Neuschwanstein in Bavaria

Categories: Sightseeing, Cultural and History

Neuschwanstein Castle
Neuschwanstein Castle

[ source: Wikipedia]

If you were asked to conjure up an image of a German castle, odds are good that you would immediately think about the most famous of all German castles: Neuschwanstein in Bavaria. Located in southwestern Bavaria near the village of Hohenschwangau (Hohenschwangau vacation rentals | Hohenschwangau travel guide), this castle was the inspiration for America's only fairy tale castle, Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle, beloved by generations of children.

In 1886, Neuschwanstein was opened to the public only seven weeks after the death of its owner, King Ludwig II of Bavaria. This was an ironic turn of events, since Ludwig built this castle as a place in which he could retreat from the public eye. Today, over 1.3 million visitors travel up to Neuschwanstein ever year. In the summer peak season, attendance has been known to reach 6,000 a day.

Work on the castle commenced in 1868. Ludwig was heavily involved in every stage of the design and construction process, personalizing the design to suit his tastes along the way. More than any of his other building projects, Neuschwanstein reflects Ludwig's personal interests and passions. He was especially captivated by a romanticized view of the Middle Ages, and he envisioned Neuschwanstein as a true representation of this noble period, "in the authentic style of the old German knight's castles." The interior of the castle reveals this intent most clearly. The picture series throughout the castle were inspired by Richard Wagner's heroic operas, with specific focus on the poet Tannhaeuser, the swan knight Lohengrin, and his father, the Holy Grail King Parzival. Reflecting the nature of the castle, which was more of a stage set than residence, most of the interior spaces in the castle were ceremonial in purpose and were not intended for residential or court usage.

The Neuschwanstein project was an extraordinarily expensive endeavor. Ludwig did not use Bavarian public funds but his own personal fortune to build the castle. Ludwig also took out substantial lines of credit for his palace project, even threatening suicide if his creditors seized any of his castles. By 1880, over 200 craftsmen were employed at Neuschwanstein, and sometimes this number swelled to 300. Although the castle was meant to do homage to the Middle Ages, the latest steel construction techniques were used in the building of Neuschwanstein. Furthermore, advanced technological amenities added to the castle's comforts: running water, hot air central heating, automatically flushing toilets, telephones, and an electric bell system.

Unfortnately Ludwig never saw his beloved Neuschwanstein completed to his plans. Simplified versions of the originally designed structures were not finished until 1892, well after his death. Although 200 rooms were planned for the castle, only 15 rooms and halls were ever finished.

If you are planning a trip to southern Germany, you should definitely include an excursion to Neuschwanstein on Bavaria. Guided tours in both German and English provide the only means of access to Ludwig's romantic domain. However, the views of the breathtaking Alpine landscape are free.

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About this Article

Rachel Hildebrandt

This travel guide has been written by Rachel Hildebrandt.

Starting with her first trip to Germany at the age of 16, Rachel has traveled, worked, and studied in Germany extensively. Although her first encounter with German culture was in Lower Saxony, since that time the focus of her subsequent work as a freelance historian and translator has shifted eastward. Building on her graduate studies in Dresden, Rachel has worked for a variety of German foundations as a historian and translator, and is currently pursuing research pertaining to the Sorbs in Lusatia (eastern Saxony).

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