The mad king's lair. Castle Neuswanstein

Trip Start Dec 20, 2010
Trip End Jan 01, 2011

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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

So early this morning I awoke so excited!! I had booked a tour of the most famous castle in the world.  Castle Neuswanstein!!  This castle was used by Walt Disney as the model for the "Sleeping beauty castle" which is the centerpiece of the famous "Disneyland" and is also the logo for their film company.

Meanwhile, I was supposed to be picked up at the hotel next door but the bus didn't come.  I got pretty upset at first because I really wanted to do this tour and I had already lost one day of my trip.  If I had missed this tour, I would not be able to take it again until who knows when. So, I went into the hotel and asked them what should I do and they suggested I get a cab to the station where the bus leaves from. I called a cab but then remembered the taxi stand just up the street, I walked up there rather than wait, then took a taxi to the main train station and got out of the cab.  The station is pretty big and traffic is busy there too.  I looked around but couldn't figure out where the bus was leaving from.  I tried to ask a German guy but he made fun of my English and shrugged.  Another German guy standing next to him pointed across the street and I ran to the bus just as it was boarding. No harm done but I was a bit frustrated.

The bus left Munich and we had a real narrator for the tour as opposed to a pre-recorded speech.  Ana, the guide, was completely informed about Munich, Bavaria, and King Ludwig!  Truthfully, she was the best tour guide I have ever had.  She was young and pretty and she first outlined the rules for the bus and how the tour would unfold.

Then,  as we drove through the snow covered Bavarian countryside, Ana gave us all some history and information about Bavaria, The "Mad King" and the sites we were driving past.  She was so thorough, that along with telling us about some local customs, she even explained the driving rules on the autoban!!

We arrived first at a small village famous for the hand-painted designs on the outside of the buildings.  Most of them were of religeous natures but there were also some that were based in fairy tales.  For example: "Little Red Riding Hood."  This is something you see throughout the region but it started here and has become a skill that has been passed down through families.   These paintings were all created by one artist and the trade has remained a family business for them.  If you buy a house here you must maintain the designs but you can receive a government subsidy for the expense.  I was not sure exactly how this would work but I was certainly curious enough to ask.

Also in this little village, there is an ancient craft of wood carved figures.  Little men, nut crackers, and inscense burners. These, you also see all over the region but, again, it started and is perfected here. We were directed by the tour guide to a few nice shops that have been selling these local crafts for many, many, many years.  She also explained that to buy these crafted gifts here would be a savings over buying them in the city.  I bought it and went into a very quaint shop full of cookoo clocks and wooden horses and such.  I looked around and found a very sweet hand carved pig about the size of my thumb.  He is holding a shamrock in his mouth.  I also bought a small wooden pony about the same size.  I like them as much as the story.

An even more curios thing about this village is that during the years of the black plague, the inhabitants here prayed that their town would be spared. They got to a point where they asked God to not take a single person more than had already been lost.  The town got together and promised God that they would re-enact the passion of Christ every ten years forever!!  They still do this and the whole town participates.  The theatre in the center of the village is enormous to accommodate the influx of worldwide tourists that flock here to see the spectacle.  the villagers are forbidden to shave or get haircuts during the year of the performance in order to make the appearance more authentic.

Next we arrived at the "hunting lodge" and residence of the former King Ludwig II (the Mad King).  The story of this man is fascinating to me.  A misunderstood, lonely, artistic man.  Lived in a fantasy world as his reality was a dissapointment for him.  The man was obsessed with the famous and controversial,  Wagner, the opera composer.  Also King Louis IV of France.  This country home was designed as a mini version of Versailles. The inside is quite audacious and gaudi.  When touring through the rooms, the lonliness of this man is so palpable here.  There are many indicators that the man was secluding himself from the outside world.  Something that eventually led him to be deposed as king. You can still feel his depression by looking at the depictions created around the rooms by artists.  Many of the rooms are literally shrines to former aristocracies of France.  And there is even "the magic table"  a table somewhat like a dumbwaiter that goes up and down from the kitchen to the upstairs room.  It would go down empty, be filled by the chefs, and emerge filled with food in which the king consumed alone, with only a large mirror in the room.

The grounds were covered in snow so the gardens were difficult to view.  However, you could see that it was gloriously designed and completely surrounds the "castle" in such a way that every window could view water falls or fountains.  Obviously, as a "copy" of Versailles, the gardens were done in a very classical style.

The next stop and final destination...The castle!!!  It sits high on a jutting rock above a snow covered valley and an enormous lake surrounded by the Bavarian alps.  The King was dissapointed in life and retreated into a fantasy world of building castles.  This one was never finished but was meant to be a fairy tale retreat paying hommage to the famous Marie Antoinette and King Louis of France.  The inside is basically an empty shell but some of the rooms were used for a short time by the king before he was declared mad, deposed as king and died under mysterious circumstances.  each room has a theme and most of them are recreations of Opera scenes from his favorite composer, Wagner.  It seems that in some ways the castle was intended to bring these operas to life and thus attract the famous composer to Bavaria. 

Much of this extravagant spending by the king combined with his retreat from public affairs and seclusion helped lead to his being deposed as King.

This was a very very very good tour and well worth the time and effort.
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