King Ludwig II continues to enjoy great popularity. One can still see older Bavarians, sitting at their regular table in the bar with a little Ludwig II picture stuck in their traditional hats. There is no doubt that he and his palaces are considered throughout the world to be Bavaria's most famous tourist attraction. People from Munich see things with a somewhat more jaded eye, however, because Ludwig II did absolutely nothing for Munich; indeed he hated the city. After countless quarrels with the Bavarian parliament, he withdrew bitterly from Munich. Ludwig II was no democrat and would have preferred to have been an absolutist ruler. That was no longer possible in the Munich of the 19th century, which is why he built his palaces far away from the unloved parliament. From an architectural point of view, his palaces date from the era of historicism. It was customary at that time to copy historical architectural styles and even whole buildings.
King Ludwig II: New Schloss Herrenchiemsee
Almost as beautiful as Versailles: Herrenchiemsee (Photo: Flickr.com/digital cat)
Ludwig II admired his French role models, the Bourbon rulers, and especially Louis XIV. This is also reflected in his palaces, as all of them are in the French style. It is very obvious in Herrenchiemsee, as there is a reproduction of Versailles in the middle of the Herreninsel on the Chiemsee Lake. Only the central section of the garden front from the age of Louis XIV was reconstructed. It would have been too expensive to rebuild the entire Versailles complex, as it was built over a number of centuries for up to 10,000 members of the royal court. That would have been rather large for a single king without a court. In the heyday of Versailles the nobility practically fought each other for each available room. Ludwig II spent only a few days in his palace, and it was never completed. If we compare the original and the copy, one thing becomes clear: the largest and most impressive work of art is missing – the garden of Versailles. Instead, the Herrenchiemsee Palace offers romantic and wistful paths, an approach by ship across the Chiemsee and, naturally when the weather is fine, a view of the Alps.
Arrival: Take the A8 motorway (Salzburg-Munich), exit at Bernau towards Prien am Chiemsee. Follow the signs at the roundabout before Prien (Chiemsee or Königsschloss). There are regular boats to the Herreninsel from Prien/Stock. The schedules of the Chiemsee train and ferries can be found at www.chiemsee-schifffahrt.de.
King Ludwig II: Schloss Neuschwanstein
World-famous backdrop: Neuschwanstein (Photo: k4dordy)
This palace is one of the most famous sights in the world. Like in a fairytale, it reigns supreme on a mountain in a spectacular position. The inspiration for the palace came to King Ludwig II during a visit to France, where he saw the palace at Pierrefonds. The French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc built the ruin for Napoleon III as a private residence. The round towers typical of Neuschwanstein were very popular in the French Middle Ages. But in contrast to a medieval fort, Schloss Neuschwanstein was purely for show, as a built backdrop to the romantic idea of the Middle Ages. Ludwig II loved the music of Richard Wagner and thus also the whole idealised concept of the German Middle Ages. The visitor is therefore confronted inside with all kinds of frescos with illustrations from the operas Parsival and Lohengrin.
From an architectural perspective, the palace belongs completely to the era of European historicism. Historicised castles were also built elsewhere at that time... just not as prettily. The building might appear to be medieval, but the technical possibilities of the 19th century were fully exploited. There was heating and running water. And the most advanced material of the era was also used: steel. The columns hid invisible steel structures and profiles.
Arrival: Take the A7 motorway (Ulm – Kempten – Füssen) until the end. From Füssen take the state road B17 towards Schwangau; after the end of the town, turn right towards Hohenschwangau. Only fee-charging car parks are available in Hohenschwangau (5 Euro/car as of 01.04.2011). With German Rail (www.bahn.de), travel to Füssen, and then take Bus RVA/OVG 73 towards Steingaden / Garmisch-Partenkirchen or Bus RVA/OVG 78 towards Schwangau as far as the bus stop Hohenschwangau / Alpseestraße.
King Ludwig II: Linderhof
Opulent interior in the Moorish Kiosk (Photo: Flickr.com/Oefe)
King Ludwig II spent most of his time in Linderhof. He loved this little idyll. The building, in a pompous neo-Baroque style, is reminiscent of a French pleasure palace, but without the clarity and elegance. The interior of the palace was designed in Rococo style. Similar to Herrenchiemsee, a mechanism for tricks was developed. The actual highlights, however, are the buildings in the park: the Moorish Kiosk, the Moroccan House, the so-called Hunding's Hut and the Hermitage of Gurnemanz. Absolute highlight: the magical Venus Grotto, a reconstructed stage from the Wagnerian opera Tannhäuser. King Ludwig II allowed himself to be paddled in the mussel gondola through the grotto, accompanied by magical lighting and Wagner music. The company BASF, at the time in its infancy, was involved in putting on the light show. Now, however, the backdrop is severely damaged and covered in netting and scaffolding to protect visitors against falling pieces of cement. Renovation is currently being prepared.
Arrival: Take the A95 motorway and the state road B2 to Oberau. Then follow the signs to the B23/Ettaler Straße towards Ettal. After Ettal turn left on the state road ST2060. In Linderhof turn right to the palace. With German Rail (www.bahn.de), travel to Oberammergau, and then take Bus 9622 to Linderhof.
King Ludwig II: Royal house at Schachen
The Schachen Hut is located at 1800m (Photo: Flickr.com, Mundus Gregorius)
This little wooden palace is at an altitude of 1866 m on the Schachen mountain to the south of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It can be reached on foot via the luxury hotel Schloss Elmau, on the so-called Royal Route. The ground floor of the building is nothing special, but the upper floor suddenly reveals a thousand-and-one nights – the Turkish Room, filled with elegant carpets, a bubbling fountain, peacock feathers, vases and chandeliers. Coloured light shines through stained glass windows. The room was inspired by the style of Turkish palaces. But watch out – the walking time from the valley to the little jewel is no less than 3-4 hours.
Arrival: From Munich Central Station (Starnberger Flügelbahnhof) to Klais (departures every hour). The simple journey costs around 16 €. From Innsbruck (Austria): Take the train to Mittenwald and from there to Klais.
Now, sadly, a case for renovation: the Venus Grotto (Photo: Flickr.com, Allie Caulfield)
Ludwig II had planned a few more palaces and buildings, such as a Byzantine palace near Linderhof. It never came to pass. We all know how the story ended.