Linderhof is Ludwig’s smallest palace; it was really intended to be just a “villa” for him to retreat to, although it’s certainly large enough to be spectacular. It is situated in a wooded mountainous area near the village of Oberammergau (made famous by its once-a-decade Passion Play). Linderhof doesn’t resemble a castle so much as a baroque palace. It has a fountain out front which spouts water much higher than the height of the palace.
Inside, the thing that strikes one about Linderhof is all the gold and glitz. It is almost overwhelming, leading some critics to label it “garish” and “vulgar”. It is thought that Ludwig was quite nearsighted and was too vain to wear glasses, and this is one reason that he wanted his palaces to be decorated in such an “over the top” manner.
Ten different types of marble were used in Linderhof. Peacock figures are seen frequently. Two were placed in the entrance when Ludwig was in residence, to announce his presence. His bedroom is huge, with a gold railing in front of the bed separating the room into two parts. This was so that the king’s “audience” could attend him even while he was in bed. (However, Ludwig was quite solitary by nature and never actually had a bedroom audience. He simply wanted this set-up because one of his idols, France’s Louis XIV, had the same arrangement in his bedroom). The view from Ludwig’s bedroom is simply breathtaking: a huge, stair-step Italian waterfall. It is no wonder that this palace was Ludwig’s favorite, and that he spent more time here than anyplace else. It was also the only one of his three castles to be finished.
The palace itself is only part of Linderhof’s appeal. Also on its grounds are classical gardens, a Moorish kiosk (reflecting Ludwig’s love of all things oriental), and Hunding’s Hut (a copy of a stage set from one of Wagner’s opera scenes – it includes a replica tree where Ludwig and friends could re-enact their favorite scenes).
When I visited, I unfortunately missed the attraction I was most looking forward to seeing – the Venus Grotto – because our tour group ran out of time. I was so disappointed! However, I will let you know what I’ve learned about it through my research (if any of you readers have actually seen it, please leave a comment and let me know your actual impressions of it!).
The Venus Grotto is an artificial cave which is opened by a secret latch. Inside, the cave is complete with stalactites, a 10′ deep lake (complete with a wave-producing machine), a shell-shaped boat in which Ludwig could be rowed around, and a mural depicting – you guessed it – a scene from Wagner’s “Tannhauser” opera. Lighting in the grotto could be changed by rotating colored glass disks powered by one of Germany’s first generators. Ludwig was hoping that musical performances could be performed in the grotto, but unfortunately the acoustics were not adequate for this to occur often. On the rare occasions when performances did occur, Ludwig directed that he wanted the vocalists actually standing in the water (which fortunately was heated!).
There you have it – a vicarious tour of Ludwig’s fairy-tale creations. At the time of his mysterious death at age 40, he had a fantastic fourth castle in the planning stages – Falkenstein.
Ludwig’s glorious creations are a glimpse into an era long-gone, but a study of them can bring a bit of romance and mystery into all our lives!
You may also enjoy:
Not So Happily Ever After: A Biography of King Ludwig II (affiliate link)