GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
Neuschwanstein Castle / Part # 2
Bedchamber of King Ludwig II
(Interior Image Source / Joseph Albert 1886)
We began the tour of the castle's interior rooms, which were designed to be a personal retreat for King Ludwig II of Bavaria. I found a series of paintings that show the interior rooms posted throughout this blog, since interior photography was VERBOTIN! The strange introverted personality of Ludwig is well documented and the palace was his personal fantasy come to life. The castle is of an immense size but the King's suite of private rooms was relatively small and surprisingly confining. Everything was richly decorative in style and not even the smallest space went unadorned. Every room had a theme and similar to his palace on the Bavarian Sea, known as Herrenchiemsee, much thought went into the interconnected medley of the chosen subject matter within each individual space. Several of the rooms appeared somewhat dark, accentuated by the deep rich stain on the woodwork of the complementing furniture and walls. I found his bedroom to be the most interesting room with his bed topped with a complex series of carvings meant to resemble church steeples throughout Bavaria. It was in this very bedroom where King Ludwig II was placed under arrest shortly after midnight and removed from power on June 12, 1886 only 172 days after he moved into Neuschwanstein. Over time, Ludwig had become more and more withdrawn from public life and seemed much more interested in his own personal agenda than politics and governmental policy. His extreme and expensive simultaneous building projects were criticized as wasteful by the ministers of his cabinet and tensions mounted. When Ludwig threatened to replace the whole cabinet when they refused to secure more debt for his architectural agenda, the ministers began the process of having him legally relieved of power through Constitutional Law.
King Ludwig's Private Dining Room
(Interior Image Source / Joseph Albert 1886)
The cabinet began to collect evidence from a variety of sources which they hoped would prove King Ludwig II was clinically insane and unfit to continue to rule the country. If they succeeded, they could preserve their jobs along with their position of high standing within the court. Past servants were interviewed with confessions of questionable actions and decisions, which were then noted as factual evidence. The collected body of evidence was submitted for review to Otto von Bismark who was the Imperial Chancellor of Germany. Von Bismark saw through the cabinet minister's conflict of interest in the case, suspected corruption, and openly criticized the findings in the report as mere gossip but did not take any steps to prevent the process from continuing. The cabinet members went forward and eventually gathered signed legal affidavits from half a dozen doctors and psychiatrists who all diagnosed King Ludwig as suffering from delusional paranoia and unfit to rule. Ironically, only one of the physicians on the panel of psychiatrists had actually examined him in person... and that was twelve years earlier! However, it was enough to carry the order through and an official delegation arrived at Neuschwanstein to confront the king and serve him a legal order of deposition that would remove him from power and place him under arrest. At first, the local people and police intervened and warned their beloved and popular king of the approaching threat and defended the castle gates. After a few days the police guards were relieved by new officers in disguise who were actually hired by the cabinet ministers. The trick worked and King Ludwig was quickly served with the papers of deposition and was placed in a carriage three hours later, never to see his beloved Neuschwanstein again.
King Ludwig II Lying in State
(Photo Credit / Bavarian Palace Dept.)
King Ludwig was taken by escorted carriage to the Castle Berg located on the shores of Lake Starnberg near Munich where he was placed under medical watch by Dr. Bernhard Gudden, the lead physician who sealed the king's fate. The next evening the two men went for a walk along the edge of the lake alone, without escort or servants, which was highly unusual. When the pair did not return as scheduled and a terrible rain storm engulfed the area, search parties were sent out to look for the two missing men. Three hours later, the bodies of both men were found dead within the shallow waters of the lake, under extremely mysterious conditions. Dr. Gudden had evidence of head trauma, while King Ludwig had no signs of physical injury. The King's death was ruled a suicide from drowning even though no water was found in his lungs during the autopsy. The accepted theory at the time was King Ludwig murdered Dr. Gudden by beating and strangling him to death and then committed suicide by drowning himself in the lake. Really? As you might have guessed, conspiracy theories have come forth ever since, giving Bavaria their own version of the Lincoln-like assassination conspiracy, which can never be solved. During the autopsy, the king's heart was removed and transported to Altötting where it would be displayed with the other hearts of the Bavarian Kings in the famous small Chapel of Grace, home to the shrine of the Black Madonna. The rest of King Ludwig's remains were laid to rest at Saint Michael's Church in Munich, while an upright cross was placed within Lake Starnberg to mark the actual spot where his body was found. A fascinating mystery, but sad ending.
