Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria

April 9th, 2012 | Posted by Steve in Buildings | Forts | Germany | Museums | National Monuments

Neuschwanstein Castle, March 31, 2012


Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most famous and most photographed castles in the world.  It served as the model for Sleeping Beauty’s Castle at Disneyland.  The name generally means New Swan’s Stone or New Swan [Castle] on the Rock.

The Castle was the creation of King Ludwig II of Bavaria.  He became king before the age of 19 and died under mysterious circumstances in 1886.  During his reign from 1864 to his death he build 1 castle & 2 palaces spending himself into an extreme bankruptcy.  His palaces in Munich and especially Neuschwanstein in the alps have become tourist booms for the State of Bavaria and, from what the guides say, have paid for themselves a long time ago.

While Ludwig was still young Bavaria was forced by politics and war into a union with the other German states.  Disillusioned by these results Ludwig retreated into a self made fantasy world and was rich enough to indulge his whims.  Today he is probably best known for his building creations, and his cultural tastes.

Ludwig’s friendship and patronage of Richard Wagner is believed by some to have saved or remade Wagner’s career.  Neuschwanstein with its breathtaking views and mountain top site is created to be an expression of Germanic folklore as expressed by Wagner’s operas.  Frescoes from various Wagner operas decorate the castle.  These include Lohengrin, Tristan and Isolde, Tannhauser, Parsifal, and others.

By 1886 Ludwig’s building boom had put him over 14 million marks in debt.  He refused to stop building, threatened suicide if creditors seized his properties, and, by various accounts, pressured his family, the State of Bavaria and other European sources for additional monies to continue his projects.

Along the way Ludwig apparently made some powerful enemies.  His patronage of Wagner ruffled a few feathers and his acquiescence to an association with a larger Germany may have been forced.  His retirement from all court & state functions as king in the mid 1870s must have made him unpopular with his ministers & the higher functionaries in Munich.  At various times he threatened to have them relieved.

By early 1886 some Bavarian government ministers & Count Friedrich von Holstein, Otto Bismark’s right hand man and éminence grise in the German Foreign Office, developed a plan to relieve Ludwig of power.  Prior to this Ludwig’s brother Otto had already been declared mad and removed from public sight.  Prince Luitpold, Ludwig’s uncle agreed to become Regent if Ludwig was declared mad.  If declared mad many would believe the disease moved within the family.

Bismark felt the plan to relieve Ludwig was only a method to save the jobs of the ministers in Bavaria, but did not stop the plan from being carried out.   Ludwig was to be forcibly sequestered elsewhere in Bavaria away from Neuschwanstein.

Ludwig was declared mad by a Dr. Gudden on June 10, 1886.  The psychiatrist had only met Ludwig once or twice in the past.  He accompanied Ludwig into seclusion at Lake Starnberg. The evening of the 13th Ludwig asked Dr. Gudden to go with him on a walk.  The next morning their bodies were found in the lake.  Dr. Gudden’s body showed multiple injuries to the head & shouders.  Supposedly, Ludwig’s body showed no injuries, but some repressed reports say he was shot twice.

The accuracy of the label “mad” is still controversial.  It seems obvious he was declared mad to get him out of government and to put an end to his big spending.  He avoided court functions and state events, but this could be considered eccentric or reclusive.  I’ve always felt the difference between insanity and eccentricity is money.  This seems even truer with Ludwig.  It appears he was removed from power only after all his money was spent, his appetite to spend more could not be controlled, and the depth of his debt seemed to be impossible to overcome.

Neuschwanstein became a museum.  To this day the castle is still incomplete.  Some unfinished exterior parts of the castle were eventually completed, the living quarters are finished, but apparently not all the rooms of the castle have been decorated.

Personally, I found the interior decoration to be dark and dreary, but beyond opulent, even fantastic if that is possible.  The throne room, in particular, painted in blue and gold, with phenomenal religious paintings and lapis lazuli columns seems to be the expression of an immense ego.

Again, interior photos were not allowed, but the tour guide allowed us to shoot photos through windows to the outside.  Interior photos are found online.  Here is one website:

Here is another:


Crawford, Dave and I had a 2:00 tour.  Our tour at Hohenschwangau Castle ended near noon so we began to walk to Neuschwanstein.  The castle sits on a hill within about a mile of the village.  It is about 500 feet up the hill with a commanding view all around.  Near the top is a restaurant where we stopped for lunch.  A short walk from there brings you to the castle base where these views present themselves.

Parts of the north face of the castle and the tower were wrapped in scaffolding and undergoing maintenance.  The limestone façade has been deteriorating due to the mountain environment and there has been some shifting in the foundation.

I’m sorry about #2, it got too much sun & I had to adjust the colors to make it acceptable.

The third photo is Dave walking into the Gate House, the entry to the castle.  The coats of arms of the king are seen above the arch of the entryway.

Once you walk through the Gate House you are in the small lower courtyard.  The castle towers above you off to your right.

Another view is a closeup of some of the frescoes painted on the outside walls of the palace building.  The one on the left is St. George killing the dragon, a theme that often repeats itself in Neuschwanstein & Hohenschwangau.  The one on the right appears to be Mary holding a baby Jesus with angels celebrating, a theme seen often in Germany.  These are the only outside frescoes I recall.  All others were inside and off limits to photography.

Off to the left are stairs to the upper courtyard and views of the mountains, & Marienbrucke Bridge (Mary’s Bridge) over the Pollat Gorge.

The upper courtyard is kept clear of tourists so I was able to get this shot.  The arrow points to a window in a salon where I was allowed to get an outside shot of the courtyard, shown next.

Way in the background of the lower shot, perhaps another mile, is a mountain serviced by a ski lift.  It is from this mountain that the really great shots of the castle are made, usually in morning or evening light.  This salon where I was shooting is right next to Ludwig’s famous grotto (not shown), a room decorated to look like the inside of a cave.

This is another view of the upper courtyard.  The knight’s hall is off to the right.  The Palace, or living quarters, is to the left.

Turning around are these interior views of the gatehouse, lower courtyard, & entry.

Waiting around for the tour to begin I began to take in some of the detail.  This is some detail in the stonework of the gatehouse.

Once our tour was over we walked down many flights of steps that ended at the kitchen.  No longer under orders to avoid cameras many of the tourists caught some photos of the kitchen.  I was no exception.

Once we left the castle we decided to shoot a photo from Marienbrucke.  It is a long walk up there, about as long as the walk from the village to the castle.

This is Mary’s Bridge, Marienbrucke from the southern ramparts of the castle.

This is the opposite view from Marienbrucke back to the castle.  It is one of those places in the world where it is hard to get a bad photo.

Walking back to the village there are some great view points for photos.  Some photos of the Hohenschwangau Castle are shown in the last post from this point.

I also got a snapshot of my companions, Crawford and Dave.  Hohenschwangau Castle is in the background.

Back toward the castle this view of the mountains to the south shows up.  The mountains rise abruptly from the plain seen 2 photos above.

This is the western face of the castle undergoing maintenance work.  The tallest tower is supposedly 215 feet above the foundation, but standing before it my guess would be about 90 meters or close to 300 feet.

After a long day we all drove back to our hotel some 4 hours to the north.  Back in Bamberg we filled the tank with 84 Euros total.  Everyone’s traveling expense was then only 21 Euro each, pretty good for a whole day sight seeing.

The next post will be of Bamberg & the Michaelsberg Abbey.

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