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Neuschwanstein Castle

Poor “Mad” King Ludwig II… Misunderstood; not properly trained to reign; valued peace over war; declared “mad” by his family; sent away to an asylum and therefore victim to political espionage.  The story I heard of him growing up was that he lived in a beautiful fairy tale castle.  Over the years he went mad and kept building room upon room in his castle for unexplained reasons until one day he passed away.  Though he did commission the construction of the famous Neuschwanstein Castle, it turned out the story I had heard of him wasn’t quite right…

Known as the Fairy Tale Castle (it has inspired the Sleeping Beauty castle in Disneyland) the Neuschwanstein Castle (neu= new; schwan= swan; stein= stone) has become world famous.  September 5, 1869 was the beginning of construction on the castle and though constructions lasted 17 years, it is unfinished today according to the original plans.  It is built atop a hill above the Hohenschwangau village in place of the ruins of the Vorderhohenschwangau Castle, nestled among breathtaking natural beauty.

I rode a bike to the Hohenschwangau village where I then purchased a ticket for the castle tour and headed to an area offering horse carriage rides to the Castle.  It is the fairy tale castle, after all, so why not indulge in a little fairy tale of my own??  🙂

The castle itself is breathtaking, in my view as well.  Room after room was so lavishly decorated, ornate and detailed.  From the chapel to the wood sculptures above his 4-poster bed, the swan room, the Hall of the Singers and even the kitchen, this castle was VERY impressive!  Sadly we were not allowed to take any pictures of the interior, but then again it’s probably a blessing because I would have taken and posted a trillion of them!!

Perhaps my absolute favorite room of all however was the cave room… Yes, he had a room (which was more of a short hallway that lead from the swan room to a longer hall that passed the servants area) that he turned into an honest to goodness cave!!  It was complete with cave formations such as stalagmites/stalactites, had that slight damp feel to it as caves do and even had a little area that led onto a balcony complete with a little round table and chairs!  I could have stayed in that tiny room/hall all day just marveling at how in the world he accomplished that!  Mind you, this room is located on the second or third floor, so it’s not like it was carved on ground level.  I was awestruck!  I really wish that the tour of the castle allowed more time in each room, but alas, with so many people coming to see it it’s just not possible for them to allow longer than a 30 minute tour.

I did pick up a little book in the gift shop called “King Ludwig II: His Life- His End” before making my way to the bridge across from the castle for some pictures and for an unplanned hike up the Tegelberg hill, just on the other side of the bridge and across from the Castle.

Back to poor “mad” King Ludwig II…  to start I should mention that I got my information on him from the book as well as the tour guide and formed my own opinions about him based on both sources.  In my opinion, King Ludwig II was smart and sensible, not able to be manipulated by others, unique and way ahead of his time.  He wasn’t properly groomed to be the King of Bavaria and though the book didn’t specifically say, it’s my impression that his sexuality was questionable.  For example he broke off his only engagement to his cousin, Princess Sophie Charlotte of Bavaria and his only close friend was Richard Wagner, the famous composer.  Ludwig even had a room built in the castle specifically for him- the only room for guests in the entire castle.  Wagner, interestingly was a bit of a revolutionist and unpopular among politicians in Germany in general.

While the above may have been enough to make him an unpopular King at the time, what put the nail in the coffin for King Ludwig in my opinion was that he preferred peace over war.  This combined with the rest made those with other political motives in Bavaria (i.e. his family) unhappy and something had to be done to get him out of the way so they could pursue their wars in their quest for power.

It was true that the King had several castle constructions occurring at the same time and that he was in great debt because of them (no bank would loan him money at one point) and this was the angle that allowed his family to have him declared insane.  They convinced a doctor, who had never seen, spoken to nor treated the King to declare him insane based on him constructing several castles at once and bringing on debt.  Once the declaration of his insanity was made, the man hunt was on to capture the King and put him in an institution.

He was eventually caught at his Neuschwanstein Castle, betrayed by those he trusted most, and was sent to an asylum.  The doctor who had declared him insane (without having previously met him) oversaw his treatment at the asylum.  One day the two men went for a walk on the grounds of the asylum.  The doctor waved away the staff, who usually would accompany in case of an attempted escape, and walked with the King to Starnberger Lake.  When they didn’t return to the hospital when expected, a search party was dispatched and the bodies of the doctor and King Ludwig II were found drowned in the Lake.  The King, it was noted was a good swimmer, and what actually happened in that Lake that led to his death, well no one will ever know.  What we do know however is once King Ludwig II was declared dead, the family stopped construction on the Neuschwanstein Castle and immediately opened it as a tourist attraction to “pay off it’s debts”… Sounds rather fishy to me.

I do have to write one last little note here… On the tour a gentlemen from the States (I should have gotten his name so I could give him proper credit) made a very interesting and rather smart comparison between King Ludwig II and Michael Jackson.  It went as such:

KL.II- King of Bavaria
MJ- King of Pop
KL.II- built the fairy tale Neuschwanstein Castle
MJ- built the fairy tale home “Neverland”
KL.II & MJ- sexuality questionable
KL.II- unpopular controversial political opinions
MJ- controversial in music and life
KL.II- declared insane by his family
MJ- made insane by his family and all but abandoned by them
KL.II & MJ- died under suspicious circumstances in the presence of a doctor
KL.II & MJ- both families monetarily benefited as a result of their death

Gotta admit, it is an odd but very interesting connection!!

On to Scots in Italy??

