CONTRIBUTED BY CALIFORNIA GLOBETROTTER
Visiting Germany is more than just drinking beer and eating schnitzel. Every year, Germany attracts thousands of visitors, 407.26 million to be exact, making it the seventh most visited country in the world!
Many tourists flock to some of the typical tourist hot spots, such as Heidelberg, Rothenberg ob der Tauber, Berlin and Munich. While these are certainly great places to visit and highly recommended, there are some more romantic places, thanks to Bavaria’s crazy King Ludwig II.
At 18 years old, Ludwig ascended the Bavarian throne in 1864. For twenty-two years, he would reign over one of the most prestigious and envied state in what would later become Germany. During these twenty-two years, he would produce some of the most romantic fairy-tale castles in Bavaria using his own money…while simultaneously breaking the bank and borrowing heavily from the Bavarian government. Eventually, his extravagant spending would be turned against him as his ministers would try to declare him insane.
He was a highly secluded person who constantly day dreamed about turning his beloved composer, Richard Wagner’s stories into real life fairy-tale palaces.
He had traveled to Pierrefonds and the Palace of Versailles in France and was amazed by the French had built up and glorified their culture and realized that Bavaria was certainly lacking in this area. It would become his ultimate obsession to see that Bavaria also achieved this status.
Perched atop a mountain overlooking the Schwangau valley below, Schloss Neuschwanstein (New-Swan-on-the-Rock-Castle) was the first of King Ludwig II’s romantic castles to be commissioned. Starting in 1868, plans were made to replace the ruins of a medieval castle to make way for the castle we know today and was planned to be his personal retreat since it was not big enough to house the royal court.
Unfortunately, like the rest of his castles, with the exception of Schloss Linderhof, the castle was never completed due to King Ludwig II’s untimely and mysterious death in 1886. After 17 years of construction, only 14 of the 360 rooms were completed.
Today, the palace is one of the most visited tourist attractions in all of Germany, reaching a grand total of around 6,000 visitors per day during the summer.
The palace was used as inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty castle for Disney and also appeared in one of my favorite movies: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, although in the movie they say that they are in Bulgaria.
As mentioned previously, the small palace of Schloss Linderhof is located near Ettal was the only castle that the king lived to see be completed, which he even had the luxury of living in for the remaining 8 years of his life. This palace was inspired by the Palace of Versailles in Paris and you can see the stunning artwork in honor of the French monarchy. King Ludwig II had a very extravagant taste in style and loved gold artwork throughout his castles. Schloss Linderhof is no different and every room is designed in beautiful French style with golden Rococo artwork. Eventually, he became more and more recluse and lived more like a hermit. From 1875 onward he only slept during the day and lived at night. Otherwise, he surrounded himself with beauty and therefore created a fantasy world around him in which he could escape.
The King would also commission the Venus Grotto to be built which also honored the stories from Richard Wagner. The Grotto was strictly built to row the King around in a small golden swan boat to the first act of Richard Wagner’s “Tannhäuser”. Not only did he want to be able to do this, but he wanted to feel like he was rowing his boat in the Blue Grotto of Capri, so for the first time ever, the lights were able to change colors.
Located on an island on Chiemsee (Lake Chiem) in one of the most beautiful lakes not far from Munich is the last of King Ludwig II’s stunning palaces to be built. Having been so inspired by the French monarch, he built this palace in honor of King Louis XIV “the Sun King” in Versailles. Therefore, Schloss Herrenchiemsee is almost an exact replica of the Palace of Versailles, found just outside of Paris but on a much smaller scale, as it was never completed. It was the final palace that the king would begin building and by far one of the most magnificent.
The palace was built between 1878 and 1885 and King Ludwig II only got the chance to stay in the palace for a few days, just the year before his death. Immediately after his untimely and mysterious death, the palace was finally opened to the public. By the time the King died, only 20 of the 70 rooms in the palace were complete. The sections that were not completed were later demolished.
The palace gardens are just as beautiful as those at the real Palace of Versailles and were considered to be of top priority when planning the building of the palace. Most of the gardens had been completed by the time the King died. Only the Apollo fountain and a boat landing dock were incomplete. For the most part, the gardens had to be copied in exact detail for the perfect view out of the windows from the palace.
The castle is only accessible by taking a 15 minutes boat trip to the largest island, Herren Insel before walking a 15 minute walk up to the palace.
By the time of the King’s untimely and mysterious death at Lake Starnberg, not far from Munich, King Ludwig II was 14 million marks in debt and demanding loans from all of Europe’s royalty. His cabinet members high disagreed and he was ready to replace them, but they acted first. They decided that he was mentally ill and unfit to continue to rule. On June 10, 1886, the government commission reached Schloss Neuschwanstein to deliver the papers declaring him unable to rule.
By June 13th, his doctor accompanied him for a walk around Lake Starnberg, only to never return. A search was started and after a few hours of searching, both of their bodies were mysteriously found floating in the shallow waters near the shore. Ludwig’s death was pronounced as death by suicide, but during the autopsy, water was not found in his lungs, therefore starting the rumors and speculations as to how the king died.
Today, his castles are some of the most beloved castles by many in Germany and around the world. Ironically, the very castles that caused the government so much debt have now become the most profitable source of income for the government.
Have you been to any of the castles? Which castle was your favorite?
This post was originally published on California Globetrotter; is is being republished here with permission.