Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Monday, October 29, 2012

An American in Germany / Part # 10 / Herrenchiemsee

GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
 Exploring the Herrenchiemsee Island

Latona Fountain of Herrenchiemsee New Palace
We had just completed the interior tour of King Ludwig II of Bavaria's palace that had a lot more to do with France than Germany.  Herrenchiemsee New Palace was a physical tribute to King Louis XIV of France and a monument to King Ludwig's unhealthy man-crush and obvious obsession with a man that had been dead for well over a century.  About halfway through the interior tour, I started picturing King Ludwig II dressing up and pretending to actually be Louis XIV in period correct settings!  And I'll bet King Ludwig's French was a lot better than my German.  He had lofty expectations for the sister palace of Versailles but his dream fell short with only the main exterior shell section of the central palace completed.  After the king's death in 1886 several additional sections that were partially started were torn down leaving only the central portion, which is what still exists today.  Some work continues on the site, especially in the gardens where a few of the side fountains were only recently restored to working order within the past several years.  Herrenchiemsee New Palace encompasses a total of 8,363 square feet but falls well short of Versailles incredible 721,206 square feet.  However, it is worth considering just how far King Ludwig would have taken the project... had he lived a long life.  Unfortunately, we'll never know!  

 Herrenchiemsee Royal Dining Room
(Photo Source / Official Site Guidebook)
Yet it is also worth mentioning that in some ways, parts of the Bavarian Versailles, as it is sometimes known, had surpassed the original palace in France.  For example, the Hall of Mirrors at Herrenchiemsee New Palace was a few meters longer than the original due to the fact that each of the 17 large arched windows were slightly wider than their counterparts at Versailles.  Many of the finished rooms were far more lavishly decorated than similar rooms at the French palace.  Plus, the chandelier above King Ludwig II's dining room table was larger than any that hung at Versailles.  In fact, he ordered his chandelier to be designed as the largest hanging light fixture in the world.  Was King Ludwig II trying to send a message by attempting to "one up" his idol, the Sun King?  Next we went to see the museum rooms where the story of Ludwig was told in portraits, sculpture, clothing, and furniture.  It was a small museum but well organized with some interesting treasures on display.  King Ludwig II's eccentric mind set and dreamlike perspective of the world adds to the romantic aura that surrounds his legacy.  Yet, it is ironic that the absolute monarch Ludwig admired and honored on a pedestal called Herrenchiemsee, would have his powerful dynasty crumble with the beheading of his great grandson King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette on an execution platform in Paris in January of 1793.  Ludwig himself would only spend a total of few days at his partially complete new royal palace on the island of Herreninsel in September of 1885 before his own kingdom would crumble from under his feet less than a year later.  Again, that is a story we will explore in detail when we visit King Ludwig II's most famous castle of all known as Neuschwanstein Castle located in Schwangau, Germany. 

 Sculptured Palace Frontal Exterior
We hit the museum gift shop that is impossible to avoid since you have to pass through it to enter and later exit the museum exhibits.  I had my eye on a small official tour guidebook of the palace, which Mr. Schadhauser insisted on buying for me as my generous host.  I really appreciated it because I relied heavily on the information it contained as a reference throughout my composition of this blog and it also provided me several of the interior pictures of the palace I was not able to take myself.  It was forbidden... or as they say in Germany... Verboten!  Wow, I learned another new word in German, which would be my favorite one of all.  I used it the rest of my trip, much to the delight of our Warwick students to point out things they were not permitted to do at any given time.  Such as... No Whining... It is VERBOTEN!   I often accentuated my newly found vocabulary word with my really poor German accent and further underscored its delivery with my extended index finger twitching back and forth for effect.   Now it was time to take a break and enjoy some of the surrounding beauty of the frontal gardens of the palace.  An inviting cafe with outdoor tables covered by bright white canvas sun umbrellas was nestled into the left side of the palace facade.  As I went to find a bathroom and got lost twice, Mr. Schadhauser ordered my favorite drink in a tall iced glass... I love this guy!  Diet Coke was obviously not a favorite beverage in Bavaria and probably all of Europe for that matter but it is my favorite choice of refreshment and near constant companion back home in America.  In Europe Diet Coke is called Coca-Cola Light... Did I just learn another German word?  I guess not...  
A Great Setting for a Coca-Cola Light
The day continued to be sunny and hot but there was a refreshing breeze across the veranda cafe of the palace.  Some hardcore historians would probably balk at the idea of altering the frontal facade of the palace to add a commercial space of business but I thought it was a nice touch.  Protected from the sun, enjoying my refreshing Coca-Cola Light on ice, pleasant conversation with a group of friends, with an incredible view of cascading fountains...  It doesn't get much better than this!  Besides, if you really wanted to see the palace without the cafe out front, you could always travel to France.  Bon Voyage...  I had a few minutes to spare before we returned back down the path through the woods to the dock so I decided to check around the back of the palace with my camera.  The sides and rear of the palace were quiet and mostly void of visitors.  As I rounded the backside of the building, I came upon a familiar sight, found on several of my PowerPoint slides shown during my Versailles presentation when teaching the French Revolution.  The rear veranda was a large square space with a black and white checkered marbled surface.  The nearly identical veranda at Versailles would have looked out over the vast cobblestone Grand Courtyard where a constant line of horse drawn carriages dropped off and picked up official visitors to the palace throughout the day and evening hours.   In contrast, Herrenchiemsee's veranda looked out on a quiet tranquil woods with a long cleared central space, providing a view of Lake Chemisee far off in the distance.  It was a fitting view for a palace that never lived to see completion and only King Ludwig II's imagination could have revealed what the view may eventually have contained.  It will forever remain a blank canvas...
Rear View from Herrenchiemsee Veranda
We reluctantly left the fantasy of France behind us and headed back down the wooded hillside toward the dock to catch the next boat back to the mainland.  With a few minutes to spare before the boat was due to arrive, we had time to check out the small museum within the Herrenchiemsee Abbey where the first steps were taken to create the modern German Constitution in early August of 1948.  Now it was Angela's turn to play historian.  She was an excellent presenter and the two of us enjoyed many political and historical discussions together during my visit.  The Herrenchiemsee Assembly members included representatives from every state in Western Germany and met in what was still known at the time as Herrenchiemsee Old Palace.  Post war Germany in the late forties was a complex political process in the making that involved outside nations, economics, the Marshall Plan, and the emerging Cold War... just to name a few variables.  However, a major step to the political stability and future of Germany was accomplished in a small room within the Old Palace.  The consensus of the states created the foundation for the evolution of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany to begin.  The original document would be revised over time and eventually give rise to the modern country of Germany, which was later reunited with East Germany in 1990.   We then took the boat back to the shores of Fraueninsel or Lady's Island but due to a slight mishap in the boat schedule, we wound up stranded for about an hour.  Oh no, what ever could we do?  Mr. Schadhauser saved the day when he suggested we have dinner to pass the time.  Like I said before... I love this guy!

