Ludwig II was captivated by the fantasy world of Wagner’s
operas and by romantic tales from medieval times. It is clear from visiting
Neuschwanstein and his family home at Schloss Hohenschwangau that Ludwig chose not
to live in the world of his contemporaries, but in a fantasy world that he
believed a better place.
The construction of Schloss Neuschwanstein started in 1868 on a site
occupied by the ruins of two castles that were removed to make room for the new edifice. The
development of the
Castle's interior and exterior
remained incomplete at the time of Ludwig II’s mysterious death in
1886. Ludwig stayed in the Gateway Building (completed in 1873)
when he visited the construction site. Of course, his summer home was just
across the valley in Schloss Hohenschwangau, from which he had a telescope
that he used to keep an eye on the construction of Neuschwanstein.
Ludwig lived in the castle for the five months preceding his death, although
the Castle still had not been completed. After his death, the State of
Bavaria finished only the work that was necessary to open the site to the
public a few months after his demise.
Neuschwanstein is a glorious sight. Its spires reach for the sun and its
whimsical features are balanced and attractive. In addition, the castle benefits from its location
above Pollat Gorge and the views of the surrounding countryside from atop
the castle are extraordinarily beautiful. Ludwig may have been an unusual
monarch, but he
certainly knew the value of location.
Speaking of Ludwig, he constructed Neuschwanstein as his personal residence. He was a confirmed bachelor and did not intend others (except servants) to
live with him at the castle. In effect, he decided to build a fantasy castle
for himself, to be constructed just as he imagined one should look – because
he wanted one! Perhaps it is this self-focus that made the castle into the
successful icon it has become today. Neuschwanstein Castle is a very popular
place with tourists,
although many of its detractors say, “It isn’t a real castle”.
Although it is not a historically important castle, it is a monumental edifice that attracts over a million visitors a year. If you are planning a
trip to Bavaria, Neuschwanstein should be on your list of places to visit.
Once you reach the castle, you will need to cue up for your tour.
There will queues for the next three tour-times, but there is no advantage
to being first in line. Just be sure you are in the queue when that
group is admitted. Live tours
are offered in German and English and other languages are available by audio
guide tours. The tour lasts approximately 30 minutes, during which you will
see a sampling (fifteen) of the finished rooms of the castle. At the
time of Ludwig's death, only one-third of the Castles rooms had been
There is a lot of stair climbing and descending required during the tour. Visitors who
cannot climb stairs (those needing wheel chairs or
walkers) are accommodated only on Wednesdays that do not fall on national
holidays in Germany and these tours must be booked in advance. See this
official site for more information on special needs visits.
The interior rooms available for touring are a
dazzling expose of dramatic design, lavish paintings from operas and other
celebrations of romance literature from medieval times. Many of the murals
represent scenes from Wagner's operas, while others feature scenes from epic
poems. Each room seems to contain some outstanding feature lacking in the
others and all feature unique decorations, delightful ornaments and views of
life quite unlike our own. By the end of the tour, you will
have seen decorative schemes that include just about every color imaginable,
sometimes in unimaginable combinations.
The Throne Hall (the
throne itself was never built due to Ludwig's death) combines the religious decorations of a Byzantine-style
cathedral, replete with gilded walls, with the majesty required to honor the
King of Bavaria. The gilded half-dome behind where the throne would have been,
includes a stunning representation of Christ with Mary at his side above several famous kings.
Look around and you will see the 12 Apostles (in groups of six) and
additional scenes with the kings who were featured in
the dome mural shown in acts of heroism in frescoes scattered
around the room. A massive, one-ton gilded, brass chandelier, which is shaped like a crown,
dominates the room. The
amazing mosaic tile work on the floor, comprised of a million and half pieces
of tile, shows a color full array of animals including elephants, deer, lions,
gazelles, boars, peacocks , jackals and other too numerous to name.
The room's many columns are brightly colored and add to the impressive
nature of the hall.
bedroom (with private chapel) and living room feature numerous, beautiful frescos, unique
carved woodwork, delightful inlays and more unique decorations. The
room features a secret door that blends in with the wall decoration and leads to his private toilet. Neuschwanstein's source of water was 200 feet above
the Castle and each floor of the building had running water available.
In the midst of all of this opulence, you will, unexpectedly, find
yourself passing through a room that was constructed and decorated to look
like the inside of a cave. The look is very persuasive and reminds one
of the whimsies seen in other unusual palaces.
The tour ends at the Singer’s Hall (Sangersaal), a theater that had
not been used at the time of Ludwig’s death. The room is a glorious
assemblage of natural woods (especially the intricate ceiling), art,
statues, chandeliers and colors that blend to provide an impressive theater.
If you have a few second, look up at statues and other decorative
works adorning the room’s columns - there is no end to the details of the
installations used to decorate this extravagant structure.
One comment we have heard from many travelers is that the tour of
Neuschwanstein is "uninspired" and we agree. The tour of the castle
feels rushed and the guides, who must have given their "speech" a million
times, seem in a rush to complete the tour in the allotted time.
However, if you want to see the Castle's interior, the tour is your only
At the end of the tour, you can
wander to the canteen for a snack or into the store to purchase a memento.
If you did not take the opportunity to examine the view from the Marienbruecke, turn left when you leave the castle and head uphill for this
beautiful view. In addition, if you take this path, you can catch the bus back to town
or take a hiking trail back to Hohenschwangau. The downhill hike is scenic
and takes approximately 30 minutes to complete.
Ludwig II (1845 – 1886) was King of Bavaria from 1864 until being deposed
before his mysterious death in 1886. Born in the Nympenburg Palace in
Munich, Ludwig was raised there, in the Residenz in Munich and in
Schloss Hohenschwangau, which was his family's summer home. By all accounts,
he was shy and introverted as a young man. Ludwig ascended
to the throne at the age of 18 and was a reluctant king. History
indicates that he was uninterested in the details of
government and felt uncomfortable participating in large gatherings.
He is known for championing the works of the composer Richard Wagner and for
his penchant for building castles that evoked the glories of the past.
Although Ludwig financed these new castles from his personal fortune, he had
borrowed enormous sums to support their planning and construction.
Eventually his lackadaisical approach to participating in his own reign and
plans to build additional castles resulted in his ministers seeking to remove
him as king.
King Ludwig was deposed because of a declaration indicating that he was
mentally unstable, although it appears that the document was issued by
physicians who had never met him. A few days later, the deposed king
and one of the doctors who had signed the declaration of insanity, were
found dead along the shores of Lake Starnberg, which is just to the
southwest of Munich. Shortly after his death, Ludwig’s unfinished but
beloved Neuschwanstein was opened to the public.
Visit Neighboring Hohenschwangau Castle (Ludwig's lifelong summer home).
Visit Other Towns Along the Romantic Road
Check out the Best Places to Visit in Germany
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