Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Just exactly how amazing is this place? Frankly, I don't know where to begin, looking at it and being blown away with all its history and deep iconic beauty can give a writer's block another writer's block. I mean, far from wanting to be a raving lunatic, I really don't know how I can start this off.
I was doing my usual thing, like stumbling around "dugg up" websites, if you will. One of the things that caught my fancy was this story here. It talked about how awesome castles were, and showed the most bad-ass castles you could ever see...ever. (Unfortunately, building castles has died out with most of the world's last monarchies) And the Neuschwanstein, or literally The New Swan Rock, got to me. Not only did it get me right on the face, it led on a string of subsequent wikis and research both in english and german, just to get a grasp on how its story goes. And I seldom read anything more than the comics section.
Originally intended to be a refuge by King Ludwig II, it was alleged to be one of the causes of his deposition in 1886 (it was later used by his detractors to be among the factors that made him unfit to rule: his overly excessive spending on his personal creative projects - a big example of which was this castle, among other buildings.). Today however, it attracts almost upwards of 6,000 visitors per day in the summertime and is open whole-year round except for Christmas. Tourism alone has paid for the castle many times over, even with the 14.5 million euros spent on it since 1990 for restoration and maintenance and visitor-related activities. It is also now owned by the State of Bavaria.
And why the hell wouldn't you want to go there? Even other castles want to go there. Seriously. ^_^ This has been further epitomized as THE castle when Walt Disney used this as the basis for his own Disneyland gigs. All the postcards that you see, the magical, fairy-tale feel, the sprawling imagery of the castle in the middle of an immense forest and overlooking a magnificent view. These feelings that you get are exactly part of the allure of making the trip. While it tells us that some people can go insane with the design, go overboard with the details and spare no expense while being called mad, it wasn't such a big deal if you were really larger than life, and well.. King.
Ludwig II was such an unforgettable character too, but I think I have another story about it, altogether. While most castles had the obvious fundamental function as a fortress, (you know, to keep most people out, protect a few inside) the Neuschwanstein was essentially dreamed up from the first cornerstone to be structurally pompous right from the start. Borrowing significantly from the design of the Chateau de Pierrefonds in France, King Ludwig II decided after a visit there that he could have one of these at home, so he did.
Deep inside it, the Neuschwanstein showed the King's ideals and leanings. He was a romantic and longed for a castle to be constructed in the medieval fashion of the classic German knights of old. It would be his own retreat, this palace of the Middle Ages. In it were also murals or picture cycles that described the works of the composer Richard Wagner, to whom this castle was also dedicated. As Wagner also drew heavily on old medieval lore, Ludwig II saw him as his hero, or some sort of a demi-god. But, even with all the oozing romanticism and medieval style, here was a very modern castle with the latest technology of its time, with provisions for plumbing, new ventilation techniques, electricity, and new incarnations of glass and steel. Hot air central heating, running water in every floor, electric bells for the servants, telephones on the 3rd and 4th floors, and even auto-flush toilets. Auto-flush toilets, in the 1860s? Cool.
I really can't tell you enough just yet, so you should really just go there to believe. Tickets are only available at the Ticketcenter Hohenschwangau, in the village just below the castle. Don't barge in, and it'll save you the extra trip back. Opening hours are from 9 AM to 6 PM during April to September, and from 10 AM to 4 PM during October to March. Also be advised that there is no photography, videography, dogs, or smoking allowed inside the castle. And no ditching the guided tour groups as well. And yes, I am copiously trying to monetize this as a means to augment my silly excuse of an income.
For more information on how to get there and how much the tickets cost these days, please click here for price, and here for directions. Enjoy your trip!
p.s. special thanks to flickr peeps: chinmay_oza, coolwater32, and fgross for the awesome pics!