One of three castles commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Neuschwanstein Castle is likely the most famous castle in the world. A Germanic late Romanesque style beauty constructed in the nineteenth century, it evokes visions of Middle Age fairy tales, princesses, and grand royal balls. It is just this reason that Walt Disney chose it as his inspiration for the palace of Sleeping Beauty and afterward for the centerpiece of Disneyland. Built on the ruins of two smaller castles (Vorder and Hinterhohenschwangau) it was intended to be a sacred and private retreat for Ludwig II alone but ironically was turned into a public landmark a mere 50 days after his death in 1886. It currently hosts over a million visitors a year (over five thousand a day in peak season) and yet remains as idyllic and romantic as it did in the Victorian Era.
Although the tour will take you to all for the finished and accessible rooms there are a few distinct highlights on your journey. The Grotto and Winter Garden is a special hall Ludwig II had built to connect the study and the main living room. Constructed to look as if one were deep in a cave it features such interesting extras as an artificial waterfall, a fountain, plaster stalactites protruding from the ceiling. With his great interest in new and emerging technologies, Ludwig II’s kitchen was among the most advanced of the time. Boasting electricity throughout the grounds, there is also hot and cold running water and automatic spit roasters to cook the various game animals caught in the vast forests that surround Neuschwanstein. In addition to the sophisticated kitchen, the living areas also include forced air heating, flushing toilets, and even a few telephones. The elaborately decorated two story Byzantine style Throne Room was never fully completed. You will notice there is no actual throne; however it is replete with majestic ornamentation such as a crystal and gem stone chandelier, marble stone work, and fantastically detailed murals of the Twelve Apostles. Pay special attention to the Master Suite and you will notice not only beautiful hand carved walls and furnishings but there is a secret private bathroom with a lovely sink shaped like a swan.
During the warmer (and more busy) summer months Neuschwanstein Castle is open for nine hours a day from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. October to March only permits tours from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, however the crowds are much less dense during this time and it is still serenely beautiful. For the equivalent of $13.00 USD you can see up close and personal what was intended for the eyes of one man. Excellent picture books and other souvenirs are available so bring a few extra Euros as there is no photography of any kind permitted inside the castle. Neuschwanstein Castle has been the inspiration for the dreams and ideas of artists and romantics for over a century and will stir in you the same feelings it did to those first excited tourists so many years ago.
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