The fairytale Castle.
After our successful day at Schloss Linderhof, I had high hopes for our visit to the great castles Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau. These two castles are the stuff of fairytales. I am a huge Disney fan, and the castle of Neuschwanstein was the model and inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland!!
Confession - ok so I didn't take this photo, it's from a postcard. The bridge that offers this perspective on the castle was closed for maintenance, so I cheated and took this snap, but it does show what we were expecting!
Neuschwanstein literally means "New Swan Castle", referencing 'The Swan Knight', a character from one of Richard Wagner's operas. Before coming to Germany, I hadn't really heard of Richard Wagner, but I have since learned that he was a particular favourite of Crazy King Ludwig, and also Hitler.....
This amazing castle was built in Bavaria in the 19th century, a time when castles no longer had strategic or defensive purposes. So this building is basically a giant, lavish, expensive house; built to indulge in one ( slightly insane ) man's ego and artistic flair. He wanted it to be a sort of livable theatrical setting, where he could remind himself of his greatness and pretend he was living in an opera....!?!?
It looks like a medieval castle, but it was built to have all the modern luxuries available at the time - automatic flushing systems, an air-heating system, everything covered in gold and rich paintings.....the usual things that a person needs. Only 17 of the planned 200 rooms were finished and King Ludwig only got to sleep in his fairytale castle for 11 nights before he died suddenly in mysterious circumstances, his body found in Lake Starnberg.
The only way to see inside the castles is to go on a guided tour. And the only way to go on a guided tour is to get there at the crack of dawn and line up for a ticket. We were there right smack in the middle of the summer busy season. We managed to get there not too late in the morning ( this is a small miracle for my family ) and Ross lined up while I terrorized the gift shop owners with my 5 kids. Foreign gift shops are funny places. You suddenly feel like you need to be the owner of a giant traditional German beer mug, or perhaps a chess set made of medieval figurines, lol. Luckily I have had experience with this phenomenon before. Ross and I lived in Japan for a year before we had kids and we came home with two boxes full of Japanese stuff - fans, dresses, stickers, lots of ugly crockery, paper lamp shades that I never used, scrolls, weird little figurines....., and it all pretty much stayed in those boxes for the next 12 years! So I was aware that it is a particular sort of magic spell that overtakes a person when in a foreign country. Also, we had almost no room left in our car, so our momentos had to be pocket sized. I love shopping and I love foreign knick knacks, but its probably a lucky thing that we were fairly poor, if not, I would probably be the proud owner of a giant castle themed beer mug!
Finally, we got our tickets and we set out for the day. Our first tour was Hohenschwangau. This is the 19th century castle where little Ludwig spent most of his time as a boy, looking over the hills and imagining the future fairytale castle that he would one day construct. To get there, we had a fairly decent walk uphill, but the scenery was very beautiful. We discovered stories of King Ludwig, and how he loved to take moonlit sleigh rides in the snow dressed in 18th century historical costume, the pathway lit with modern lamps.
Anyone spot Mr Tumnus??
Finally we made it to the top of the hill, and it was totally worth it! The castle and the view were stunning.