Interior Courtyard of Herrenchiemsee Old Palace
We stopped in at a beautiful old traditional restaurant called the Kloisterwirt where we again took seats in the outdoor biergarten to enjoy some more traditional Bavarian fare.  Mr. Schadhauser was still clutching his "to go" bag of smoked whitefish from lunchtime but decided to order from the menu with the rest of us.  As usual, I needed a little help because the menu was once again only in German for some unknown reason?  Even after ordering, I never really knew for sure what might be delivered to our table in front of me.  I really had to put my trust and faith in my sidekick Wendy throughout our trip, praying she would not steer me wrong and order something like stuffed goat's head as a joke!  Despite my fear of the unknown, my delivered Bavarian meal looked delicious and had the taste to match its appearance.  It was a traditional meal of sauteed pork loin medallions with crispy potato cakes drowned in a creamy mushroom sauce... I think!  The only thing I was 100% sure of was it was delicious and contained no visible signs of sauerkraut.  One thing to know about dining out in Germany is the server's monetary tip, which is usually added separately at the conclusion of the meal in America, is actually included in the price of the food.  This practice is to help enable people who work in the food service industry earn a living wage.  However, it is customary to round up the final price of the bill to the nearest Euro, especially if the service was good.

A Bavarian Dish without Sauerkraut
I liked the fact that the no-tip policy took out the guesswork after the final bill arrived to the table and you knew the total cost of your meal up front.  I will admit I usually defer the tip calculating work to my wife who was once a waitress and has her own complex rubric rating system when it comes to tipping.  I'm not very good at food math.  However, at some of the places we ate during our trip, the service was not all that great and sometimes slow since they weren't going to be rewarded for working to impress you.  I found you had to call your server over to your table when you needed something because they rarely checked in to see how things were going.  Another difference when dining is sometimes meals are delivered to your table at different times, meaning everyone at your table may not all get their food at the same time.  The order is often brought to your table as soon as it is finished being prepared and nice and hot.  It felt a little uncomfortable at times but it is perfectly acceptable to "dig in" while your hungry friends watch.  How about another roll from the breadbasket for the time being?  We finished our delicious meal and then made our way to the dock in time to catch our boat for the final leg of our journey back to the mainland.   

 Leaving Fraueninsel / Lady's Island
The boat sailed out over the open water toward the far shoreline of Chemisee off to the northwest.  We had one last time to take in the beautiful views of the lake and towering Alps off to the distant east.  We had finally returned to our starting point where I had purchased my awesome German style hat earlier that morning.  It still looked amazing on me!  We were all tired from spending about ten hours touring and exploring the islands and lake.  It was an amazing day where I got to see incredible sights, historical places, and nature's beautiful landscapes.  We hit the bathrooms once more and this time, I didn't get lost... not even once.  We all piled in the car and relaxed in luxurious leather while Mr. Schadhauser piloted his German engineered Mercedes with precision through the twisting rural roads toward home.  It was so cool and I decided to film it from my vantage point in the passenger seat.  You can check out the video along with all my accompanying photographs of our day trip by exploring the link to my online photo album collection of Lake Chemisee, highlighted in yellow below.  Once again, a great big thank you goes out to Mr. Erwin Schadhauser who was a great host and treated Angela, Wendy, and I to a fantastic experience.  Thanks again for sharing one of your favorite Bavaria destinations with us.  It was an awesome day!

  Back in the Port of Chemisee
Please stayed tuned for the next installment of our adventure!



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