Monday, August 25, 2008

Neuschwanstein Castle - Happy Birthday Ludwig II

Today - 25 August - is the 163rd anniversary of the birth of Ludwig II of Bavaria, the 'mad' king who designed and built Neuschwanstein Castle. I'm lucky enough to have visited Neuschwanstein Castle not just once but twice. The trips were in fact over 15 years apart so both carry vivid memories in their own right.

Having visited the castle when I was just 16, my second trip there was much later with my husband whose family goes back to Bavaria and who has a love for Richard Wagner's music. So for him the experience was probably more impactful and meaningful than for most people, particularly as he also has a strong interest in the Wagner Tuba. Standing in the music hall of the castle where Wagner's music was often played was a special experience for him.

After going inside the castle we followed a sign for the 'Marienbrucke' and found ourselves standing on a small, fairly narrow, wooden footbridge over a high ravine directly behind the castle. The view across to the castle and the landscape in the distance is something I shall never forget. Stunning, exhilerating, breathtaking ... words fail to describe it. I will dig out the photographs we took standing on the bridge and post them on the Blog in the near future. So if you're a regular visitor then you should have something very special to look at soon.

So happy birthday Ludwig and thank you for what is a wonderful legacy - a truly fantastic fantasy castle which we should all celebrate and enjoy.

PS. Whilst in Bavaria we made a trip into Munich, just for the day and with one specific and very special place in mind .... a place that few people seem to know about but that made our trip to Bavaria even more special and memorable. Another story for another day!

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Neuschwanstein Castle - An Architectural Wonder

To visit Neuschwanstein Castle once is a marvellous experience but to visit it twice as I have been able to is a joy. I first went to Bavaria when I was just 16 years old and the sight of this fantasy castle when it first came into view was nothing like anything I had ever seen before.

Its location is stunning, set up high on a rockface and the architecture so daring that it begs belief today let alone how it must have appeared when it was first built. And that's just on the outside! When you go inside Neuschwanstein Castle the whole experience just becomes even more breathtaking. You might think I'm exagerrating but I'm not - ask anyone who's been there. The lavish gold leaf decorations, marvellous murals, mirrors and marble ornamentations are just too many to go into detail about. You then begin to think about the fact that the castle was never actually completed and the tragedy of what happened to King Ludwig II of Bavaria is brought home.

Branded a 'mad' king for his love of the arts in preference to military matters, he was by no means mad. He was a brilliant architect having designed Neuschwanstein largely himself and his passion for great music is the main reason why we know of Richard Wagner's music today. Had it not been for the patronage of Ludwig, Wagner might never have been able to make his 'Ring' a reality. Nor might we have ever heard of the Wagner Tuba. The Festspielhaus at Bayreuth was built with funding from Ludwig purely for Wagner's music.

The price Ludwig paid for his unkingly love of the arts was an early death, drowning in the Starnbergersee lake along with his doctor. At the time it was pronounced a suicide but in later years a clearer and perhaps more truthful understanding of the political opposition Ludwig faced has come to light and it's thought by many that his death was not self inflicted.

My second trip to Neuwschwanstein, this time with my husband whose family tree in fact goes back to Bavaria, was to provide more special experiences - but that story is for another time and another blog.

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