Right out of a Fairy Tale, the Neuschwanstein Castle
King Ludwig II of Bavaria was a passionate man and his passion centered around two things, his admiration of everything French (especially French architecture) and his love for the operas of Richard Wagner.
Ludwig had such admiration for the French and their lifestyle that he built two lavish palaces copying their designs. But that’s not what I’m going to write about today. Today I’m going to tell you about the castle that was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle from Walt Disney, the imposing, amazing fairy tale castle of Neuschwanstein.
Ludwig actually built Neuschwanstein castle to serve as his personal home and as a tribute to Wagner. For over twenty years construction on this castle was the primary source of employment for the entire region around Lake Schwansee, which the castle looms gorgeously above.
Neuschwanstein is a pale gray limestone castle, which contrasts beautifully against the dense forest around it. The walk up to the castle from the village of Hohenschwangau is steep, taking even the most physically fit visitor about 30 minutes to complete. The exertion is certainly worth it, the views from the castle grounds of the surrounding scenery are stunning (you can ride up to the castle if the walk is too much for you).
The various rooms of the castle astound even the most sophisticated visitor. The walls of the vestibule are covered with painting depicting scenes from Old German myths and legends. The Throne room has a gilded interior and is reminiscent of a Byzantine temple. The dining room incudes fabulous pictures, ornate wood carvings and beautifully decorated furniture.
The castle was fitted with every modern convenience, even a system for taking the hot air from the kitchen and heating the castle with it. There was an artificial grotto that included an artificial waterfall and a rainbow machine.
If you aren’t completely awe-struck with Neuschwanstein you’ll realize there’s another castle in the immediate area, Hohenschwagau Castle was the childhood home of Ludwig II. His father King Maximillian and his mother Marie lived there during the summer months with Ludwig and his brother Otto. Over 90 interior paintings depict the history of the area, as well as mythical medieval romances. It is in Hohenschwagau that Ludwig is reported to have become enamored with fairy tale romances, inspiring him to build Neuschwanstein above Hohenschwagau.
Ludwig II was in fact so completely overcome with his desire to make Neuschwanstein a fairy tale recreation that he spent his entire fortune on it and began to borrow heavily from other monarchs in Europe. It was this total disregard for financial discretion that allowed his ministers to have him declared insane.
Luitpold, uncle to Ludwig, was declared Regent. Ludwig was transferred to Berg Castle, south of Munich, where he and one of the physicians who declared him insane died suspiciously during an evening stroll together.
Today almost 2 million people tour Neuschwanstein Castle yearly, with over 6,000 per day visiting the castle during the summer months. Many great tour packages include Neuschwanstein Castle tours, self-guided tours of the castle are not allowed.
I can’t wait to see Neuschwanstein in person; I hope you have added it to your bucket list as well.
Joy Gawf-Crutchfield owns and operates The Joy of Travel. Contact Joy at 918-339-4805 or www.thejoyoftravel.net