If you’re planning a trip to southern Germany (Bavaria), one of the must-see sites is “Mad” King Ludwig’s most famous castle, Neuschwanstein. Actually, if I were traveling anywhere in Germany, I’d make the effort to get to Neuschwanstein. It’s probably the world’s most iconic castle. Type “castle” into a Google image search, and many of the results will depict this famous castle.
Some interesting things to know if you’re visiting Neuschwanstein:
- Bavarian King Ludwig (1845 – 1886) built Neuschwanstein as an homage to his hero, composer Richard Wagner. Ludwig planned to have various works by Wagner performed here, and the castle includes an ornate stage. However, this never happened during the king’s lifetime.
- Neuschwanstein is within sight of Hohenschwangau, the castle where Ludwig grew up. When he was a boy, Ludwig loved to ride through the countryside exploring. He was fascinated by the mountain where he ended up building Neuschwanstein (which, by the way, means “castle of the new swan”). Before he built there, the mountainside held ruins of two medieval castles.
- Many of the original castle plans were never completed, due to Ludwig’s life-long struggle with finances. He had planned a large chapel to be built inside the courtyard, and this was never realized. Much of the castle is mostly a shell, full of unfinished rooms.
- Ludwig was at Neuschwanstein when a government commission came to arrest him. Read more about his fascinating — and at times, mysterious — life in my book, Not So Happily Ever After: The Tale of King Ludwig II. Was he truly “mad” or just eccentric and misunderstood? You’ll have to decide what you think.
- When you visit, you can either walk up the well-paved path to the castle or you can pay to ride up in a horse-drawn cart. Same goes for trekking back down. I visited in 1993, and I remember consciously choosing to walk because I felt bad for the horses :).
- Neuschwanstein contains so many quirks that are typical of Ludwig: you’ll find a small indoor cave (based on a Wagner opera scene), a fabulous wood carved bed, a sink with a swan for a faucet, and more. It’s outrageously exotic and overdone, but that’s how Ludwig lived his life.
Have you visited Neuschwanstein? Share tips and impressions in the comments!
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