Mountains, waterfalls, forests, a lake of swans, scandal and mystery… Neuschwanstein Castle has it all. Ludwig II became King at age 18. He was described as a shy romantic and a bit eccentric; he was not prepared to be King but was willing to learn his role. In 1866 Bavaria lost the German War and King Ludwig was no longer the sovereign ruler. He began to plan his own kingdom high up in the German Alps next to Hohenschwangua Castle, his childhood home.
Construction began on ‘New Hohenschwangua Castle’ in 1869. The exterior of the castle was designed to resemble a medieval German castle. This castle was not built for defensive purposes; this castle was built to fulfill the dreams of King Ludwig II. The castles decor depicts King Ludwig’s inner battle for freedom from sin and his desire for purity. While women loved the King, it is rumored he had a crush on Richard Wagner, a popular opera composer. Many of the rooms were inspired by Wagner’s opera’s. The castle was equipped with all the latest technology: central heating, running water on each floor, hot and cold water in the kitchen, flushing toilets, telephones, an electric servant bell system and a lift to move food from the kitchen.
Construction was projected to take three years. King Ludwig was a perfectionist, had high expectations and made unrealistic demands on the workers, they often worked day and night. As the construction progressed King Ludwig withdrew from society and ceased all his duties, focusing solely on his New Hohenschwangua Castle. The castle plans were revised and guest rooms were removed. The King’s entire focus became creating this perfect kingdom and he retreated into an ‘alternate reality’. The government declared him insane in 1886; he was arrested and moved to Berg Palace. The next day he mysteriously died in Lake Strenberg with the psychiatrist. At the time of his death 14 of 360 rooms were complete and King Ludwig had only slept in the castle 11 nights. The castle was renamed Neuschwanstein Castle and was opened to the public two months after his death.
King Ludwig built a fairytale in the sky. Disney agrees, they have modeled their castles after Neuschwanstein Castle. The public also agrees, 1.4 million people visit the castle yearly making it one of the most popular destinations in Europe. BEWARE, this is a busy place! Buy your tickets online as far in advance as possible to ensure a reservation. DO NOT miss your scheduled reservation! Staff are not friendly or understanding and will not reschedule you. Tours are 35 minutes. Photography is not allowed in the castle. After the castle tour take a walk across the Marienbrucke (Queen Mary’s Bridge, Ludwig’s mother). Take the classic picture of the castle and the waterfall 100 meters below. Allow time to explore Hohenschwangua Castle and take a walk along Alpsee Lake to enjoy the swans, this lake was the inspiration for Tchaikovsky’s The Swan Lake.