This morning am onboard a tour bus for a trip to visit Neuschwanstein Castle. The drive out through the countryside is beautiful. Impossibly green rolling fields, neat paddocks, cows lolling disinterestedly in the fields, wooden barns – its all very charming. Not to mention the typically German-looking towns with their clusters of a-frame homes, all window shuttered and displaying colourful window boxes.
The castle was built by King Ludwig II – more commonly referred to as Mad King Ludwig.
Unfinished when he died in 1886, this is the castle which reputedly inspired Disney’s Fantasyland Castle – you know the one that comes up at the beginning and/or end of a Disney film.
Ludwig became the King of Bavaria upon the death of his Father, in 1864 at the age of 18. He and his brother Otto had a very strange upbringing (including not thinking it necessary to feed them very well and not allowing them to have friends) and this left Ludwig ill-equipped for the role of King. Although it was Ludwig that was declared mad by a doctor who never even met him, it was Otto who was a sandwich short of a picnic – probably a very lonely picnic given he did things such as not remove his shoes for a year at a time.
The King had a penchant for the composer Richard Wagner and the castle walls are filled with painted scenes from his operas. It is also likely his feelings for Wagner extended beyond an admiration for his composition skills. He was most likely gay (vaguely supported by the fact he like nothing better than a dance around the place in a tutu), though he did try to fulfil his duties by getting engaged no less than three times, to his cousin Sophie, who was unfortunately left standing at the altar on each occasion before her father stepped into annul the engagement.
There are many theories on how the King died, however it is most likely that he was shot by the Government to stop him replacing his cabinet. This is not the story that the Government guides at the castle will tell you in their extremely brief walk-through through.
A stand out of the tour is the King’s bed which took 14 carpenters over 4 years to make. It’s a terrible shame that you are unable to take photos in the castle (for no other reason than it takes up too much time) as it has to be seen to be believed.
The castle was unfinished at the time of his death (poor Ludwig only got to live there for about six months) and due to the debt he owed, the Government of Bavaria seized the castle and just six weeks after his death, it was opened to the public.
Apart from visiting the castle Mike’s Bike Tours give you an option-laden, action-packed day of activities all undertaken within constant sight of the castle. First up was a beautiful bike ride around Swan Lake.
Returning the bikes, it was time for a well deserved lunch, followed by a shot at the alpine slide, or what we would call a luge. Then a hike up to the castle for the tour before hiking back down again for the ride home. For those that were keen there was also an option of paragliding.
The bar is officially opened back on board the bus but I think after the long day, most of us are most grateful for the smooth ride home and the chance of a kip.