Neuschwanstein, Where Dreams Come True…

31 Jan

Where dreams come true, huh? Well yes, something like that! Schloss Neuschwanstein was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s new company logo all those years ago. And in person, I can totally see how it’s beauty and charm and over-the-topness would inspire just about anyone!

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One of our favorite things about living in Germany is all the history and culture that’s everywhere you turn. And we sure do love turning to castles! Ha! See what I did there? 😉 There’s no doubt that Germans loved them some castles and they run the gamut in terms of age, style, sophistication…But they’re all just so incredibly neat to visit.

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Approaching Neuschwanstein…

John and I first visited Neuschwanstein six years ago and loved it immediately. Being perched up on a rocky mountainside, its spires and turrets reaching high up into thin air and its white bricks  contrasting perfectly with the near-black surrounding forrest just begs you not to stare in awe. We were so excited to go back- and to take Neve. She had seen pictures and could hardly wait to see ‘Elsa’s castle’ for herself. (All the snow and ice makes it look very similar to Queen Elsa’s ice castle in Frozen- totally recommend you watch that flick if you haven’t already…)

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Neuschwanstein Castle, built in the mid-1800s, is a Romanesque Revival palace on a rugged hill in southwest Bavaria, right along the Austrian border.  It was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a personal retreat and as an homage to famed composer, Richard Wagner. Ludwig paid for the palace out of his personal fortune and by means of extensive borrowing, rather than Bavarian public funds. It was designed as the romantic ideal of a knight’s castle. Unlike “real” castles, whose building stock is in most cases the result of centuries of building activity, Neuschwanstein was planned from the inception as an intentionally asymmetric building, and erected in consecutive stages. Typical attributes of a castle were included, but real fortifications – the most important feature of a medieval aristocratic estate – were dispensed with.

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Neve LOVED that we took a horse-drawn carriage to the top!

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Entrance to Neuschwanstein

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Inside the courtyard, waiting to go inside the castle…

King Ludwig II was an interesting character and I totally recommend you look him up if you’re into history and folks who think outside of the box. He was raised just down the mountain at a smaller castle, Hohenschwangau. Always a daydreamer, an artist and aloof, he was unprepared to take the thrown at 18 when his father died, but he actually proved to be a sound- and beloved- king by most. That being said, he was extravagant and irresponsible with his money, choosing to spend every last penny- and then some- one elaborate architecture projects, arts investments and travels. He was also extremely shy and introverted, becoming much of a recluse as years went by. All of the above led to the higher ups questioning his abilities…and his mental state.

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Castle Hohenschwangau, Ludwig’s childhood summer home at the bottom of the mountain. (Neve says this is Arendelle, for all my Frozen fans <3)

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For about two decades, beginning in 1868, the construction site was the principal employer in the region. By 1880, about 200 craftsmen were occupied at the site, not counting suppliers and other persons indirectly involved in the construction. At times when the king insisted on particularly close deadlines and urgent changes, reportedly up to 300 workers per day were active, sometimes working at night by the light of oil lamps. He was involved in every single aspect of construction: design, materials, revisions, furnishings…He was onsite every day and in 1884, he was able to move into the still-unfinished palace so he could direct from sun up to sundown. Despite its size, Neuschwanstein didn’t have space for the royal court, but contained only the king’s private lodging and servants’ rooms. The court buildings served decorative, rather than residential purposes. The palace was intended to serve Ludwig II as a kind of inhabitable theatrical setting that he’d always dreamed of. In the end, Ludwig II only lived in the palace for a total of 172 days.

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Throne Room

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Throne Room Mosaic Floor- each tile was hand laid.  

Before Neuschwanstein could be completed, Ludwig was declared incompetent as King by a group of his ministers who had bribed and threatened several psychiatrists (who had never even met Ludwig) to support their claims. They physically removed him from the castle one night and took him to a castle outside of Munich for further review. The following evening, he was found dead- along with his doctor- floating in a nearby lake. Although it was ruled a suicide at the time, autopsy reports showed no water in his lungs and the doctor who was accompanying him had been beaten. So the world will never know what exactly happen to King Ludwig II- was he trying to escape? did he commit suicide? was he murdered?

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Looking down from a balcony at the river and waterfalls down below…

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Ludwig was deeply peculiar and eccentric, but the question of clinical insanity remains unresolved. Many prominent psychiatrists and neurologists have disagreed with the contention that there was ever clear evidence for Ludwig’s insanity. Others believe he may have suffered from the effects of chloroform used in an effort to control chronic toothache rather than any psychological disorder. His cousin and friend, Empress Elisabeth held that, “The King was not mad; he was just an eccentric living in a world of dreams. They might have treated him more gently, and thus perhaps spared him so terrible an end.”

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Singers Hall, largest room in the castle…

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Today, visitors pay tribute to King Ludwig by visiting his grave, as well as his castles. Ironically, the very castles which were said to be causing the king’s financial ruin have today become among the most popular attractions in all of Bavaria. The palaces, given to Bavaria by Ludwig III’s son, Crown Prince Rupprecht, in 1923, have paid for themselves many times over and attract millions of visitors from all over the world each year.

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This was such a great day trip for all of us. Still have a hard time believing that places like this- and views like these- are in our backyard. Just two hours away- we crossed into Austria, then back into Germany to get here- all of this was waiting for us. And such a gorgeous day to top it all off- very chilly, in the low 20s- but the sun was shining and the ice and snow left here and there just made it feel extra special. Totally recommend a visit to this gem if you’re ever in southern Germany!

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6 Responses to “Neuschwanstein, Where Dreams Come True…”

  1. Tina February 1, 2016 at 2:26 PM #

    Good morning
    I really enjoy reading your stories and seeing the beautiful pictures, and watching that beautiful Little Neve grow and see the excitement in her BIG BLUE EYES.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Tina

    • Erin T. February 1, 2016 at 4:42 PM #

      So glad to hear that you follow along with our adventures! We’re having a ball!

  2. Georgia February 1, 2016 at 4:54 AM #

    Great adventure report.

  3. Eleanor January 31, 2016 at 9:19 PM #

    Love the pictures and history. I hope that Neve can remember all that she sees in these years of living in Germany. Love and miss you. Maybe we can talk soon.

    • Erin T. February 1, 2016 at 4:41 PM #

      Would LOVE to chat soon! Just let me know your schedule!

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