Neuschwanstein Castle: Decoration for Life

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When I was preparing to visit Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles in Bavaria, I found in one of the travel blogs an impression about the former as a monument to solitude. I thought, “What a nice title for a future blog post.” It is commonly known that a proper title is already half the battle. So, I only had to go to Bavaria, take some pictures of the castle, and develop this idea.

However, when I parked at parking lot number two in the village of Schwangau at the foot of the rock on which Neuschwanstein stands and left the car, I immediately realized that my own impression of the most beautiful castle in the world would be completely different.

Neuschwanstein Castle. Bavaria, Germany.

Neuschwanstein Castle. Bavaria, Germany.

Neuschwanstein Castle or Schloß Neuschwanstein truly stands upon a cliff among the other rocks, completely unapproachable and covered with an amazing forest. The castle is so unreal that looks like an alien construction located among the set decorations prepared for the filming of an advertising clip for Gösser beer.

Neuschwanstein Castle. Bavaria, Germany.

A forest around Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria.

Sure enough, this castle was not intended to provide protection against enemies. Its walls, gates, passages, and windows are quite incapable of withstanding a long siege or an attack. When you enter the gates, you understand that mounted knights would have no place to maneuver here, and protectors of the castle could not shoot at the attackers, throw down stones, or pour boiling tar on them.

The door of Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria.

The inner courtyard of Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria.

For any enemy, it would be enough to place the artillery battery at the neighboring higher rock on the way to the Marienbrücke bridge, where now the specific platform with a beautiful view of Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles is located, and bomb out the castle in a matter of hours.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria.

Neuschwanstein Castle. Bavaria, Germany.

Then why did the young Bavarian king, Ludwig II, who unexpectedly obtained the control over the whole kingdom as an adolescent of 19 years, build the castle in this very place on bare rock? To answer this question you’d better visit Hohenschwangau Castle, located nearby, on the swan lake Alpsee, which later was visited by the great Russian composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky. People say it was here that he started to create his ballet “Swan Lake.”

The view of the Alpsee and Hohenschwangau Castle, Bavaria.

The view of the Alpsee and Hohenschwangau Castle.

In this place, the symbol of a swan is present everywhere. This is the heraldic bird of the ancient house of the Schwangau counts. Maximilian II of Bavaria considered himself the inheritor of this clan. Ludwig and his brother grew up and shaped their lives here.

Hohenschwangau Castle is very comfortable and apparently designed for a calm family life rather than pompous receptions; however, every single wall in the rooms (yes, these are the rooms, not the halls) is decorated with very realistic battle scenes—blood, mutilated corpses, horses, people…

Hohenschwangau Castle, Bavaria.

Hohenschwangau Castle, Bavaria. The native home of the king Ludwig II.

Hohenschwangau Castle, Bavaria.

Apparently, the prince was supposed to become a harsh warrior, a fearless defender, a real king, but it turned out differently. Even one glance at his portrait is enough to understand that he would be no Richard the Lionheart.

The king Ludwig II of Bavaria.

King Ludwig II of Bavaria

Ludwig was keen on books, poetry, and music, and as a result contemporaries called him the Fairytale King. All his battles took place only on 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 portfolio to his ministers and went out to Switzerland to visit Richard Wagner.

Thus, the poor boy was taken out of his romantic world and enthroned to rule the whole kingdom. I don’t think he liked it; however, this circumstance had some advantages: power and money, and Ludwig did not hesitate to use them. He began to turn his fairytale world into reality.

During his walks through the forest, the boy often admired the Bavarian landscape from Marienbrücke, the bridge over the 80-meter gorge with a waterfall at the bottom. Long ago, two medieval castles stood on the neighboring rocks, but only ruins were left in Ludwig’s time. The new Bavarian king decided to build a castle unequaled anywhere in the world at this very place—AND HE DID IT.

Vicinity of Hohenschwangau Castle, Bavaria.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria.

