It is practically required to head up to see the Disney-inspiring castle when you are in Bavaria.Not only is its physical structure articist, and beautiful, striking in contrast to the harsh rock cliffs, its name is musical – meaning “New Swan Stone” which was taken from one of Wagner’s operas.
Built by King Ludwig II between 1986 and 1886 (poetically 100 years before my birth!), it was a retreat for the king to hide from public life. Ludwig II insisted on perfection, so what was supposed to take 3 years is actually not even complete to this day.
There is a veritable flood of people visiting. I had got a pretty early start, pointing my bike in the direction of the foot of the mountain first thing in the mroning, thinking I might miss the onslaught of tour busses dropping droves of visitors up. I was definitely mistaken, as I huffed and puffed up the hill, weaving my way through hundreds of pilgrims heading to the fairy-tale sight.The castle reflects an artisic ideal – the plans were drawn by Christian Jank, a theatrical designer. This may explain some of the current issues. It is clearly beautiful and whimsical, apparently there are some critical structural flaws that were overlooked during the design and construction. Today, it means there is movement in the foundation that requires constant monitoring, and apparently it’s hold on the sheer rock walls is tenuous and must be constantly secured.
This is a castle of paradox.
Striking and imposing, but never served a strategic or defensive purpose. It is a modern castle despite its medieval appearance. It is a stunning fairytale dream clinging to the jagged cliffs, withstanding a harsh climate. Built as a retreat from public life, Ludwig allegedly only spent 11 nights in this castle before his death, after which time it was opened to the public, and is now anything but a retreat from the public, as hoards of people flock to this site each year.
Before exploring further, I stopped at the little kiosk for a coffee (heartbreakingly, despite seeing people snacking on giant pretzels all around Bavaria, I was not able to locate a gluten-free one).
Now for a ton of pics of the fairy-tale castle:
The next stop was Hohenschwangau, the neighbouring, less fabled, but still extraordinary castle. It was built by From 1832 until 1836 Crownprince Maximilian of Bavaria between 1832 and 1836. This neo-gothic castle was a summer residence for the bavarian royal family. That evening, as dusk was falling over Füssen, I cycled back to the castles to watch quiet and darkness descend over the castles, a momentary deprive before the next day starts and the hills and grounds are coated in a thick layer of tourists.
This is the sort of place that confirms that even the most ostentatious and elaborate fairytale dreams can come true, so I hope you are able to build your version of a beautiful castle on a cliff.