Castles of Bavaria

Posted August 17th, 2004 by Deepa and filed in Travel
Tags: , ,
Comments Off

Long long ago, in the beautiful country of Bavaria there lived a young Prince named Ludwig. He lived with his parents King Maximillian II and Queen Marie in his wonderful castle –home called Castle Hohenschwangau. He had a very happy childhood. He loved the beautiful nature around him and his favourite pastime was feeding the swans in the Swan Lake . He also loved music, especially the opera. He had a good friend, a musician named Richard Wagner, who used to compose beautiful tunes and operas. When he was nineteen, his father died , and the Prince became the next king of Bavaria. As a King he had to go away to the capital, Munich , to rule his kingdom. But he did not like being away from his home in the Alps and the music that his friend composed. He tried to build castles in several places but no place seemed as beautiful as his childhood home. So he decided to build another castle very near Castle Hohenschwangau. He also built two other castles, The Castle Linderhof and the Palace of Herrenchiemsee . But the Neuschwanstein castle was intended to be his dream house, a private retreat, where he could relax from his Kingly duties. He had a good eye for beauty and so he ordered that he castle be built on top of the mountain commanding a beautiful view of the nearby Alps . He wanted it to be a beautiful castle, like a building out of a fairy tale. Building all these castles took a lot of money. The ministers did not like it, the people did not like it. Kind Ludwig spent more and more time building castles and staying away from the people. People thought he was going insane. Then one night, when he was in his room in the Castle Neuschwanstein, his governors came with a doctor and declared that Kind Ludwig was insane. He was taken from Neuschwanstein castle. A few days later the King and and his physician were found mysteriously dead. Was it suicide? Was it murder? Who killed whom? Who knows? Today, both castles Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein stand as witness to the rise and fall of the Mad King Ludwig, the Fairy tale King.

We reached Schwangau, a small village situated in the Bavarian Alps near the Austrian border, by early afternoon on Friday. We drove there on the Romantic Road or the RomanticStrasse so called because of the charming mountainous landscape with rolling hills and vast green meadows and the several castles and churches, on the way, that inspire romance. The castles are the ones I have told you about above with the the most famous castle out of these being the Neuschwanstein castle, the inspiring model of the famous Disney castle. The village of Schwangau has two of these famous castles, The Hohenschwangau, built in the 12 century and restored by Kind Maximilian, in the early nineteenth century and the Neuschwanstein which Ludwig started building in 1869

We had already pre-booked tours to see both the castles and we were just in time to check into our hotel and drop our luggage, grab the camera and make our way to the foothills of the mountain from where one could chose either horse carriages or buses for a ride to the castles. We decided to go up in royal style to the castle of Hohenschwangau , in a carriage pulled by two horses. The way to the castle was along a narrow track that wound its way up the mountains with a scenic view of the valley below . There was a beautiful lake in the center of the valley surrounded by mountains with the Neuschwanstein castle towering over one mountainous precipice. The Hohenschwangau is less imposing than Neuschwanstein but has a more lived in look, well as much as a castle could possibly have.

The natural beauty of Bavaria

The audio-guided tour of the Hohenschwangau took us to the room of Prince Maximilian, his wife Queen Marie and the heavily ornamented chapel. The castle is completely furnished with most of its original furniture and tapestries and several original paintings. There are several pictures, knickknacks and wood carvings of swans, the symbol of the Swan country that they were in. The riches within the castle are beyond words. From the windows of the Hohenschwangau we got a beautiful view of Neuschwanstein. We walked down towards the village, pausing every now and then and exclaiming at the wonderful panaroma in front of us.

As we walked down the hill, it began drizzling and so we took the bus to Neuschwanstein. The bus took us to nearly the top of the mountain near the Marienbrucke. The Marienbrucke is a suspension bridge crossing the 300 feet deep Pollat gorge offering the best view of Neuschwanstein. When we reached there it was drizzling, the tiny bridge seemed very flimsy as compared to the deep rocky ravine below us. We tentatively took a few steps on the bridge, clutching the railings tight trying to look down so as not to miss our footing and at the same time not notice the deep gorge below. Finally when we did look up at the castle, the view made us forget everything. With the slight mist in the air, the castle appeared as though it rose from the clouds on top of a mountain just as a fairy tale castle should. There was a steep 10 minute uphill trek to reach the entrance of the castle from the bridge.

Castle of Hohenschwangau

Castle Neuschwanstein

and below the Marienbrucke

We walked down the hill, it was drizzling and so we took the bus to Neuschwanstein. The bus took us to nearly the top of the mountain near the Marienbrucke. The Marienbrucke is a suspension bridge crossing the 300 feet deep Pollat gorge offering the best view of Neuschwanstein. When we reached there it was drizzling, the tiny bridge seemed very flimsy as compared to the deep rocky ravine below us. We tentatively took a few steps on the bridge, clutching the railings tight trying to look down so as not to miss our footing and at the same time not notice the deep gorge below. Finally when we did look up at the castle, the view made us forget everything. With the slight mist in the air, the castle appeared as though it rose from the clouds on top of a mountain just as a fairy tale castle should. There was a steep 10 minute uphill trek to reach the entrance of the castle from the bridge.

Neuschwanstein took about 17 years to construct and still was not complete when King Ludwig was declared insane and taken away. He had lived for just three weeks in the castle. However the beauty of elegance of the rooms endorses the fact that this was to be a dream castle. No expense or effort was spared in the rooms that were completed. Ludwig’s bedroom, which took 4.5 years to complete, is a classic example. The intricate woodwork on his bed canop, the giant murals as well as a then modern washstand is a sight to behold. The room also has one of the best views from the castle …We can see the Marienbrucke straddling the Pollat gorge in the distance.

