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It’s time for another installment of fun facts about my favorite Bavarian King, Ludwig II.
Ludwig built 3 castles during his reign. The only one he actually completed was called Linderhof.
It’s a lovely little place, really a palace more than a castle. I say “little” because it’s the smallest of his creations, but obviously, for most of us, the size would be more than adequate.
The palace is inspired by Versailles and the French Bourbon Kings (Louis XIV, XV, and XVI), and it’s very rococo and full of gold, gilding, and fussy frou-frou. When I visited it, I had to keep pinching myself and imagining the King wandering the halls.
Ludwig spent more time here than at any of his other palaces. He filled the grounds with plenty of things to amuse him when he tired of the opulence inside. He has a hunting hut (he visited there each Good Friday and insisted on a meadow of flowers outside. If none were blooming naturally, servants had to plant a bunch). Another “hut” was inspired by a Wagner opera scene. He had a Moorish Kiosk as well, full of Indian-inspired colors and even a peacock throne.
Ludwig II: The Venus Grotto at Linderhof
But the spot I wanted to visit most was the Venus Grotto.
You walk up a hillside, push a button on a large rock, and a door slides aside, revealing a huge artificial cave.
Yes, the painting on the wall is a scene from a Wagner opera. Ludwig liked to float around the lake in the shell boat. He fed specially-baked bread to the swans living here, and sometimes he invited favorite opera singers to visit the Grotto and perform for him. He wanted to stage part of an opera here, but his proclivity for spending frequently got him into trouble with the Bavarian parliament, who nixed the idea.
The lighting in the grotto was produced by one of Germany’s first power generators, and the lights change colors slowly.I was so looking forward to visiting the Grotto, but unfortunately my 1993 visit was with a tour group, and I ran out of time. I vividly remember checking my watch and trying to calculate whether I could make it — after all, I was in my 20s and most of the tour group were elderly — but I didn’t want to chance it. I didn’t like the idea of ending up lost in rural Germany!
Have any of you out there gotten to visit the Venus Grotto? What did you think?
Royal fan? You need to read my book about Mad King Ludwig, the most fascinating character you’re ever likely to meet. Paperback or Kindle versions at Not So Happily Ever After: The Tale of King Ludwig II.