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The mystery and magic of Neuschwanstein


Story by Katie Wood & Pamela Harris Looking out the window of his father’s Hohenschwangau


Castle, set in the mountains near Füssen, Germany, the future king nurtured plans for a magnifi cent fantasy castle. Young Ludwig II dreamed of living in a fantasy world. He acceded to the throne in 1864 when he was only 18. Ludwig II never did things the “normal” way. One of his more famous quotes was, “I want to remain an eternal mystery to myself and others.” King Ludwig II was an eccentric king with a singular focus fairy tale castle, which would later be called


to build his


Neuschwanstein. He was entranced by the musical dramas and writings of German composer Richard Wagner and devoted his newest castle to Wagner’s operas. In the king’s determination to build this grand castle, he spent and borrowed excessively in spite of Bavaria’s looming fi nancial crisis. T e people began to think of Ludwig II as a “mad” king with delusional aspirations. For example, to complete the wood carvings in King Ludwig II’s bedroom, he commissioned 14 carvers, and it took them four and a half years to complete the room. T e king never saw the completion of Neuschwanstein. He


was declared mentally ill, removed from his castle and taken south of Munich to Castle Berg. T e next day he was found in Lake Starnberg along with his psychiatrist. T ere is much debate about his sudden death; was it suicide or murder by his enemies? It remains a mystery. It’s ironic that the king was shunned for his excessive spending


on the castle because the castle and its grandeur became one of the most profi table investments in Bavaria. T e castle was opened up to paying visitors less than two months aſt er Ludwig II’s death, and today nearly 1.3 million visitors come to Neuschwanstein


34| ALPINE LIVING 2011


each year. Entrance to both Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein is


only available through 35-minute tours. Tourists used to have more freedom in the castles, but because of security reasons and the wear on the castle’s furniture, it is now much more restricted with only 14 rooms open to the public. Some tourists skip the smaller castle, Hohenschwangua, in preference of the grandeur of Neuschwanstein, but for visitors like Candace Shultz from Pennsylvania, the tour of Hohenschwangau provides dynamic insights into Ludwig II’s early life and Bavarian history. Most visitors, however, focus their attention on the enormity


and magnifi cence of Neuschwanstein Castle. It truly is the stuff of fairy tales, which is why Disney used Neuschwanstein as its inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland. T e throne room is one of the most stunning rooms in the castle and a favorite of tour guide Miriam Abt.


It is designed


in the Byzantine style, which includes murals of the apostles, sainted kings and Christ along the walls. Abt, who has lead tours for seven years, describes the majestic chandelier in the shape of a Byzantine crown as one of her favorites aspects of the room. Ludwig’s chandelier weighs over 2,000 pounds, holds 96 candles and is made of gilded brass. T e allure of the room is not limited to the walls and ceiling. T e fl oor is comprised of more than 2 million carefully laid stone tiles, none larger than pennies, in a mosaic style. Because the room is visually stunning, visitors might not immediately notice that the room named for the throne is missing its namesake. T e throne was never built because Ludwig died before the castle was fi nished. No photos are allowed to be taken inside the castle. However,


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