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!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

An American in Germany / Part # 9 / Herrenchiemsee

GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
Bavarian Sea / Herrenchiemsee Palace 
Exploring the Bavarian Sea
Wendy and I were touring the islands and the waters of Lake Chemisee with my host Angela Schadhauser and her father Erwin.  It was a beautiful day and we had just finished our lunch of smoked fish and had embarked on the tour boat for the second half of our adventure to visit the larger island on the Bavarian Sea.  As we stepped off the boat onto the dock of Herreninsel or Gentleman's Island, I was informed that King Ludwig II had built a palace in the center of the island and we were going for a tour of the interior.  I never knew what was coming up next on the day's agenda and this was quite a surprise!  We walked up a path to a large kiosk where Mr. Schadhauser purchased tickets for the four of us to tour Herrenchiemse New Palace.  Despite Wendy and my best efforts to insist on sharing the cost of our day, the generosity of Mr. Schadhauser won out as he insisted that we were his guests and paid our way throughout this adventure.  We had the option to take a horse drawn carriage up to the hilltop palace estate but decided to walk instead.  The pathway was lined with trees that shaded us from the hot sun.  I couldn't help but think of the Count of Tüßling and now understood and could appreciate the benefit of shade while traveling over the open road.  We entered into the woods and I enjoyed talking with Mr. Schadhauser, who could speak proficient English.  When we hit a conversation roadblock we could seek the help from our bilingual companions of Wendy and Angela who were a few steps behind.
 Front Fountains of Herrenchiemsee Palace
Mr. Schadhauser had worked for many years in the profitable chemical industry of Bavaria, where he helped to design and create durable plastic windows.  He had recently retired after scaling his hours back to part time status the final few years of his career.  In certain industries in Germany, workers have the option to go part time the final five years of their careers for less money, which helps people ease into their retirement years.  Mr. Schadhauser was now enjoying the extra time with his family, grandchildren, and pursuing various hobbies.  I would later discover that he was an excellent cook!  Mr. Schadhauser was a real likeable guy, whom I really enjoyed meeting and getting to know.  Despite some language barriers, we laughed and enjoyed each other's company and conversation.  He was an excellent personal tour guide, giving an oral history of many of the things we saw and pointed out small details I otherwise might have missed.  Again, the friendly people I met along my travels were the best part of my trip.  We continued to scale the winding path uphill through the woods, now longing for the summit.  Thankfully, there was a welcome cool breeze blowing through the trees above.  Suddenly the deep green canopy of trees of the forest gave way to an open sunny space, revealing several previously hidden enormous fountains and gardens.  As I turned around to survey the area, I was once again blown away by what existed right before me.   I appeared to be standing in the shadow of the magnificent palace of King Louis XIV of France known as Versailles.  How could this be possible?  Had the woods been a magical portal to another country...  Had I fallen down the rabbit hole? 
 Front Veranda of Herrenchiemsee New Palace
King Ludwig II was the last true king of Bavaria and is often known as the Fairytale King who attempted to build several mammoth sized construction projects that grew to be known as the Dream Castles.  Ludwig II became king at the age of eighteen in 1864 but became more and more withdrawn from the world as he aged until he isolated himself from others and became somewhat of a recluse.  King Ludwig II absorbed himself in several expensive building projects for his own personal use, visual monuments of his kingdom.  The first palace he commissioned to be built, which was named Linderhof, was already well under way, designed in the French architectural style he admired.  However, King Ludwig II decided to simultaneously initiate another large scale construction project that would be created as a tribute to fellow monarch, King Louis XIV of France.  King Louis XIV was without doubt, the most powerful leader on the continent of Europe during his reign between the years of 1643 to 1715.  King Ludwig II of Bavaria greatly admired the French monarch's power, wealth, and ambition.  In many ways, he represented everything Ludwig II dreamed he could rise to become over time.  King Louis XIV had constructed the largest palace in the world near a hunting lodge from his childhood known as Versailles.  King Ludwig II had visited the Palace of Versailles in 1867 and then again in 1874, leaving a powerful impression on the young king.  Ludwig II decided to build a duplicate Versailles palace of his very own and selected land on the Island of Herrenchiemsee in the middle of Lake Chiemsee to serve as the desired location for the newly planned palace.  King Ludwig II already had one palace on the island built by his ancestors that was also called Herrenchiemsee.  As a result, the new palace would be called Herrenchiemsee New Palace and the earlier residence was now known as Herrenchiemsee Old Palace.  What if he built a third palace on the island... then whatchamacallit?  