But was it a monument to his solitude? Then why there is a huge church, almost a cathedral, in the castle? Why are the women’s halls so big that they would be able to accommodate a whole harem and not one? What about the singing hall? And the kitchen? At the end of the excursion, you will see it and understand that, sure enough, this kitchen is not for the lone eater! Already on the way to the castle, you realize how big it is. A huge toy!

Ludwig II constructed Neuschwanstein as a perfect set decoration for the opera, and not only for operas by his favorite, Wagner, but for all the operas of the world. Though he copied Louis IV’s Versailles when fashioning the Herrenchiemsee, he gave free rein to his imagination for the design and construction of Neuschwanstein. Notice the eclecticism of the interior design: West, East, Asia… You can even see the palm and the Solomon Star here.

The interior of Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria.

The interior of Neuschwanstein Castle. Bavaria, Germany.

The interior of Neuschwanstein Castle. Bavaria, Germany.

The interior of Neuschwanstein Castle. Bavaria, Germany.

One of the doors of Neuschwanstein Castle.

I doubt that the king would create such a majestic and at the same time fairytale castle with only the goal of walking alone through its beautiful halls. I would say Ludwig was building something greater. He was building a decoration for his long, happy, fairytale life among the people sharing his love of myths and legends, noble knights and fair ladies—for everything that was almost completely lost by modern society.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria. Germany.

But he did not finish.

At first, the Bavarians announced he was mad:

- The first paragraph of the “medical” conclusion stated that Ludwig II built too many “nobody needs” castles having spent an enormous amount of money from the State treasury.

- The second: he disregarded matters of state.

- The third: he was suspected of homosexuality.

Well, could any of you consider a man with such symptoms a madman? One doctor with four students could! Even without examination of the “patient.”

Then, the Bavarians killed their king, just as the French killed their king 200 years earlier, and the Russians did the same 30 years after that!

Sure, Ludwig II almost bankrupted his kingdom with all his castles and palaces; however, nowadays, 100 years later, Bavaria (the richest state of Germany) is known in the world for three main things–beer, BMW, and the fairytale castle Neuschwanstein which was reproduced hundreds of times in the initial frame cartoons of Walt Disney–the great American fairytale creator.

Disney's castle.

More about Germany:
Dresden: 68 Years After Bombing
Porta Nigra. Black Roman Gate of Trier
Three Famous Castles of Germany: Marksburg, Burg Eltz and Burg Stahleck

64 Responses to “Neuschwanstein Castle: Decoration for Life”

  1. Andrew Petcher Says:

    So Victor – do you think this is the most beautiful castle in the World? I would suggest the Alacazar of Segovia or the walled city of Carcassonne as potential rivals for this accolade!

  2. Alastair Says:

    Breathtaking photos

  3. Our Adventure in Croatia Says:

    great post and pictures. Brings back fond memories as I have been to this castle twice. The second occasion I remember well because the young German lady who was taking us round for the tour, immediately started saying in a strong germanic accent “DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING – or I will shoot you!” – she didn’t actually say the second part of the sentence but … her tone sounded like it… amazing photos Victor.

  4. boomerontario Says:

    Terrific post, fabulous photos. I especially love your narrative, and wish I’d had some of it in my head when I did my own visit there. Incredible place. Thank you for a great read.

  5. ruthincolorado Says:

    Beautiful photos, Victor. I love this castle and have visited many times. When I was a child, I would beg my parents to take me there! Thanks for this post.

  6. wordsfromanneli Says:

    I don’t know how many times I said, “Wow!” as I read and looked at the photos. This was a beautiful post, Victor.

  7. mdphotographers Says:

    Just had to say thank you for sharing these amazing images. And while reading the blog and viewing these images I thought to myself magic kingdom looks a lot like this castle. The last paragraph explained why :-)

  8. Mjollnir Says:

    Of course I was aware of Neuschwanstein, but i didn’t know about Hohen Schwangau. Thanks for posting this Victor :-)

  9. solaner Says:

    I’m glad, you got much better weather for your trip. We had fog when we were there in October. We were not inside, ’cause I was inside back in 1978 for the first time. But I don’t have good photos.
    Do you also visit the Pöllat Klam?

