When I was preparing to visit Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles in Bavaria, I have found in one of the blogs a resuming impression about the first one as a monument to solitude. And I was like: “What a nice title for the future blogpost”. It is commonly known that a proper title is already half of the battle, and I only had to go to Bavaria, take some pictures of the castles and develop this idea.
However when I parked at the parking place number two in the village Schwangau, located at the footing of Neuschwanstein, and went out of the car I immediately realized that my own impression on the most beautiful castle in the world would be completely different.
Neuschwanstein castle truly stands upon a cliff among the other rocks, completely lofty and covered with an amazing forest. It is so unreal that even looks like an alien construction set among the decorations prepared to shot the advertising clip for Gosser beer.
Sure enough it was not intended to protect from the enemies. The walls, gates, passages and windows are quite ineligible to withstand a long siege or an attack. When you enter the gates, you understand that the horse knights would have no place here and the dismount protectors of the castles would have no place to shoot at the attackers, throw down the stones or pour out the hot pitch.
Any enemy would only have to fix the artillery battery at the neighbor higher hill on a way to Marienbrücke, which allocates the platform with a beautiful view of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, and bomb out the castle in a matter of hours.
Then why the young Bavarian king Ludwig II, who unexpectedly obtained the control over the whole kingdom being an adolescent of 19 years, built this castle in this very place on a bare rock?
In order to answer this question you’d better go to Hohenschwangau castle, located nearby – more precisely to the swan lake Alpsee, later on visited by the great Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, – people say it was here where he started to create his ballet “Swan Lake”.
The symbol of swan is all over the place. This is the heraldic bird of the ancient house of Schwangau counts; Maximilian II of Bavaria considered himself the inheritor of this house. Ludwig and his brother were growing and shaping in this very place.
Hohenschwangau castle is very comfortable and designed for a calm family life rather than pompous welcomes, however every single wall of the rooms (yes, these are the rooms, not the halls) are painted with the very realistic battle scenes – blood, split corpses, horses, people…
Apparently the prince supposed to grow up a harsh warrior, a fearless defender, a real king, but it turned out differently. Even when you cast a glance at his portrait, it shows that he won’t be Richard the Lionheart.
Ludwig was keen on books, poetry and music and as a result the contemporaries called him the Fairy Tale King. All his battles developed only at the opera scene and probably in his imagination.
Later on, during the only war, when Bavaria with the German Confederation and Austria went to war against Prussia, Ludwig handed the military policy over to his ministers and went out to Switzerland to meet… Richard Wagner.
So, the poor boy was drawn out of his romantic world and enthroned to rule the whole kingdom. I don’t think he loved that, however there were some advantages – power and money, and Ludwig did not hesitate to take them. He began to turn his fairy tale world into reality.
During his walks along the forest, the boy often admired the Bavarian landscape from Marienbrücke, the bridge over the 80-meters steep with the waterfall rolling at the bottom. There was a time when two medieval castles rose on the confront hill, now there are only ruins left, and the Bavarian king decided to build the castle unequalled anywhere in the world at this very place – AND HE DID IT.
But was it a monument to his solitude? Then why there is huge church in the castle, almost a cathedral? Why the women halls are so big, able to accommodate a real harem and not one? And what about the singing hall? And the kitchen? By the end of the excursion you will see it and understand that sure enough that kitchen is not for the alone one! Even on the way to the castle you understand how big it is. A huge toy!
Ludwig II constructed perfect decorations for the operas, and not only for his favorite Wagner, but to all operas of the world. And if he copied somebody building his castles, for example, Louis IV and his Versailles in Herrenchiemsee, here he gave the whole rage to his fancy. Just keep your eye out for the eclecticism of the interior design – the West, the East, Asia; you can even see the palm and the Solomon Star in here.
I doubt that the king would raise such a majestic and at the same time fairy tale building to walk alone among its beautiful halls. I would say Ludwig was building something greater. He was building a decoration to his long, happy and fairy tale life among the people, stringing along his love to myths and legends, gentle knights and fair ladies – to everything that was almost completely lost by the modern society.
But he never did. At first the Bavarians announced he was mad:
- the first point of the “medical” conclusion stated that Ludwig II built too many begging castles, having spent lots of money from the State treasury;
- the second: he disregarded matters of state;
- the third: he was suspected of the homosexuality.
Well, could anyone from you ever considered a madman with such symptoms? And one doctor with four students could! Even without exploring the “patient”.
And then the Bavarians killed their king, just as the French killed their king 200 years before, and the Russians 30 years after!
Of course, Ludwig II almost wasted his kingdom with this grandiose building, however nowadays, 100 years on, Bavaria (the richest state in Germany) is known in the world for the three main things – beer, BMW and the fairy tale castle Neuschwanstein, a hundred times reproduced at the caption to the cartoons of Walt Disney – the great American fairy tale creator.