Latona / Mother of Apollo / Fountain
The end result was an incredible monument to the absolute power of the monarchy and a tribute to King Louis XIV, who was also known as the Sun King.  It was surreal, standing in the presence of a nearly exact copy of the Palace Versailles, sitting in the middle of the Bavarian Sea.  Even the exterior gardens and fountains in front of the palace were near duplicates of the originals...  So much for copyright laws... I wondered if King Louis XIV would have been flattered by Ludwig's version of Versailles or would he have called him a "Copy Cat" and been raging mad?   The strange thing to me was the fact that King Louis XIV had already been dead for 150 years when Ludwig II took the Bavarian throne.  Plus, the two monarchs that ruled France following King Louis XIV, continued to expand Versailles, spending with reckless abandon, which eventually helped cause the French Revolution.  Didn't King Ludwig II put one and two together and realize that Louis XIV's grandson, King Louis XVI, was beheaded by the people of France, ending the French Monarchy for good with one fall of the guillotine blade?  Didn't he see the obvious risks here?  Plus, how would the German people feel about having everything constructed by their king, built in the mirror image of France?   What was wrong with Bavaria after all, your homeland, culture, heritage... remember?  Come on man, you gotta promote the home team!  There was a reason why King Ludwig II was sometimes called Ludwig the Nutter or Mad King Ludwig!   In all seriousness, the king's mental health was brought into question more than once and eventually led to his downfall.  But that's another story for another episode!

State Staircase of Herrenchiemsee
(Photo Credit / Official Site Guidebook) 
Mr. Schadhauser purchased tickets for an interior tour of the palace in English for my benefit...  Thanks for thinking of me, Erwin!  We had a few minutes before the tour began so I was able to explore the expansive frontal fountains.  The largest fountains were incredibly powerful, jetting water amazingly high above the towering sculptures.  The fountains went through cycles of turning on and off due to the incredible energy and water pressure that would be required to keep them all running continuously.  When they all suddenly turned off in unison, there was an uncanny quiet and emptiness left in their wake for a few minutes.  Some of the fountain sculptures were near duplicates of their counterparts at Versailles, while others were more romantic in design aligned with the personal tastes of King Ludwig II.  It was time for the tour in the English language to begin, which was attended by at least thirty other people.  The tour guide spoke very good English but informed us that this was his first time ever leading a tour group in English...  His first sentence stated the rules loud and clear, including absolutely no photography allowed!  Not Again... Thankfully, I was able to find several images from outside sources to compliment this blog posting.  As soon as we passed through the doorway leading to the State Staircase, I was again in awe!  The room was a near duplicate of the Versailles Escalier des Ambassadeurs (Staircase of the Ambassadors), which was razed in 1752 to make room for additional apartment space during renovations.  The huge dual marble staircase was incredibly ornate, accented with bright paintings, plaster sculptures, crystal chandeliers, framed in elegant gold leaf.  The one added improvement over the original in France was the huge frosted glass roof-size skylight that flooded the room with natural light.  It was too much for the eye to absorb!