Neuschwanstein Concert Hall
(Interior Image Source / Joseph Albert 1886)
I was told before taking guided tours at previous sites, the quality of the tour guide's presentation could make or break an interior visit. Our English tour guide of Herrenchiemsee, the Bavarian version of Versailles, was excellent. However, this time the young guide had such a strong accent and soft voice, it was difficult to hear or understand much of what he said, especially for our students. With the tour group large and the rooms relatively small, the people were separated and sometimes straddled two rooms. It would have been better if the group was smaller but we were visiting during the height of the busy summer season where over 6,000 people typically visit the castle on any given day. I would suggest that if you are going to offer an English tour, you should have a strong English speaker with a projecting voice to serve as tour guide. I think I'll fill out an application; sounds like a really cool summer job to me! Interior Photography is Forbidden / Verboten! Piece of cake! While Herrenchiemsee was built as a residential monument devoted to Ludwig's hero Louis XIV of France, Neuschwanstein was dedicated to the king's love of operas composed by Richard Wagner, whom he periodically financially supported. Most of the decorations and paintings within the rooms depict scenes from Wagner's famous plays, evidence of Ludwig's obsessive personality. Even the concert hall, the largest of the finished rooms, looked like a theater permanently set up to host Wagner's plays and operas. The tour took a turn into the obscure as we passed through a small narrow space known as the grotto that realistically resembled a darkened stone cave passageway that led to another room. It was bizarre!
Suspension Gorge Observation Bridge
The half hour tour had come to an end and we corkscrewed down another tower's circular stone stairwell until we were again dizzy and strategically came in for a landing within the gift shop. There was King Ludwig II souvenirs in anything and everything imaginable but the thing that grabbed my attention was a small arched open window. There were only a few open windows during the interior tour that provided me the opportunity to get a few photographs but this narrow window had an incredible view of the steep mountain gorge and suspension bridge span filled with tourists overhead. The powerful waterfall could be seen and heard, crashing its way down to the bottom of the ravine, violently tumbling over rock formations along the way. Since we were ahead of schedule on the day's itinerary, the kids were asking to climb up to the bridge and despite my questionable pending health, I was determined to join them on their quest. We huddled up, came up with a plan, and began our trek on yet another paved pathway up a steep grade away from Neuschwanstein. After a few minutes I stopped to take a look back toward the castle and witnessed the opposite side of the palace for the first time. The towering castle had been wrapped in scaffolding, where maintenance and repairs were underway. We were aware that the scaffolding was in place before our trip, which would obscure the picturesque view of the castle but until now, it had been mostly hidden from view by the fog and its location, opposite from the front gate. I got the impression that this is what the site may have looked like when it was first being constructed, a view of the castle King Ludwig would have shared as he oversaw the project's slow but methodical progress.
