Categorized | Germany

Germany’s Fairytale Castle: Neuschwanstein

Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the romantic palaces of Germany’s Bavaria. It is unquestionably the place that anyone has seen in photos. A 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace lies on a rugged hill and it overlooks the picturesque Hohenschwangau valley and is located only a short distance from the popular tourist destination, Fussen. The palace served as the retreat home of Ludwig II. The timid king had built the castle so as to withdraw from public life. The palace, which was the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle, was opened to the public soon after he passed away in 1886.

In the Middle Ages, three castles looked over Hohenschwangau. One was known as Schwanstein Castle which was bought by Ludwig’s father King Maximilian II of Bavaria who bought its ruins to renovate them and he turned them into a comfortable palace known as Hohenschwangau Castle. The castle became the family’s summer residence.

The ruins above the family castle were known to the crown prince from his outing. He drew one of them in his small book. At the time the inexperienced prince started to rule in 1864, the building of a new castle became the first in his series of palace building projects. The young Ludwig was influenced by the romantic mountain scenery and the summer castle became one of his beloved spots to stay.

The foundation stone to Neuschwanstein was laid in 1869 with the building plan. The most up-to-date building techniques and materials were used in the construction of the palace. The improvement was very slow going. The castle was equipped with all kinds of technical conveniences which were very modern, if not to say revolutionary at those times. Running water on all levels. There were toilets with automatic flushing on each floor. A warm air heating system for the entire building and a hot water system for the kitchen and the bath.

Ludwig named the new palace New Hohenschwangau Castle which got its new name Neuschwanstein only after he died. The confusing answer is that Hohenschwangau and Schwanstein have effectively swapped names: Hohenschwangau Castle took the place of the remains of Schwanstein Castle, and Neuschwanstein Castle replaced the ruins of the two Hohenschwangau Castles.

The king had already become something of a legend. He once mentioned that he wanted to remain an eternal mystery to himself and other people. He became a mystifying factor that still fascinates people today. Ludwig II was possessed by the idea of a holy kingdom by the Grace of God. In reality he was a constitutional ruler. This is the reason why he built a fantasy world around him far away from reality he was able to feel he was a real king. From 1875 on he lived at night and slept during the day. Ludwig II increasingly identified himself with Parzival, the legendary medieval figure who got the Grail King through his purity. Neuschwanstein was reinterpreted as the Castle of the Holy Grail and the Throne Room was redesigned as the Hall of the Holy Grail.

One of biggest ironies of this castle is that a structure built to be a private refuge, sacred and out of reach and is now host to thousands of tourists every day. Another irony: though it was built mainly as a stage for Wagnerian productions, Richard Wagner, the composer never appeared in Neuschwanstein. Nor was the castle’s throne room ever completed in time to contain a throne.

To be able to visit the castle make sure you book in Germany accommodation well before your arrival.

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