The Tyrolian Alps with Lake Swansea and Castle Hohenschwangau: seen from the windows of Neuschwanstein

Actually building on such a beautiful location has the advantage that there are really no bad views. Each room has gorgeous view of the Bavarian landscape. Mountains, valleys, lakes , meadows and of course the yellow towers of Hohenschwangau in the distance. The Tyrolian Alps can be seen beyond the crystal blue waters of the Lake . Between the Lake Alpsee and the Smaller Swan Lake the yellow walls of Castle Hohenschwangau can ben seen.Ludwig did have a few idiosyncrasies . He had one room built as though it was a cave in the jungle, complete with artificial stalactites and stalagmites and waterfalls. He was also a huge patron of music and a friend of Richard Wagner. There were several rooms dedicated to the characters of Wagnerian operas . His love for music led to the construction huge Singers hall with exceptional acoustics.The castle was indeed a fairy tale place abounding with rich furnishings, tapestries, beautiful paintings and elaborate gilded ceilings and wall murals. The tour ended as all good tours do in the gift shop. We spent some time and money there and walked back to the village to have dinner. We ate dinner at one of the popular restaurants in that area. With the beautiful castle in the background and moonlight streaming through the windows, we had a nice atmosphere for dinner. Now only if they would have cooked the meat a little more!!!

Seejo’s fairy tale came true on our drive back from Schwangau to Frankfurt . Just as we merged into the autobahn, the smile on Seejo’s face was a mile long. Here is the story in pictures.

The car : A BMW

The speedometer inching towards 210 km/hr

Now closer to the top speed of 240 km/hr!!

Seejo is thrilled!!

Deepa isn’t too thrilled


17 Aug 2004

Happy Birthday, Munich

Posted August 16th, 2004 by Deepa and filed in Travel
Tags: , ,
Comments Off

We had a six hour halt in the city of Munich on our way to the Bavarian Alps. We reached Munich at about 6 am on the morning of Saturday June 19. Munchen is the capital city of the state of Bavaria, Germany. We decided to start our Munich sightseeing at the very heart of the city and made our way to the Marienplatz, the popular and always crowded central public square of Munich. In the center of the Marienplatz is a tall marble St. Mary’s column in whose honor the square gets its name (Marian=St. Mary, Platz= Square). The neo-gothic Neues Rathaus or the New Town Hall, forms one edge of Marienplatz. The central tower of the Rathaus is home to the famous GlockenSpiel, a musical clock which plays thrice times a day. From one end of the square we can see the old Town house, painted in bright red and blue looking like a tower from a fairy tale. We reached Marienplatz at the early hour of 7 am, expecting to find the square empty and deserted. However when we reached there we found it teeming with activity with a horde of people bustling about the place. It turned out that the birthday celebrations for the city of Munich was to kick off in a couple of hours from the Marienplatz that very day.

The Old Town Hall at Munich
The new Townhall Neus Rathaus

St. Mary’s column at the Marienplatz in the backdrop of the cathedral
The famous Glockenspiel at the Neus Rathaus

While waiting for the celebrations to begin, Seejo and I decided to take an early morning stroll in the famous Englischer gardens. These gardens, (in)famous for the its nude sunbathers, is in fact the largest city park in the world, right in the heart of Munich . We strolled along a scenic walking trail around the beautiful park along with early morning bikers and joggers and other fresh air enthusiasts. The landscape design of the Englischer garten seemed to have encompassed it all…a tiny stream running through the park, huge grassy meadows on either side, a Greek Parthenon like structure on the small hillock, a beautiful lake on one end as well as a Chinese Pagoda with a nearby beer-garten. We walked for a couple of hours through the garden, admiring the greenery and the sheer vast area that made up the park.

Photographs of the Englicher Garten

The Pagoda at the Englishcher Gartens

We made our way back to the Marienplatz where by this time the birthday celebrations of Munich were in full swing. There were several locals dressed in traditional costumes, men in the uniform of the Bavarian soldiers and women in the traditional outfits complete with embroidered aprons. At the center of the square with its back to the Rathaus, there was a makeshift stage with a few musicians and entertainers playing folk and jazz music. Opposite the Town hall , there were tiny makeshift shops where the vendors sold bratwurst and weisswurst, the traditional German sausage best eaten with mustard. From the center of Marienplatz, slowly spreading out in all directions, street vendors and shopkeepers had displayed their wares, setting up a huge marketplace. Tourists catching huge mugs of beer, sampling bratwursts and clicking photographs were all over the square. To complete the carnival atmosphere, dancers on stilts with their bodies painted green and clothed in outlandish costumes were dancing around the stage.

The famous bratwurst at Marienplatz
Dancers and Entertainers performing at Marienplatz

People in the native dresses of Bavaria

The crowd was reaching its peak, and was craning their necks looking at the Glockenspiel for the musical routine to start. The street musicians obediently lowered their volume allowing the music of the carillon to dominate. The tiny enamel plated copper figures of the carillon perform a slow mechanical dance called the Dance of the Coopers whirling and swaying to the music for about 10 minutes. When the mechanism is activated, as it is thrice daily, the brightly colored figures in the lower half of the Glockenspiel also perform a mock jousting duel.

Just as the last notes of the bell tower died away and the rooster on the top of the tower crowed signaling the end of the performance, the street musicians increased the volume of their music and the whole Marienplatz resembled another noisy busy bustling square. We made our way back to the railway station to retrieve our luggage and rent a car to the Bavarian Alps, feeling glad that in spite of the short time we had in Munich , we managed to be part of the city’s 845 th birthday celebrations.