Warwick Climbs Neuschwanstein Everest
I think I can... I think I can... I think I can... The Little Engine that Could came to mind more times than I would like to admit but I was running out of steam! Once again the students who had decided to make the final climb were out of sight within a few seconds, attacking the challenge like a bunch of teenagers fully charged with caffeine and fueled by energy drinks. I had been fighting my pending virus all morning and was just satisfied to have made it this far. However, despite carrying the added weight of Little Leo's virus, I pushed onward and upward and would make it to the bridge in my own time. I took a few breaks as needed along the way at strategic points on the trail to absorb the beautiful views of the valley below and to take a much needed breather. Eventually the trail took a sharp turn back into the woods and continued to snake ever higher through the forest. I suddenly came upon a paved road that had a crowd of people standing around waiting for something. I assumed they were all waiting for the rest of their group to return from the bridge for a head count but then a large blue bus arrived to pick everyone up... Are you kidding me? Apparently this was Choice Number Three! You could take a site bus up the steep mountain side for a couple of bucks, almost all the way up to the bridge. Then you had the option to stroll down the path I was walking up, down to the castle below to take the tour! Oh well, live and learn! The path slowly began to level off and then dipped down where I could see the entrance to the bridge, which was jammed with people all jockeying for position, looking for an opportunity to penetrate the crowd and merge onto the bridge. What's the max load limit on this thing anyway?
The Crowded Bridge Span
It resembled the entrance hole to a busy bee hive. I used my lineman skills from my football days as an offensive tackle for WHS back in the day, to block open a small gap onto the bridge. Wendy appeared and instinctively adopted the role of running back and got in my hip pocket to follow through the slowly opening hole within the defensive line. Hut... Hut... Hut! A few minutes later we were about a third of the way across and that was far enough to take in the view. We rubbed shoulders with a few of our students who were in the process of wiggling their way back toward the exit hole of the bee hive bridge. The bridge is officially known as Marie Bridge named for Ludwig's mother, Princess Marie of Prussia. The bridge rests 300 feet above the bottom of the gorge and gave a stunning view of Neuschwanstein despite the hazy damp weather. Even more spectacular was the view straight down into the depths of the ravine where there were several waterfalls pouring into accompanying pools. The water then ran collectively down a wide stream toward the lake, where several locals were swimming and wading within the cold water of the shallow stream. It was a bird's eye view of an enchanted scene from paradise! It was easy to see why King Ludwig chose this site to build his fantasy fairytale castle. We stayed on the bridge long enough to take in every possible vantage point and accompanying view but then made way so others could take their turn. I was now really starting to feel nauseous and wasn't looking forward to the long hike back down to sea level. I mentioned the option of taking the bus down the mountain to Wendy... Please... Please... Pretty Please... Wendy soon decided it was a good option, seeing as she had already lost one chaperone before we even left the school and couldn't afford to have another go down for the count. We were joined by a few of our students who had also decided they had enough of mountain climbing for the day. However, most others took the long scenic way down promising to meet up with us at the designated time and place. Note to Self: Next time, ride up and walk down! The bus trip down was a thrill ride of twists and turns at breakneck speed, which was fun for some but wasn't for me and my pending nausea. I realized I hadn't had a thing to eat since breakfast and maybe getting a little something simple and bland to eat would help settle my stomach.
View of Neuschwanstein from Marie Bridge
King Ludwig saw the massive shell of Neuschwanstein slowly rise into the heavens over a 20 year period but only a total of 14 interior rooms, including the king's private quarters, were ever finished. Following the king's death, all construction on the palace and other pending building projects were brought to an abrupt halt. Although the king never used public funds for the construction of his personal elaborate palaces, he dried up his personal fortune and then borrowed heavily from friends, family, and foreign banks. His rising debt was the main reason the scheme was launched to save him from himself by having him removed from power. However, it is ironic that the lavish palaces he was so criticized for building draw millions of tourists today, who spend their accompanying Euros throughout Bavaria. King Ludwig II continues to be adored by the public and remains even more popular today. The castle palaces of Neuschwanstein, Herrenchiemsee, and Linderhof have paid for themselves a hundred times over and have helped make Bavaria the richest and most powerful state in Germany. Go Figure... The private fantasy created by the reclusive monarch known as the Fairytale King can be experienced and enjoyed by countless visitors from around the world! In many ways it was the best thing that ever happened to Bavaria and King Ludwig would certainly be content knowing how much he is appreciated by the people today. It is impossible to accurately analyze the persona of King Ludwig II but can most likely be summed up by his own words... "I wish to remain an eternal enigma to myself and others..." Stay tuned as our adventure continues...
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