Have you guys heard of this King Ludwig fella? The one who apparently lost his marbles after his father's death and lived a life of seclusion and fantasy inside 3 different lavish castles he built (one of them being what Walt Disney modeled Sleeping Beauty's castle after)? Bless his little heart. After visiting two out of his three beautiful Bavarian castles while on our family vacation, I'm not quite sure he earned the title 'Mad' King Ludwig of Bavaria. I'm thinking he was more...misunderstood. Like the Michael Jackson kind of misunderstood. The King of Pop was very eccentric...lived in a place he dubbed "Neverland Ranch", gravitated toward childlike things (zoos, amusement parks, toys), and made himself a social oddity of sorts. Completely misunderstood by the world. I feel like he and King Ludwig II had much of the same eccentricities, which is why his royal subjects deemed him crazy and eventually had him removed from his throne. He also died mysteriously by the hands of another. Two peas in a pod, those boys.
We started out our 3rd day in Bavaria with the weather being finicky, as usual. Of course it would be the foggiest day in the history of EVER the one day we want to go see Neuschwanstein Castle. You know, this place. Yeah, didn't look a thing like that when we went. Needless to say, I was disappointed, but we had a lot of fun exploring the castles together anyway. We took the Neuschwanstein Castle Tour given by Edelweiss (I highly recommend it) and before even getting to the castle, we were taken on a bus ride through the quiet Bavarian towns of Oberammergau and Steingaden. We stopped off at an adorable little woodworking shop outside of Oberammergau called Almdorf Ammertal for a chance to buy handmade cuckoo clocks and figurines, and while in Steingaden we were treated to Bavarian doughnuts, hot chocolate, and a view of the Church in the Meadow. We would have never found these cute places had we not taken the tour. Bonus points to Edelweiss!
Ta-da! Disappointment. Not only was the fog clouding our view, but there was scaffolding on the whole North and West side of the castle. Stupid, stupid fog and scaffolding. Doesn't look much like Disneyland, does it? Grrr. Truth be told, the inside surprisingly isn't much to call home about either...mostly because it was never completed. King Ludwig II died before he could see his dream castle as a finished product. Only the cellar and first floor were fully completed. Neuschwanstein has all the typical marble floors, ornate paintings and chandeliers, along with towering ceilings and intricately carved mahogany furniture that's found in many castles around Germany. But what's unique about this castle, which is dedicated to the musician Richard Wagner, is that it houses multiple stages for plays and musical performances. The guy was big on musical theatre. He was also big on swans. They're hidden everywhere inside the castle. It is Neu-"schwan"-stein Castle, after all. Per the usual, photographs weren't allowed inside...so, you'll just have to take my word for it.
It was cold...it was rainy...and, it was windy. Some of our umbrellas didn't fair so well. Makes me laugh every time I see these photos. Poor Ashley. Needless to say, after spending too many hours chasing umbrellas, we were ready to head back to the lodge. We did try an attempt at seeing the castle from the Marien Bridge (pictured in the distance in the photo above), but once again the clouds and mist got in the way. It was like the castle didn't even exist. D and I have planned a trip back to Edelweiss for Thanksgiving and we hope to have a Neuschwanstein re-do.
Maybe next time it'll be covered in snow!
Back at the lodge, we stuffed our faces at the buffet, then went back to our suite to get some rest. The next morning we were to head back to Wiesbaden, but not before a stop at another one of King Ludwig's homes...Linderhof Palace! On our way to the palace, we had to take the tiniest, windiest little road I've ever seen. We were all freaking out in the car and contemplating our impending deaths, when suddenly we drove past this:
The bluest lake that ever was.
I've never seen a lake so turquoise and clear in my life. Not to mention one sitting at the base of the Austrian Alps. Yep, we had ventured a little ways into Austria on that tiny beast of a road. So, naturally, we pulled over and had ourselves a little photo shoot.
The low hanging clouds made it look even more ethereal. Isn't it just gorgeous? This blows North Carolina lakes right out of the water...no pun intended. Ok, maybe a little intended. :) Onward to Linderhof!
Not sure if you can tell, but that there's a wink. My seriously funny cousin, Ashley, "wink-bombed" lots of pictures during our 2 week vacation. I couldn't resist posting a few of them. It could be like a fun game. Go through all the posts and find the winking Ashley! 2,000 points to the person who finds them all! Kidding, kind of.
Linderhof Palace was King Ludwig's most opulent residence. While the smallest of the 3 homes he built, it boasts ornate ivory fixtures, colorful wall hangings, and a slurry of gardens complete with fairytale charm. The inside of this place is just...WOW. Totally kicks Neuschwanstein's butt. You've gotta see it to believe it.
My favorite part of the palace was the Venus Grotto (also known as the "little blue grotto," as it was molded after the blue grotto in Capri, Italy). This is where King Ludwig would come to collect this thoughts and daydream. He'd also request for plays to be put on for him on the grotto stage above the lake...while he floated around in his little gold boat...in the middle of a cave. The grotto could also change colors depending on the king's mood. Flamboyant to say the very least.
King Ludwig also had kiosks and huts built around the palace grounds, reflecting his eclectic and worldly taste. The structure pictured below is called the Moorish Kiosk. Inside the kiosk there is a peacock throne made of cast iron and bohemian glass. No wonder the dude was practically bankrupt.
So, what do you think? Was King Ludwig just an eccentric soul with a flair for theatre and opulent living...or...was the guy a few beers short of a six pack? Jury's still out for me. I guess we'll never know. What I do know is that if you're ever in Bavaria, these castles should be on your "must-see" list. Just pray for better weather.
On the deck for my next recap post...our Rhine River Cruise! Stay tuned!