Today we saw Cinderella’s Castle (almost literally)! In Fussen, a town about two hours outside of Munich, King Ludwig II built a castle–Neuschwanstein–that is said to have inspired the Disney World castle.
The day we planned to go turned out to be a beautiful and sunny day (my dad would said horribly hot and bright), which was perfect for visiting the castle.
(view from train window arriving into Fussen)
Right in the valley below King Ludwig’s castle is his father’s castle, Hohenschwangau. Hohenschwangau loosely translates to “high swanland”, in reference to Swan Lake which is in the valley below; Neuchwasntein means “new swanstone”.
Before making our way to Ludwig’s castle, our guide warned that the way up is a steep and demanding walk, and he wasn’t exaggerating! My dad opted to take the bus to the top, while I decided to walk because we had been on the train all morning, and I wanted to be able to take pictures.
After finally making it to the top, and sweating through my shirt, I was reward with a panoramic view of the town below.
Near the castle is “Mary’s bridge”, a steel bridge built over 100 years ago, that spans over a gorge and gives an amazing view of the castle.
The castle is idyllic on the outside, and Ludwig had amazing plans for the interior, but he died before these plans could be realized.Still, about one floor was completed and we were able to tour these rooms, giving us a taste of the decadent plan Ludwig had in mind. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take pictures of the interior, but I can describe some of the most interesting features, and show some pictures from the internet!
Ludwig used the interior design to honor the operas of his friend, Richard Wagner. In each room the paintings on the walls displayed scenes from specific operas, such as Tristan and Isolde, and the castle even has an artificial cave, also inspired by one of Wagner’s operas.
The king’s bedroom alone took four years for woodcarvers to complete, which is understandable when looking at the wooden bed canopy which is intricately carved into the shapes of Gothic cathedrals.
We also got to see inside the king’s bathroom which was funny because the decadence didn’t stop there! His toilet seat looked like a wood carved throne (not unlike the one in our guest bathroom).
Those were the main, and my favorite, features of the castle. I can’t even begin to imagine what the castle would be like if things like the chapel and the king’s chair were completed.
Although the castle is amazing and I really enjoyed seeing the rooms, I think the history behind the castle and King Ludwig was actually even more interesting. (This is as told by our tour guides, and from what I’ve read in my guide book)
(me and my dad in the castle courtyard- He said these shoes gave made it obvious I was a tourist. Sorry to blow your cover, Dad!)
Ludwig assumed the throne at 18 after his father’s death, but he was not very politically minded, was likely homosexual–a fact he would’ve struggled with–and suffered from paranoia (in some of his other castles, Ludwig had his dining table on a lift so that the servants could set the table and it could be lifted to his dinging room, thus enabling him to avoid contact with others). All of these factors contributed to Ludwig withdrawing from people and his political duties, and turning his attention to designing grand, fanciful castles (which also led to the nickname Mad King Ludwig).
(view from Castle window)
However, designing and building these castles was an expensive endeavor, and Ludwig was driving his family into a deep debt. Eventually, Ludwig was diagnosed as mentally insane, and therefore incapable of being king, by Dr. Bernhard von Gudden, who had yet to actually interview Ludwig, but based this diagnosis on interviews with his family members.
(waterfall in valley below Castle and Mary’s bridge)
After spending only a night at the castle where he was placed under disability, Ludwig and his doctor were found drowned in the lake (my guide says the water was only about knee deep). Autopsies were never performed and the cause of death was simply listed as drowning.So that is the mysterious history behind the castle, and the reason it was never finished!