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Published: November 10th 2017
Geo: 48.1363, 11.5784
So after yesterdays downer, today was time for something a bit lighter. I had booked a tour to Neuschwanstein Castle. This is the castle that inspired just about every castle in Walt Disneys movies. A huge shining white castle on a mountain top, with huge turrets and balconies. The tour started at the train station, with a 3 hour joinery to Hohenshwangau. This is a little village in the Bavarian Alps. The country up there was magnificent. Open pastures with snaking streams running through the fields, gave way to patches of thick forest, followed by the magnificent mountains. And the mountains really go up, up up! Walls of mighty peaks with rocky outcrops. I wondered if people could actually go up there. It didn't look like there was much friendly ground. This question was answered when I was in the castle and I spied some hikers in a peak across the gorge, I spotted the flash of the camera as they took happy snaps of the castle from their vantage point.
There are two castles in this little village. The Hohenshwangau castle, the original home of the Bavarian royalty, and Neuschwanstein castle built by the "mad king" Ludwig II.
In 1864 Ludwig inherited the throne at the ripe old age of 18, from his sickly father. Not having much life experience, he generally left the running of the state to his ministers while he pursued the arts. He never married, despite pressure to produce a royal heir, probably because he was gay. Obviously at that time, a gay king was not a generally accepted, and being a devout catholic, he struggled with his sexuality. He was a great admirer of the italian opera composer Richard Wagnar and invited him to court. Wagnar was destitute and on the run from creditors. Ludwig paid off his creditors under the condition that Wagnar remain in Munich and write more Operas. This worked out well for about a year until Wagnars outlandish behavior combined with rumours about the nature of their relationship, became intolerable to the conservative community and Ludwig had to ask his friend to leave town. Ludwig put him up in a villa in Switzerland, poor Wagnar!
Ludwig built 3 castles, Linderhof ,Neuschwanstein and Herrenchiemsee. Of the three only Linderhof was complete. He spent the entire royal treasury on his projects. Work stopped on the remaining two castles when he died
at the age of 40 under some very suspect circumstances. Because he spent all his money, he then borrowed more to finish the projects. However as the costs escalated the banks and the state got very nervous. They had him arrested and declared insane. Three days later, he was found dead in the lake of his mental facility, along with the body of the psychiatrist who declared him insane. The shrink's body showed signs of a violent death, however it is said Ludwig's body was unmarked and he looked peaceful. However this maybe what the officials told the public as he was loved and admired by his people.
When we arrived in Hohenshwangau the guide took us for a walk though the village and gave a brief history of Ludwig and his family. After that we had a 20 minute hike up the mountain to Marian bridge. The landscape was lovely but kinda steep. It was a long 20 minutes. By the time I got to the bridge I was bright red and breathing very hard....stupid cold, stupid altitude! The bridge is across the gorge and is 90m above the river below. The views were spectacular but I didn't get
to see much. It was packed with a busload of tourists. (our guide made us walk but there was a bus, and two of them stopped just before we made it to the bridge) Add in my fear of heights, plus the floor of the bridge was made of wooden planks which were not as sturdy as I would have liked. This was compounded by the stupid wench behind me, who noticed the wonky wood, said something in german, and proceeded to jump up and down, testing how wonky it was. Her jumping made the planks I was standing on bow and bounce. I politely asked her to stop. I think I made it about 5m onto the bridge before I though screw this, it ain't Sydney harbour and went back.
From the bridge we walked down to the castle. It was nice to be walking downhill for a change. The guide gave us our tickets and we walked in. Entry to the castle is timed. Each ticket has a tour number, when the number comes up on the teleprompter we could walk through the gates, get our tickets scanned and go on to meet our tour guide. I liked
this castle much better than the last. It still had spiral stair cases but they were much wider and the steps deeper...made for people with actual feet. This castle was clearly built for show rather than purpose. The rooms were very grand and opulent. At one point we walked into the chapel which had a domed ceiling, blue with little stars, and this enormous chandelier hanging from it. The guide informed us the chandelier weight 2,000 pounds. All the walls were covered in biblical scenes or pictures of saints.
We were shown through several rooms, the dinning hall, Ludwigs bedrooom with the most ornate canopy bed I've ever seen. It was carved wood and it took 14 carvers 2 years to complete it. It looked like the roof of a cathedral. We walked through a conservatory which had been modeled to look like a cave, little chairs and tables were set up by the windows with the most spectacular view. I wish I could have taken photo's but we weren't allowed. Finally we finished in the singers hall. Another grand room with paintings of scenes from Wagner's operas on the walls. I wish we could have seen more, but the
castle is not complete so they limit how much of it the tourists can see. It took 17 years to build this castle, and Ludwig lived in it for a total of 172 days. That's a long time to wait for a summer home.
After the castle we returned down the mountain to the village. It was raining by this stage. Instead of taking the path we had taken up, we came down by the bitumen road the buses take. Even though it was raining it was still a pleasant walk through the forest (and I had my raincoat & umbrella) Its the kind of country that trekkers would love. I think my sister Chris would love riding her horses through here. I made it back to the village with enough time for a hot chocolate and a breather, before the long ride back to Munich. Tomorrow - Prague
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