A Visit to the Fairytale Castle Neuschwanstein
May 13, 2017
Located on a hill top in the Alps in Bavaria, Germany, Castle Neuschwanstein overlooks the Hohenschwangau valley. The astonishing landscape will steal your breath away. This castle lies very close to the town of Fussen, which makes it a popular tourist destination in Germany.
Castle Neuschwanstein was commenced by the Bavarian King Ludwig II in 1869 and never completed. He saw it as a monument to medieval culture and kinship, which he revered and wanted to imitate. Built and furnished in medieval styles but equipped with what at the time was the latest technology, it is the most famous work of historicism and the embodiment of German idealism.
The father of Ludwig II, Maximilian II, acquired the nearby Hohenschwangau Castle, seat of the knights of Schwangau in the Middle Ages, and rebuilt it from 1832 in the Gothic style. Here, Ludwig, who was born in 1845, developed a passion for the Middle Ages. He learned much about the legends and history of the period from the murals and through avid reading. From 1861, he was decisively influenced by his encounter with the music dramas of Richard Wagner, who heightened the effect of the medieval sagas with incredibly powerful music.
One of the most famous castles in Germany, the Wartburg, had been renovated and refurnished in 1867 and became a direct model for Neuschwanstein. In the 19th century, building in historical styles meant “perfecting” them, also with the help of modern technology and historical studies. As a thoroughgoing idealist, Ludwig II clung to an already completely outdated belief in such perfection.
Ludwig II became King in 1864. Two years later, he was forced to accept the defeat and domination of his country by Prussia. No longer a sovereign ruler, he was unable to cope with the role of a constitutional monarch. He created his own alternative world, in which as the reigning King of Bavaria, he could live like a King in the Middle Ages, or the baroque age of absolutism. This is the idea behind his castles. On a ridge in a magnificent setting high above the Pollat Gorge with the mountains as a backdrop, he built his new castle over the remains of two small medieval castles familiar to him since his childhood.
Ludwig II visited the Wartburg in 1867 and had his architect make drawings of the ornamentation. The ideal designs were produced by a scene painter from the Munich court opera house and incorporated motifs not only from the Wartburg, in particular the Palas and building ornamentation, but also from stage sets for Lohengrin and Tannhauser. Ludwig II had written in a letter to Richard Wagner in 1868 that his new castle would contain reminders of these works.
Construction commenced in September 1869, and the Gateway Building was completed in 1873. This was where Ludwig II first lived, who was destined never to see his new castle without scaffolding. In 1884, his rooms in the Palas were ready for occupation. A simplified version of the southern part of the building, the bower, was only completed in 1891, and the keep with the chapel was never built.
Although heavily in debt, Ludwig II always wanted to go on building. When the banks threatened to seize his property, the government had him certified insane and interned him in Berg Palace. On 13 June 1886, he died in Lake Starnberg. There’s a memorial cross at the site where the body of Ludwig II was found in Lake Starnberg.
His new castle which he thought of not as the Wartburg but as the Grail Castle, and which no outsider was ever allowed to enter, was opened to the public from 1 August 1886. It was only named Neuschwanstein after his death.
There are guided tours here, held in German or English, or with an audio guide in other languages. I spent the morning visiting Castle Neuschwanstein before having lunch, and moving on to explore Hohenschwangau Castle which I will elaborate more in my next post. As we stayed in a B&B that’s just below the hilltop, we managed to catch Castle Neuschwanstein light up at night from our balcony.
Castle Neuschwanstein Details
Address: Neuschwansteinstasse 20, 87645 Schwangau
1 April to 15 October 9am to 6pm
16 October to 31 March 10am to 4pm
Closed on 1 Jan, 24, 25 & 31 Dec.
Contact: +49 8362 93988-0
Entrance Fees: 13Euros (Regular), 12Euros (Reduced), free entry for children and young people under 18 years old