The Romantic Road - Neuschwanstein Castle - Germany
As we travel all the way to the end of the Romantic Road we come to the tip of the German border and probably the most famous, popular and enchanting castle in Germany and of all of Europe - is Schloss Neuschwanstein or Neuschwanstein Castle. I have saved the best for last! Yes, this is the castle that was the inspiration for Walt Disney's castles at Disneyland and Disney World. (I have always said Walt Disney was a genius!) And, yes, this is the castle you saw in the charming movie, Chitty Chitty, Bang Bang (1968). I suppose to have this castle as the location of your movie is also genius. I think this castle is what all of us picture in our minds when we hear the word "castle", at least this is the one I picture.
Obviously, this is a must see! Do not leave southern Germany without seeing Neuschwanstein Castle. It is quite an experience. Neuschwanstein Castle is located in the most southern part of Bavaria, on a very steep hill above the village of Hohenschwangau very close to the town of Fussen. And, Fussen is considered the official end of the Romantic Road in Germany. This is a 19th century Romanesque Revival palace commissioned by and funded by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and also as an homage to Richard Wagner, opera composer. Ludwig II was a very intense fanatic and follower of Wagner's operas, specifically "Tannhauser" and " Lohengrin." Ludwig II was an odd, eccentric and different person and built Neuschwanstein so he could live away from Munich and so he could live his idea of the middle ages. He wanted Neuschwanstein to be "in the authentic style of old German knight's castles" - said Ludwig II in a letter to Richard Wagner. That, and the fact that Ludwig was so reclusive was precisely why he attained the moniker, Mad King Ludwig II.
Despite the rumors and "tabloid" newspapers of the time, Ludvig paid for the palace out of his personal fortune and personal extensive borrowing NOT with Bavarian public funds as reported at the time. However, his borrowing of monies and requests for extensive credit lines, convinced officials in the royal court that he had "gone mad." By the end of Ludwig's life he had sunk more than six million marks into the building of Neuschwanstein, an extremely high amount of money for the 19th century.
The designer and architect of this magnificent castle was Eduoardo Riedl and he was chosen by Ludwig himself. The castle was originally planned to be built in the neo-Gothic style, but was built primarily in the Romanesque style in the end. The major problem was that he micromanaged every construction and decorating aspect of the castle and drove Riedl and the construction workers "mad." Although, in the Romanesque style for the most part, here are the three architectural styles Ludwig incorporated in his castle:
- Romanesque - simple geometric figures such as cuboids and semicircular arches
- Gothic -upward pointing lines, slim towefs and delicate embellishments
- Byzantine -architecture and art decorating the inside of the castle, especially the Throne Room decor
During Ludwig's lifetime, the castle was not completed; however, when portions of the castle were completed, he did move in and stay in his castle. The castle during this time did not have space for the royal court and only had room for the king's private lodging and servant's rooms. In all, only about fifteen rooms and corridors where complete enough for Ludwig to live in them. Had Ludwig lived long enough for the castle to be completed, it would have had more than 200 interior rooms. Of his beloved castle, Ludwig only lived in it for a total of 176 days.
The castle had all the innovations of the time - the 19th century. It had a battery powered bell system for servants and even telephone lines. It also had running warm water and toilets with automatic flushing! It had a Rumford Oven in the kitchen which the heat from the oven automatically turned the skewer of meat around. And the heat from the oven somehow provided the central heating system - dearly needed on winter days in Germany!
Because of the high cost of the castle for its time and the constant opening of new credit lines by Ludwig, the Bavarian royal government officials decided to depose the "mad" king because of the debts he was running up. In early June 1886, Ludwig was forcibly removed from the castle and put in seclusion or, what we would call house arrest today, for his own protection. He died mysteriously on June 13, 1886 in the shallow shore water of Lake Starnberg nearby.
After Ludwig's death the Bavarian government immediately opened the castle for tours, and at the same time, completed the construction of the castle, and today you can tour the castle all year round. You can only see the castle on official 35 minute guided tours and only certain rooms and corridors of the 200 interior rooms are open for public view. From June-August the castle averages approximately 6000 visitors each year and since the 19th century approximately 60 million people have viewed the castle all together.
When traveling in Germany, whether you are driving your own private car or are on a bus tour, as you enter this quaint area of southern Bavaria and are crossing from one village to another you see Neuschwanstein Castle in the distance, sometimes up in the clouds or in a German fog or mist and it is breathtaking. When you finally arrive and park, there is a tremendous steep hill to climb to get to the castle. It is a good half hour climb or more so wear good walking shoes. I did this climb in my 20's with no problem, but I don't know if I could manage this hike today, so there is a tram and other transportation available for a fee to take you to the top so you can view the castle. The view of Bavaria from atop the castle is stunning, so be sure to bring a camera that day or use your cell phone to take pictures.
So, if you only have time to view one castle on the Romantic Road while in Germany, Neuschwanstein Castle is the one to see!
Read about more cities on the Romantic Road in Germany
- The Romantic Road - Wurzburg, Germany
Come join me on a tour of the Romantic Road in Germany. Wurzburg, Germany is the first city going south on the Romantic Road in Germany. This road is full of castles, old walled cities, medieval knights, and fairytales.
- The Romantic Road - Bamberg, Germany
Continue exploring The Romantic Road, this time in Bamberg, Germany, home of the Bamberg Horseman. Find him for good luck.
- The Romantic Road - Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
The next stop on the Romantic Road is the charming medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
- The Romantic Road - Nuremberg, Germany
Leaving Rothenburg, Germany, we drive south to the next stop on the Romantic Road - Nuremberg, Germany.