 King Louis XIV of France / King Ludwig II of Bavarian
(Image Credit / Herrenchiemsee Museum)
We scaled the State Staircase to enter the first of the Parade Rooms of the Grand Apartment, which was named the King's Guard Room.  Racks of weapons containing the halberds of the Royal Bavarian Guard lined the wall.  The room was decorated with images of King Louis XIV in military dress and entertaining his court at Versailles, which were all copied from the French originals.  Copyright laws? Next was the First Ante-Chamber room, which served as an entry space into the next room.  Every inch of the four walls were decked out with exquisite artwork, ornate carvings, crystal chandeliers, and a fresco covered ceiling.  The single piece of furniture in the room was a very large wooden cabinet with incredibly detailed carving painted in gold and inlaid with tortoise shells.  It was a beautiful piece of fine furniture resembling one that Louis XIV had commissioned for himself... bet you couldn't have guess that!  However, the cabinet was never used by King Ludwig II, due to the fact that it was delivered a few weeks after he had lost the throne.  Surprisingly, the most expensive and valuable thing in the room wasn't the cabinet but the draperies that were hand crafted using golden and colored silk thread.  Following through the Second Ante-Chamber that was much like the previous room, we entered into the Parade Chamber, the heart of the palace located by design in the exact center of the massive structure.  It was the space where King Ludwig II would prepare for the day and then retire before bed.  One of the artists made the mistake of painting the image of Ludwig II within the Apollo themed ceiling painting but the king insisted they all be changed to resemble... guess who?
Herrenchiemsee Hall of Mirrors
(Photo Credit / Official Site Guidebook)
We continued through the remaining few rooms, including the king's bed chamber, working room, and a few others that were all impressive.  One of my favorite topics to teach to my students for a few class periods each year is the French Revolution, which includes a virtual tour of the palace Versailles.  I have always wanted to travel to France to tour the actual palace in person and now I have... kind of... sort of... accomplished that goal.  It was most evident when we stepped into the Ludwig's version of one of the most famous rooms in the world... The Hall of Mirrors.  The end result was spectacular and even included the two cap end corner rooms known as Hall of Peace at one end and the Hall of War on the opposite end, just like the original at Versailles.  The Hall of Mirrors was named for the large arched sections of mirrored glass that run parallel and match the shape and size of the large arched windows along the opposite wall.  The effect fills the long rectangular room with reflecting light that is further captured by 33 crystal chandeliers and 52 large candelabras, which consumed almost 2,000 candles every evening.  The original Hall of Mirrors was used as a multipurpose room where people in the king's favor may have received permission to use the space to host their weddings, tables were brought in for banquets, the wooden parquet floors supported the feet of dancers at elaborate balls and parties.  It was also the setting for the signing of the Treaty of Paris of 1919 that ended World War I.  In contrast, King Ludwig II intended the space to be utilized for his own personal and private use, remaining hidden from view... until now!  The room was spectacular, a three dimensional work of art I was standing within and walking through... Again, I can't believe I am here...

Unfinished Shell of North Staircase
(Photo Credit / Flickr Common Use License)
We walked through several more rooms that were decorated to the extreme in the similar French style as the previous section of the palace.  The tour guide may have been a rookie but his historical room descriptions in English were well spoken and easy for me to follow and understand throughout the tour.  We exited into the North Staircase, which was a brick and mortar shell version of the State Staircase, where we started our tour, on the opposite side of the palace.  A total of fifty of the seventy rooms within the palace were never finished and remain today in their skeletal form.  All construction immediately stopped following the death of King Ludwig II in June of 1886.  Several unfinished rooms were part of the tour, providing a view of the blank walls before they were smoothed over with plaster and covered in images glorifying everything and anything associated with King Louis XIV of France.  The two staircases were complete polar opposites but even the North Staircase was beautiful in its own way, reminding me of the simplistic colonial architectural style back home.  In some ways Herrenchiemsee overshadowed Versailles as the design and construction process benefited from advances in technology that had taken place by the 19th century.   King Ludwig II enjoyed the luxury of centralized heating, running water, and a heated bathtub.  The bathroom contained an enormous circular bathtub on the ground floor, constructed of marble plates and embellished with a fresco painted ceiling and matching walls depicting panoramic scenes of Venus and her attendants.  The tub was the size of a small pool and took a total of eight hours to fill with heated water!  I wonder if he had a dinosaur sized royal rubber ducky as a companion?

Frontal View of Palace Fountains
We walked through the kitchen where a large mechanical apparatus resembling a medieval torture device was front and center.  Apparently, King Ludwig II did not like anyone to be present when he ate his food, including servants.  So a industrial sized gear and pulley system was created to enable the entire platform supporting the four legs of the dining room table on the floor above to be lowered into the kitchen.  As a result, King Ludwig could have his food and drink placed on the table without direct contact with the human race.  Like I said before, the guy had some issues and his mental health and competency to lead the nation was suspect and a topic of debate among the powerful aristocrats of his empire.  Our tour was now complete and the maiden presentation of our rookie English speaking tour guide was now behind him.  He did a great job and was not above asking for word assistance when needed from the crowd when trying to answer questions from our group.  Now, we had some additional time to relax and explore a little further before heading back to the dock for our return voyage to the mainland.  Stay Tuned! 

 Northern Marble Garden Fountain
Please stayed tuned for the next installment of our adventure!


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