Whilst on my recent holiday to Germany with my family I got to visit the most beautiful fairy tale castle I have ever seen, straight out of a children’s book; Neuschwanstein Castle. The castle was built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who had a very sad life, and was never finished due to his suspicious death at only 41. He dedicated the castle to Wagner, the composer, and each of the rooms was themed around one of the stories from his operas.
Ludwig became King when he was only 18 after his father, King Maximilian II, passed away. He had not been very close to his father but tried to be a good king and despite his eccentricity and real dislike of public gatherings he was popular with the people. Unfortunately the ministers wanted a puppet King that they could control and Ludwig’s independent mind stood in the way of their plans.
To retreat from the pressures of office Ludwig began building fairy tale retreats, he built several castles before starting Neuschwanstein Castle in 1869. He never completed it. In 1886 the ministers declared Ludwig insane in a bid to gain control once and for all. He was taken from Neuschwanstein to Berg Palace. The next day King Ludwig and the psychiatrist that had declared him insane were found drowned in Lake Starnberg and his younger brother Otto, who was considered insane, succeeded him.
To get to the castle you have to make your way up the mountain to it. You can walk (about 15-20 minutes), get a coach or go by horse and cart. We walked up, a really beautiful walk, and down again, taking a detour to a bridge where you can get a really good shot of the castle perched on the mountain side.
Every room that had been finished on the top floor was decorated so highly, stunning embroidery and acres of gilding and brightly coloured walls. It took a team of carpenters 4 months to carve the wooden furniture in his bedroom but the end result was more that worth it. Every corner you turned just took your breath away. Completely over the top but completely amazing. A tremendous amount of imagination and work for what would have been the most stunning fairy tale home!
Due to how much the building of the castle cost the government decided to open it to tourists only month’s after the King’s death, and you could see where many of the objects had been handled, and chairs sat on before conservation measures were put in place. Now the castle is only open by time guided tour, and each of the rooms has perspex walls inside the main walls, to protect the furnishings and decorations from sustaining any more damage.
The oddest part of the day was visiting the gift shop. There are several souvenir shops on the walk up to the castle from the car park and more gift shops after you leave the guided tour, and they sell the usual sort of thing, including postcards, t-shirts, key rings, mugs ect with people relevant to the castle’s history on them. So there were souvenirs featuring King Ludwig, Charles Wagner and one particular woman in a very beautiful ball gown. However could we find any information on this woman during our visit? No. Her name was given on the merchandise she was featured on but that was all we could find. She was not mentioned on the tour, nor in either of the books we purchased in the shop.
After a bit of googling I found out that her name is Elisabeth, Empress of Austria, also know as Sisi. She was King Ludwig’s cousin and close friend, but it it is not clear if she ever visited it, I can’t find any information one way or the other. I can’t find a reason why she is so heavily featured in the gift shop but not mentioned during the tour. Maybe it’s just a case of every good castle needing its own pretty princess. But maybe there is more to it that than, I know if I was friends with someone who owned such a magnificent castle I would try and make sure I got to visit!
This is the castle that Walt Disney took as inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle, which can be found in every Disney Land/World. And you can see why he did, it is the most stunning looking castle in such a mind-blowingly beautiful location! And the interiors match the exterior for beauty. You weren’t allowed to take photos inside, but you can find images on google if you want to have a look.
Neuschwanstein Castle has to be the most beautiful castle I have ever visited, I would love to get to spend some more time there, just staring at the amazing decor and discovering the stories painted on the walls. As I was on the tour I couldn’t help but think how much I would enjoy working there and getting to clean that collection(weird I know), with all the intricately carved furniture and stunning embroidery. It’s honestly the sort of place that could tempt me out of the country. So that completes post number two about my European Adventures! Stay tuned for more 😛