Back to Europe

Berlin

Ah, Berlin!!  So many things to say about Berlin!!  What an awesome energy!!  Hip, cool, a strange mix of modern and older history.  This city is just busting at the seams with a young vibe.  Of course, while it does have a history that extends hundreds of years, in a way (due to being completely destroyed during WWII) it is a new city.  Graffiti can be found on just about every surface throughout the city and there’s a wildness in the air that speaks to a freedom of “come as you are and you will be accepted”.  Such a paradox given the very recent history of the city basically being imprisoned- either during the War or the Wall.  Maybe it is only due to all the turbulence in its recent history, but Berlin also seems confused as to which direction it wants to go.  There has been so much upheaval there relatively recently and I’m curious how it will continue to grow.

I stayed in a super sketchy looking section of town in a hostel called Jetpak Alternative.  To their credit, they advertised that they are in a sketchy area complete with dog sh*t and lots and lots of graffiti.  Across the street is a park that anyone who isn’t looking for trouble or drugs should just stay out of.  The hostel itself was wonderful!  It was a little nerve-wracking walking around the neighborhood after dark at times since people would often come up to you asking if you wanted drugs.  But I felt safe enough and would stay in that hostel again.  The people were nice and informative and it once again had that fun and inviting vibe that I had recalled of hostels while traveling in Central America yet didn’t encounter at all at the hostel in England.  I really wanted to stay another night but wasn’t able to since they were fully booked.  So I took that as a sign to keep on moving!

In the time I did spend there I joined in for a “free” walking tour:)  The morning before the tour walked from the hostel to the meeting point (Parizer Platz) just taking in the sights and stopping along the way for pictures.  I took a quick tour of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum (quick because I didn’t realize I was running out of time before the tour!) which was very impressive and quite moving!  The ways in which people came up with to escape Berlin while the Wall was up was amazing!

We started (as mentioned above) at Parizer Platz, then headed to the Holocaust museum, the Berlin Wall, the now parking lot where Hitler’s underground bunker was located, the real Checkpoint Charlie location, to some churches, a theater and ended in the square where Hitler ordered all books be burned (across from the University).  As I’ve done before I will share my favorite stories of the tour but not all the information below:)

At the end of the tour I took the train back with a guy that was also staying in my hostel (he was also in the tour) since I had been walking about 7 hours at this point! This does remind me though of the train situation in Germany… It really is on the honor system as to whether or not you buy tickets!!  They don’t have any gates stopping you from getting onto the train without a ticket, so while technically one could gamble by hopping on a train for free to get to their destination, I wouldn’t recommend it simply because plain-clothed cops are apparently always present and randomly checking for people aboard without tickets.  And there is a hefty fine for those who do try to ride for free…  Just sayin’ 🙂

Highlights of the tour:

Hotel Adlon: this hotel is THE MOST expensive hotel to stay in Berlin.  It is famous for 2 reasons… the first and most recent event, it is the hotel where Michael Jackson dangled his baby over the balcony railing.  The second (and more historical) is that it is only one of two buildings that was not bombed and was still standing after the war!!  Everything else was destroyed!!  However, years later a group of Russians (as part of an army if memory serves) stayed in the hotel and proceeded to engage in a pastime that is quite popular among many: drink!!  They drank and drank and drank and at some point someone, somehow started a fire that caught and burned down part of the hotel!!  So there is a joke now where the hotel was able to survive a war, but NOT a Russian party, lol!!!! 😉

Hotel Adlon
Hotel Adlon

Holocaust Memorial: it was just so moving.  There is a museum that is part of the memorial that I unfortunately was not able to make it to but certainly plan to when I make it back there!  The artist who designed the memorial did a fabulous job with it for sure!  It was thought-provoking, moving, inspiring and emotional!!  A must see for anyone who visits!  And I may add that it was probably one of the few areas that did not have any graffiti on it at all:)

Hitler’s Underground Bunker: Interesting information here that I’d never heard before about Hitler.  First that he had Parkinson’s Disease and was taking numerous drugs (LSD, liquid cocaine eye drops, etc) to try to keep even keel, so to speak.  It really shouldn’t have surprised me that he was on drugs given how absolutely loony tunes he was, but it did.  The second thing was that he got married!  Eva, his bride married him and agreed to a suicide pact with him.  She ended up killing herself before he did himself in.  Good riddance!  Oh and the underground bunker isn’t marked in any way because the government doesn’t want the crazies out there setting up some sort of memorial in his honor on the site.  Good idea!!

Standing on Hitler's Underground Bunker
Standing on Hitler’s Underground Bunker

Berlin Wall:  this whole idea just fascinated me… Why would a government build a wall then FORCE people to stay on one side or the other in order to build a “stronger” government????  I just don’t get it!!  Anyway, my favorite bit about this part was the clever escape one family succeeded in fleeing East Berlin.  The father worked in a building nearby and managed to smuggle his family in the building before it closed.  They hid in the building until everyone left for the night then changed in all black clothing and went to the roof.  They flung a line from the roof over the wall to the other side where a friend of theirs was waiting and basically zip-lined from the roof to the other side of the wall!!  What’s even funnier is that a guard of the wall saw this activity taking place but didn’t sound any alarm because he thought for sure it was an undercover op going on, lol!!!

Prophecy from 1820:  the below plaque basically translates to “wherever they burn books they burn only people at the end”.  That isn’t an exact translation but I did find it interesting that it was a statement made in 1820 by Heinrich Heine, a German poet, and it was justly posted at the site where Hitler had ordered all books to be burned, just before he really started to come into his power.  And as we all know his reign sadly and very unfortunately did end with the burning of people.

Prolific Wise Words from 1820
Prolific Wise Words from 1820

 

More Pictures from Berlin

On to Potential Controversy

Back to Europe