  10. Lisa at fLVE Says:

    Beautiful castle and I like how you narrated the history. On my list to visit one day. :)

  11. geogypsy2u Says:

    Excellent story and photos of this majestic castle. A year ago I planned a cyber-masquerade ball and chose Neuschwanstein as the venue. Photos inside were impossible to find and now I know why. Growing up in awe of the Disney Castle I’ve added this my list of must sees. Thank you for sharing. Glad your young guide looked the other way.

  12. sherwinportillo@yahoo.com Says:

    the pictures are beautiful as always and the writing ability is exceptionally good.

  13. eharris29 Says:

    Thank you for your detailed information of German castles, Victor. I am leaving for a trip tomorrow and have once again found your blog particularly useful!

  14. Lyndi Alexander Says:

    Incredible photography! Bravo!

  15. Justin Says:

    Stunning photos – thanks for sharing!

  16. charmsofagypsy Says:

    I visited the castle just last year and fell in love with it, the scenery, and the history behind it all! Your photos are very lovely, but then again–it’s difficult to take bad pictures of something so breathtaking! I enjoyed reading your commentary, seems like you had a great time. :) Best wishes to you and thanks so much for dropping by my blog!

  17. rose2852 Says:

    Brings back great memories!

  18. Glamourous Traveller Says:

    Wonderful background story for all of us who have yet to go

  19. petit4chocolatier Says:

    Breathtaking!

  20. Kathi Says:

    Beautiful photography and a very thoughtful story! Neuschwanstein is one of my very favorite castles!! I’ll look forward to reading more of your posts.

  21. Leigh McAdam (@hikebiketravel) Says:

    I love the background you’ve provided about this castle – and Ludwig. What an interesting story and you’ve done a great job showcasing the castle with your photographs.

  22. Keri Duncan Valentine Says:

    These photos are stunning – I can’t wait to show these to my students, thank you!

  23. anniesshowroom Says:

    Beautiful pictures, Munich is one of my favourite place and especially the fair tale castle and growing up in that place no wonder King Ludwig was such a romantic at heart!!

  24. Frank Says:

    Amazing photos Victor! When we went I wasn’t actually very impressed so much by the castle, thought it is quite overrated. But like you I thought the geographic setting is spectacular. I absolutely love the photo titled “The view on the Alpsee and castle Hohenschwangau”. Magnificent.
    Headed here after seeing you’re following on twitter – thanks. I’ll make sure to check out other sections of your blog.
    Frank (bbqboy)

    https://www.facebook.com/bbqboynet

  25. Konig Ludwig Says:

    WoooW Neuschwanstein is the most beautiful castle in the world.
    Fantastic !

  26. Kenneth R. Lockridge Says:

    Hi! Again, a very nice post! Your picture of the castle door is way better than mine, by the way! When I was stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army and a tourguide for the USO, I researched Neuschwanstein.

    One of the reasons King Ludwig (2nd?) built such lavish and amazing showpieces was that there was a considerable depression on, and the skilled craftsmen and artisans of Bavaria were not in demand. By spending his own, personal, family fortune on the construction of these public cultural heritage points, he effectively kept alive the level of work which a generation later, having been transmitted to the Bismark-era guilds, would rebuild in Bavaria and Bohemia after WWI, and then when that later generation subsequently taught their posterity, again after WWII.

    Similarly, his patronage and encouragement of Wagner resulted in some of the most fantastic romantic-era masterpieces of music. I am convinced that he was wise enough to have done these things not just by accidental affinity, but by actual intent.

    • Victor Tribunsky Says:

      It is a very interesting point of view, Kenneth. And yes, when you look on the portrait of Ludwig you understand that man with such a face cannot be just silly and cranky.

  27. Freya Says:

    It’s stunning, I will be there in 2 weeks time so I’m very excited to see all this with my own eyes :)


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