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The Enchanted Castle: Neuschwanstein

- William

Possibly the greatest tourist attraction in Germany is Neuschwanstein castle. Its construction was started in 1869 by King Louis II of Bavaria, commonly referred to as Mad King Ludwig. Across the valley is Hohenschwangau castle, where he grew up with his parents. Neuschwanstein is styled after castles that you would find in fairytales.

 

Ludwig was obsessed with the stories told in the operas by composer Richard Wagner, and built rooms in the castle to appear like different settings from the plays, including one incredible room replicating a cave or grotto. This was one of several castles built by Ludwig in similar fashion, at the expense of the depletion of the country’s treasury. Ludwig was found dead, drowned in the shallows of a lake. It remains a mystery whether he was murdered, or committed suicide. Neuschwanstein in itself is a magnificent piece of architecture. Huge towers and spires lift up into the air.

 

 When you park, it is a short walk into the town. There, a  building for getting tickets, both for Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, is not hard to find. After this, you can either hitch a ride on a horse-drawn carriage, or walk up to your destination. Up at the top, you may have to wait for a short while until it is time for your tour, available in many languages. Tour numbers are shown in red on a sign. Remember, this is a large tourist attraction, so be prepared for huge crowds of people.

 

Inside the castle, the design and splendor displayed are staggering. The ceilings and most of the walls are painted elaborately, most often relating to Richard Wagner’s plays; and everything, down to the smallest object, is the very picture of expensive craftsmanship. His wooden bed took thirteen carpenters seven years to make! Look out for the symbol of the swan… you’ll see it everywhere you look. This is because the swan was part of the royal crest of Ludwig’s family, and also a key figure in a Wagner play. There are many carvings and designs all around.

 

 There is an interesting room with the walls covered in mirrors, arranged at peculiar angles. As the guide will tell you, this was the room where the King might play cards with other guests. The king’s place was arranged so that he could look in a specfic mirror to see the cards his opponent had in his hand. In the large room where the tour ends, you may want to spend a couple minutes studying the beautifully painted stage. There are many small forest animals and creatures hiding in the picture. Unfortunately, you are not allowed to take pictures inside of the castle. However, at the gift shop they sell a disc of pictures of Neuschwanstein’s interior.

 The royal kitchen is on the way out.

Neuschwanstein is a fantastic place to visit, and it is little wonder that this castle draws so many visitors from around the world. If you are ever in Bavaria, this place is a must-see. Also, the best view of the castle is from the Marienbrucke bridge, which is a small hike away from the castle.

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