Today’s post is dedicated to the memory of Mad King Ludwig II of Bavaria, back in the 1800’s. Mad King Ludwig, some of Maximillian II and his wife Queen Marie, was born in Palace Nymphemburg (in Munich) and raised in Schloss (Castle) Hohenschwangau (though then it was Neuswanstein – castles have changed names in the last century). This castle, originally from the 1300’s, was acquired by Maximillian, and upgraded, and then lived in with his family. The king lived and entertained on the top floor, while the queen’s chambers were on the first floor. There was a hidden doorway connecting the queen and king’s private bedrooms, but they spent much of their day apart. The castle overlooks Lake Alpsee, a beautiful and shimmering green body of water and home to many ducks and the revered swan (which you will hear more about momentarily). When King Max died, Ludwig was made King, at the tender age of 19. At this point he occupied the upstairs of this castle. He was particularly good friends with Richard Wagner (the composer) and there was a room for Wagner upstairs for when he visited. Rumour has it too that at some point Martin Luther spend a short period of time here when he was fleeing something that happened at some diet (not Worms, another one). Didn’t catch all the details.
Anyway, Ludwig was a little eccentric, and in his years of rules had 3 castles built at the same time. Schloss Herrenschiemsee (which we haven’t seen yet), Schloss Linderhof (which I have posted about) and Schloss Neuschwanstein. Each was influenced in some way by his love of the Palace of Versailles, especially Linderhof. Schloss Neuschwanstein is across the road from his boyhood home (literally – you can look from one to the other). It was also an old castle from the 1300’s, but Ludwig wanted a grand masterpiece that was more medieval looking. While Linderhof was completed, and he lived there for 8 years, he only lived in the partially finished Neuschwanstein for 172 days. At this time he was declared “Mad” by his cabinet and arrested. The following day he was out for a walk by a lake with his psychiatrist and was found dead in waste deep water. No one knows what really happened. He was 40 years old. Neuschwanstein castle has a mostly completed first food, basement kitchen and 3rd floor singing hall. The second floor is not completed. Only 6 weeks after his death in 1886 the castle, owned by the state, was opened up to tourists (as was Linderhof), and has been operating that way ever since. Hohenschwangau was lived in by Luitpold until the early 1900’s before the same happened to it.
Neuschwanstein, and Linderhof palace (though we didn’t realize it at the time) both had bedrooms for the kings good friend Richard Wagner. Wagner spent a lot of time there. In Linderhof there was a piano room, and in Neuschwanstein the entire 3rd floor is a singing room – a special room designed to hold Wagner’s operas with 400 guests, except Ludwig was shy and they were only every performed for him alone. The room is EXTRAVAGANT and built with perfect acoustics. The Castle holds summer musical nights with 400 guests to show off the wonders of this room. As we toured the castles and heard more and more about Wagner, it became kind of a running joke, the nature of their bromance. All we know for certain is that Wagner had a room in each of the castles, and that the king was heavily involved in financing his work.
Neuschwanstein really is beautiful, and lives up to it’s name – New Swan Stone – or the Swan Castle. There are rooms dedicated solely to the swan – with every curtain, statue, carving and door handle showing off the glorious Bavarian creature – the swan. In addition, the throne room (minus the throne – Ludwig died before it was constructed) has a 2000 lbchandelier (GORGEOUS – I was sad cameras were not allowed) and paintings about the 12 apostles, looking up to a giant Jesus on the ceiling. It was a very religious themed room – one of the few we’d seen in Ludwig’s houses. His bedroom paintings are all scenes from Tristan and Isolde, and Linderhof is mostly full of naked angles. His choice in art work is incredibly inconsistent.
Enough about Ludwig himself, let me tell you more about our experience with these castles. When you get tickets to see the castles, you have to get them the morning of. So after breakfast we stood in the short (non-existant line – thanks to our hotel being next door to the ticket office) and got our pass. If you are seeing both, you must see Hohenschwangau first, then Neuschwanstein. Both are given tour numbers with timed entrances. If you miss you’re tour, you’re out of luck, and don’t get your money back. It’s a very well oiled machine, with tours operating in English and German, and audio guides available for 10 other languages. We bought the tickets at 9:00, with 9:50 being our first tour at Hohenschwangau. To get to the castle you must hike 20 minutes uphill/stairs to get to main entrance. We wandered the castle grounds for a few minutes taking photos before our tour began. There were only 6 English folks for the tour so they combined us with the multi-language group and we used the audio guides instead. It was very informative, the tour taking 30 minutes and us learning a lot about the history, the art, the items and of course enjoying some of Wagner’s music in between. After the tour you walk down 5 flights of spiral stairs (you walked up them to begin with of course, but less spiral and more royal at the front of the castle), and then 30 minutes downhill back to the base. Our second tour time was 12:10, but Neuschwanstein is MUCH higher up in the mountains. By now the snow had started to fall. The temperature had dropped 5 degrees from when we hiked up to the first castle, so Ray ran back to the hotel to get a scarf and sweater. There is a bus that takes you up to the top above the castle, near Marienbrucke, a beautiful bridge from which to take those perfect castle pictures. For €1,80 you get to save yourself the 55 minute hike uphill to the bridge – money well spent (especially in the snow!) The bus drops you off 5 minutes below the bridge, but of course the clouds were SUPER thick, and the castle was lost into the fog/clouds and almost impossible to photograph. I tried shooting a short video to give you an indication of where we were, and sadly, I did not get the amazing photo I was hoping for. We then hiked 5 minutes down, and another 10-15 minutes uphill to the front of the castle, and then waited in the snow for 20 minutes until our tour time came. Of course we got stuck in the group with the obnoxious teenagers, but thankfully their teacher stepped in and shut them up by the time we got to the first floor. This tour was also 30 minutes long, with over 350 stairs (NOT wheelchair accessible). So I got a good amount of hiking in this day. After the tour we enjoyed a piece of Schwatzwalderkirschtorte from inside the castle, while enjoying the snowy views. We then took a horse drawn carriage to the bottom (kitschy, I know, but it was cold, snowing harder, and I didn’t want to hike the 40+ minutes downhill on the slippery ground. Worth the €3,00).
Afterwards we went hunting for a head pack for my back (still acting up) in Fussen (which was nothing exciting if you ask me) before heading home for some reading and blogging (and a quick facetime with my parents to show them the view). We had dinner across the street where I enjoyed the most EXTRAORDINARY apfelstrudel with warm vanilla sauce. We are LOVING the food. In fact, we have an entire post in the works dedicated to the foods of Germany (for those foodie friends of ours). So much of getting to know a people can be down via their food and dining cultures. The snow continued in full force right into the night. I enjoyed the view while packing up and preparing for the next adventure – Nürnburg!