Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrNested atop a cliff overlooking the steep Pöllat Gorge, and completing the eerie scenery with its medieval visage, Neuschwannstein Castle seems to be taken directly from Brothers Grimm's tales. With over a million visitors every year, and made popular by all the postcards in Germany, the image of the castle immerses the viewers into fantasy and awe, as it inspired Walt Disney to create his famous Sleeping Beauty castle.
HistoryNeuschwanstein Castle was an ambition of King Ludwig II of Bavaria, also known as the “Mad King”. He was passionate about Romanesque medieval architecture, and the castle was intended as a homage to Richard Wagner. The legendary version of the castle's history claims that Ludwig, being forced upon the throne at age 18, and suffering a great defeat on the battlefield at 20, suffered a slip into insanity already prepared by his troubled personality and homosexual tendencies. The castle was said to be his refuge from the world, and not only a physical one, hence the fairy tale aspect of the edifice.
Construction began in 1869, and the cliff plateau which the foundation was laid on previously hosted two other castles, which have been demolished to make way for Neuschwannstein. In 1886, upon his death, it wasn't yet completed - Ludwig used to impose impossible deadlines, and workers sometimes labored night and day. The positioning of the castle wasn't making things easier, and the project saw the replacement of many architects and artisans. The Gateway Building was the first to be complete, and quickly became the king's home.
Although he never planned to make the castle public, six weeks after his death, the castle was open to visitors by the regent Luitpold. By 1899, the debts have been acquitted. It survived the two World Wars due to its positioning, despite the SS' plans to blow it up in 1945, to prevent the riches being captured by the enemy.
ArchitectureThough apparently medieval, the castle is actually Romanesque, and the interior was everything but medieval, equipped with running water, toilets, and hot air, while the kitchens were equipped with automatic spits and cupboards that could be heated. The castle is centered around the works of Richard Wagner, with whom the king was close, and even obsessed with. In the center, there is a theater, intended for opera performances as homage to Wagner's art. The paintings depict the themes in Wagner's compositions.
Perhaps the most spectacular aspect of the interior is the grotto - a passageway along a castle corridor built in a style similar to Disneyland. It is here where the mythology of Tannhäuser is represented, in a theme-park of sorts environment.
A notable motif present in the castle's living room is displayed in a corner, shaped like a swan. Literally meaning “New swan stone”, Neuschwannstein reflects Ludwig's obsession with the Swan Knight, featured in Wagner's composition “Lohengrin”. Being a recluse in turn, the king strongly identified with the Swan Knight's personality, whose final tragedy was his implacable loneliness.
The Throne Room was created as the Grail-Hall of Parsifal, another character and motif which the king used to identify with. Fashioned in the Byzantine style, and inspired by the Hagia Sophia in Constantinopole, this two-storEy hall was completed in the year of the king's death, and, ironically, the only item missing is the throne.
VisitingThe road to the castle can be traveled by foot, which takes about 30-45 minutes, or you can get there via a carriage for €5 ($5.75) ( €3 ($2.88) downhill). Buses are also available, but prices vary frequently. Tickets can be purchased from the foot of the cliff. The price for a ticket is €9 ($10). To visit the interior, you have to visit by guided tours, which only occurs at fixed hours. Tours for disabled people are held only on Wednesdays. Photography is forbidden when inside.
The castle is open every day (except holidays) from 9 AM to 6 PM during summer (April - September), and from 10 AM to 4 PM in winter (October - March).
How to Get ThereTo reach the castle by train, get off in Füssen, then bus 9713 to Hohenschwangau - you can also walk this distance if you feel like admiring the scenery, with the Hohenscwangau castle to be situated on the way.
By car, follow A7 to Füssen, then onwards to Hohenschwangau. Parking is €4 ($4.60). From Hohenschwangau, you can walk to the castle in 30 minutes.
Other AttractionsGermany's “Romantic Road”, stretching from Würzburg to Füssen can be combined with a visit to the castle. Also, from Neuschwanstein Castle there are great views of the Bavarian setting, especially the alpine lakes, like the Alpsee. If you get to the castle, you definitely don't want to miss a small walk to the Marienbrücke Bridge, from where you can take excellent pictures. From the bridge, you can see the Hohenschwangau Castle, which can also be visited.
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Author: aelumag. Last updated: Sep 26, 2014