THE FAIRY-TALE CASTLE: NEUSCHWANSTEIN
The name is complicated, it takes some practice to get it right, but the difficulty to call it hasn't intervened on the beauty of this castle, or on its fame. The Neuschwanstein Castle inspired Walt Disney when creating Cinderella's and Sleeping Beauty's castles, and it has been said before that: "if you have the chance to visit only one castle in your life, this is the one"!Neu-schwan-stein means: new swan stone, exactly because of the swans, famous in the region. It was only after visiting the castle that I learned what is really special about the Neuschwanstein, and what is really behind its story. In order to tell you what it is, you need to meet the story of the man behind it all: Ludwig II, the former King of Bavaria.If you ever mention his name to a German, they will refer to him as the crazy king, but I don't see it this way. Ludwig II was born in Munich, at the Nymphenburg Castle in 1845, and had a lonely childhood away from his parents – Maximilian II and Princess Marie of Prussia. He reined Bavaria for 22 years, and during this time, he avoided being in public and surrounded by people as much as he could, he never got married, even though he was engaged for only a few months.Ludwig II became King when he was 18 years old, had one brother – Otto – and was fascinated by the famous opera composer Richard Wagner, author of the story "Tristan und Isolde". Wagner was brought to Bavaria by the king, where he composed many famous pieces. Ludwig II built a life of fantasy, a private world in which he felt like a real king, while he slept during the day and was awaken during the night.In the summer of 1868 Ludwig II ordered the construction of his dream castle, where he could be isolated from the World and be the king of its own kingdom, the Romanesque Revival styled, Neuschwanstein Castle. The king himself designed some parts of the castle.However, the construction of the Neuschwanstein was never completed, and the king only stayed there for 186 days, until he was declared by his brother and a psychiatrist to be crazy and incapable of being the king, and sent to isolation near the Lake Starnberg, where he died mysteriously on June 1886. Some people say he went for a walk with his psychiatrist and later both were found drowned in shallow waters on the lake.The castle was opened for the public 7 weeks after Ludwig’s death, and nowadays receives around 1.4 million visitors each year, 6.000 per day during summer time.It’s a day tour, which also includes a visit to the Linderhof Castle and a short stop at the city of Oberammergau. I have done this option before and I thought that everything was a bit fast, and it didn’t include the Hohenschwangau Castle, totally worth the visit and just in front of the Neuschwanstein. The good thing about it is that you can buy the tickets directly with them (in addition to the 51 Euros).By car: if you have the option to rent a car or pay a chauffeur to take you there, I advise you to do so. You can stay as long as you need, no hush, and it is cheaper than with the bus! Parking: varies between 5 – 8 euros a day, or you can find free parking a bit further.I pretty much advise you to book your ticket in advance on Internet, buying there – especially during summer – means wasting time on the line. Once you arrive in Hohenschwangau, you have to go to the ticket center and pick up your tickets before you head to the castle.