mists of time, as many medieval architects have).
Speaking of the rebuild, the Meridell castle as we know it today is the 4th castle to have been built upon that site. For many different reasons, the castle was demolished and rebuilt. Initial designs of the castle were built to woodwork for its cheapness and lightweight constructional values. But the two wooden versions were destroyed in disasters coined as 'The Great Sinking" and "The Great Burning" – both are pretty self explanatory. The first being a lack of strong foundation support led to the castle subsiding into the marshland, and the second due to an entirely wooden structure falling fate to the flames. The final rebuild happened probably just before our lifetimes in the disaster known as "The Great Splashing" and the less said about that one the better.
Leaving the castle, I still had time to explore the actual surrounding towns. Such architecture is often overlooked – it is basic, thatched roofs and drystone walls. No lighting or heating save for a central fire which is also the main source of energy for cooking and heating water. There is no running water like some places in Neopia, instead most people rely on wells, which works given the climate, water is relatively abundant in the soil. I have yet to see a building material other than brick, thatch, or wood though. There is a certain rustic, charming beauty to these little rural abodes however, and a certain pleasing symmetry to the surrounding fields all criss-crossed into the distance by tiny hedgerows. Meridell is like a place of the past, and I admire their ability in the face of their neighbours not to feel competition or envy of Brightvale. No, the people wish to live out their quiet lives on their beautiful and flourishing farms. Despite the smell of dung, its all rather pleasant.
In conclusion, architecturally speaking Meridell is relatively backward. I felt as if walking through it and studying it was like reading a history book. It is frozen in time, and symbolises a significant stage in Neopian development, I'm almost glad it hasn't been swept over by the tide of development and industrialisation. We need these beautiful uncorrupted areas of Neopia.