Thursday, June 26, 2014

Castles of an Insane King?

Hohenschwangau Castle It's fairly easy to walk to this castle.
This romantic king loved the legend of the star-crossed lovers, "Tristan and Isolde," adored the opera and supported the composer Wagner, and tucked fairy tale castles that were more whimsy than substance into clefts in the Alps.  But the people of Bavaria accused King Ludwig II of insanity, and, according to our guide, "He went for a walk with the psychiatrist sent to evaluate him and both men were found dead in the lake of mysterious circumstances later that day.  The next week, his castles were opened to the public as museums."

The guide's cryptic sentences state the obvious, but don't reveal the truth which is, as far as I can tell from research, that someone murdered the king and killed the psychiatrist who witnessed the murder.

You will wait for your group's number to be posted to the right of this garden at Hohenschwangau Castle.
It wasn't because Ludwig had at least two male lovers, Richard Hornig and Joseph Kainz and an infatuation with Wagner, or because he was given to flights of fancy, or even because, in the twenty-two years he ruled the land in the mid-1800s, he never had even a sham marriage for political reasons.  No, the reason Ludwig was "found dead in the lake of mysterious circumstances" and the reason the death was never investigated was because of only one thing.  Ludwig was dotting the land with his elaborate castles that emulated or tried to rival other famous palaces.  His rampant spending was bankrupting Bavaria.  The people could no longer afford to keep him in power.

Neuschwanstein Castle
But the castles near Fussen are almost ethereal.  They peek from behind the wispy clouds of mist that seem always to hang over the Alps and beg you to come for a visit.

David and I were not immune to their Siren song, but I wish we'd had someone give us the advice I'm about to give you.  Really, the most interesting castle to see is Ludwig's ancestral home, Hohenschwangau Castle.  The tour is thorough, you see most of the rooms, and you learn the fascinating history of this family.  While the Neuschwanstein Castle inspired Disney's theme park castles, and looks the epitome of the definition, "castle," it is much more beautiful on the outside than the inside.  Don't bother touring it.

The tour involves climbing about 892 steps (Five flights of circular castle steps are too many.), with the reward of seeing only five or so dark rooms in this uncompleted castle in which Ludwig never spent much time.  It's not worth the time, trouble or money.  Get your photos from the road or buy a postcard (No photos are allowed inside the castles because of copyright laws.  In other words, the commercial companies have bought the rights to all the interior shots.)  You'll be better off.

Practicalities - 
If you drive to the castles, go past the first three parking lots, through the touristy part of the village, and past the ticket office to the fourth parking lot down a small hill on your right next to the lake.  This involves the least amount of hiking/time to get to the ticket office.  You pay the same amount, €5, at all four lots.

While it's fairly easy to walk to Hohenschwangau Castle, if you want to see Neuschwanstein to take pictures, you will face a logistical challenge.  Unless you enjoy hiking uphill for what seems like a mile or two, you will want to follow this advice for the cheapest and easiest way to approach the castle.

Take the bus (€1.80) to the top and walk to Mary's Bridge for the best picture-taking opportunity.  Then follow signs to walk downhill (600 meters) to the castle and ask directions for the horse-drawn carriages, again a short walk downhill.   Apparently the bus and carriages drop off/pick up at different places to avoid congestion.  By taking the bus up and the carriage back, you will have only short downhill walks to transportation.
Nine or ten people can fit in each carriage.  The cost is €3.

1 comment:

  1. Great history lesson. Thanks Dru and Dave. Heinz Stapff