Thursday, January 19, 2012

Now THIS is the fanciest castle ever

Two of the fanciest, actually. On the Tuesday of our Bavarian vacation (Bavarication?) Franz took off work and drove us to the village of Hohenschwangau, which boasts the famous castles Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. (Let's abbreviate these compound-word monstrosities, shall we? It'll be HSG and NSS from now on.)

HSG was the country retreat of King Maximilian II and his family. A fortress called Schwanstein had stood on the site since the 12th century, but it was in ruins when Maximilian bought the land in 1832. Final additions to his new castle went on until 1855. NSS was one of the pet projects of Maximilian's son and successor, Ludwig II (aka "Mad King Ludwig"). It was finished in 1886, the year of Ludwig's death. He lived there for a total of just 172 days (starting in 1884). Apparently no one cared to live in it after he died, because it was almost immediately opened to the public for tours.

First we toured HSG. It's a fairly small, modest castle, as these things go. The building on the left is the one we toured, and contains the king's and queen's rooms. The princes' rooms were in the building on the right.



Sadly, we weren't allowed to take pictures inside the castle. The rooms are decorated in a very consistent style--"Romantic" or "Neogothic"--and the original furniture is still there. The walls are painted with pastel-hued scenes from legends; the ceilings, though not high, are decoratively ribbed like a Gothic cathedral's; and each room contains a beautiful tiled stove in a unique color. There are also lots of swans (Schwan=swan) in the paintings, on the chandeliers, and among the knickknacks. Secret (or at least discreet) passageways abound. The stoves are designed to be fed from the back, so the royal occupants get warmth but no smoke or ash. So half-size hallways, entered through quarter-size doors, run through the walls among the rooms to provide access to the backs of the stoves. A hidden spiral staircase links the king's and queen's bedrooms. I guess they actually liked each other.

Ludwig didn't make many changes when he became king and moved into his father's rooms. But he did cause holes to be cut in the ceiling of his room and crystal panes to be installed so the stars in the scene painted there could actually shine on him. (This, of course, necessitated servants placing oil lamps over the holes from the floor above.) He even made a sliding panel so he could adjust the phase of the moon. According to our tour guide this helped him sleep better. Perhaps that's what the naked women on the walls were for, too.   

We lunched at one of the few places open in the village on traditional foods of the region. I had my second Käsespätzle of the trip and Tyler had his sixth pretzel, served this time with two different spreads made from animal fats (yum!). (Since it didn't come up in the previous posts, I'll take the opportunity to mention here that Tyler and I ate TEN PRETZELS EACH over the course of five days. Pretzels really are better in Bavaria.)

During our lunch the morning's rain kindly let up, just in time for the walk up to NSS. Tyler and I were perhaps even more interested in the natural scenery than in the castles.


The lake on the left is an amazing blue-green color.
Artsy shot from the walk
We decided not to tour NSS (since the interior was never completely finished or furnished, there's not as much to see as in HSG), but we did look at it from lots of different angles. The red part at the front is the gatehouse.



View from inside the courtyard
Though it was officially closed, we rebelliously climbed the barriers to get to the path up to the Marienbrücke (Mary's bridge), the best place for views of NSS.

Bad luck on the scaffolding, again!
It was still just mid-afternoon when we got back down to the car, so Franz took as to see another of the sights of the region. This time it was a place we'd never heard of before, Wieskirche. On the drive over Franz told us several times that the church wasn't much to look at on the outside.

What are you talking about, Franz? This is quite pretty.
Then he amended his opionion--the outside isn't much to look at, compared to the inside.

Das stimmt, Franz! (You're right!)
My first impression was of rainbow colors, so I was pleased to see an actual rainbow on the ceiling.
Notice the traditional straw star ornaments on the Christmas tree.
Rococo organ
The Wieskirche is a pilgrimage church. All this splendor was made for the sake of a rather ugly little wooden statue of Christ that is reported to have wept real tears and healed people.

Finally, here's a panoramic picture Tyler made of the view from the Marienbrücke.You may want to click on it (links to Flickr) to see it at full size.

Neuschwanstein Panorama

Huzzah for Franz! Huzzah for Bavaria! And Huzzah for Mad King Ludwig!


  1. Oh man! I think you guys picked the best time of year to see NSS. That is so so so beautiful!

  2. Thanks for all the Huzzahs, Sara ! What is your current pretzels count?

  3. No pretzels since we got back :( We need to wait a little while so we forget just how much better Bavarian Brezen are and we can go back to eating the version they sell here.

  4. This IS the best castle! We actually loved the inside...there were fancy things galore! But the view from the outside is incredible as well. I love all these pictures!

  5. I want to go there so bad. My wife wants to take a tour of Europe but we need to make time. I think seeing the castles would be the best experience!
    John Bond |


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