Our second day staying in Nesselwang saw us up early for breakfast for our drive to inspect two famous castles on the other side of the town of Fussen. The first castle we visited was called Hohenschwangau Castle (Schloss Hohenschwangau), seen in the photo on the left below. In the second half of the day we went to visit Neuschwanstein Castle, (Schloss Neuschwanstein) which was on the hill opposite the first castle seen on the right below.
To the left is a very clear map provided by the folk running the organisation that provides access to both the huge castles in this valley near the Alpsee. After arriving in the car-park well back from the main road that ran through the valley floor, we made our way to the ticket office. We chose to visit Hohenschawangau first, perhaps because the walk up the hill looked a bit easier on the legs. (Note orange line on map).
Castles in this valley date back to the 12th century with a fortress existing on the other side of the valley at that time. Hohenschawangau comes into the records in 1397 and appears to have changed hands a few times as well as being rebuilt in the 16th century. In 1743 this castle was plundered by Austrian troops. Following the fortunes of these castles means having a vague understanding of the Bavarian monarchy of the time and the list of relevant monarchs is below right. For example, Maximilian I owned the castle in 1820 when he sold it. His grandson, Max II bought it back 12 years later and began reconstructing the castle. This castle became the summer residence of the Bavarian royal family in the 19th century with both Ludwig II and Otto spending much of their adolescence here.
The entry of visitors into the castle was done in batches as the movement of tourists inside the castle was done in supervised groups led by a guide. No photographs are allowed inside the castle. Before we entered the castle, we had some time to have a look around the outside of the building and at least we were able to take photos of some of these external features of the castle
If you check back to the earlier map of the castle valley, you will note the red path that makes its way up the hillside to the Neuschwanstein Castle. Looking closely at the map, you will see the small images of horses, indicating that if you don’t feel like walking up the hill, you can catch yourself a horse and buggy ride up to the second castle. With a minor degree of shame, I have to admit that our group decided that we would fancy the horse and buggy ride.
The cluster of buildings at the bottom of the hill is technically the village of Hohenschwangau and in the early 19th century, there were two ‘castles’ that overlooked the village. Referring back to the list of Bavarian Kings, Ludwig II (1864-86), a curiously tragic monarch, decided to replace the ruins of the old castles on the hill side with what is referred to as a ‘historicist’ palace; in other words, architecture that refers back to historical styles, more artistry than practicality. Ludwig paid for the construction out of his borrowed funds, in particular honouring the work of the composer, Richard Wagner.
One of the ever present issues affecting the world at the time of our travels to Germany was the impact of the Covid pandemic and the need to wear facemasks. We had brought our facemasks from home and wore them while we visited the previous castle on the other side of the valley. On the above map of the castle can be seen the route of entry into the castle and when approaching the entry door, I was signalled out of the queue and told my mask was unacceptable and I needed to go and purchase another one at a different point in the castle. The whole process was conducted with a surprising discourteous abruptness by the doorman. When I asked why my mask was accepted by the previous castle and not by this one, he said that this castle was run by the government and the other was administered by ‘private enterprise’. I was a little distracted as I walked around the early sections of this castle (No photographs!), still seething at the manner of processing Covid mask issues. I am sure my ‘mask-encounter’ soured my impression of Ludwig II’s romanticist approach to the Middle Ages.
Ludwig II’s reign as King of Bavaria (1864-1886) transitioned from an independent Bavaria to a Bavaria that was a state of the German Empire in 1871. Despite history referring to him as the ‘fairytale’ King, he had many fine qualities. He was deposed on the 12 June 1886, declared mad by his ministers and was found dead with his doctor near the Alpsee on the next day. The declaration of suicide has been disputed. His apparent frivolous spending of his own money which was the reason by hind his deposition has certainly been made up in the 20th/21st centuries by the money spent in Bavaria by the millions of annual visitors who come to enjoy his castle and the views over the valley as per image below.
In the image on the left below can be seen a bridge spanning a canyon in the hillside behind the Neuschwanstein Castle. It can be reached by a bush walk from the castle that some of our group decided to do and take the photo of the castle shown toward the end of this article.
The photo on the right reveals there are some negative aspects of the horse and buggy ride up and down the hill to the castle. We were walking back down the hill when we were overtaken by a horse and buggy and the horse decided to shed his load not long after he/she passed us. Our path down hill had to be renegotiated for a short while.
APPENDIX 1: Painting of Schloss Neuschwanstein
In 1907, a prolific young artist who was living in Vienna in that year, produced the above dream-like, fairy tale, image of the Neuschwanstein Castle. It was just one of hundreds of paintings and postcards that he produced, both in his early days in Vienna and throughout his life until his suicide in a bunker in Berlin in 1945.