Castles of Bavaria.
Bavaria is famous all over the world for its beer, cars and castles. In the last few months, the hitherto unknown Germany has somehow been trying more and more to attract attention.
Moreover, it does this as if “accidentally”, just being on the way. It all started with an unplanned visit to Dusseldorf, which was formed due to the gap between two flights on the way from Moscow to London, and the impressions then turned out to be very interesting. The second acquaintance is also difficult to call conscious. The case began in the Czech Republic, where during the New Year holidays, in order not to sit in one place for two weeks, I had to visit one of the many tour bureaus in Karlovy Vary. After a thorough study of the huge list of excursions, it turned out that the most interesting routes go in the western direction, where the border with Germany is located fifty kilometers away. Germany penetrates the consciousness, though somewhat cunningly, but far from being successful. If earlier this country did not cause any special interest – it somehow did not see any special exoticism in it, now the sympathies are growing more and more. In addition to advanced modernity, this part of Europe has a very rich and interesting past, well-preserved traces of which are scattered throughout the country in the form of castles, fortresses and even entire preserved cities, and the excellent German tourist infrastructure allows you not only to get acquainted with all this good, but also to choose the ways of this acquaintance to your liking. To complete the portrait of this country, we will add other interesting facts to all of the above: developed cruise shipping, excellent cuisine, relative proximity to Russia – and we can safely include Germany in the list of targets for the coming years.
As I said above, during the New Year holidays, I managed to visit several places in Germany at once, and all of them were located in the southernmost part of the country – Bavaria. Historically, Bavaria was and is now the most developed and richest of all the regions of Germany – the level of industry and agriculture here has achieved excellent success. And if you take into account the most recent rumors that Germany, in general, “feeds” the whole of Europe, then it is simply impossible to question the coolness of Bavaria.
During the New Year holidays, we managed to visit several Bavarian cities at once: Munich, Nuremberg and Bamberg, as well as visit two historical castles located south of Munich, almost on the border with Austria at the foot of the Alps. Breaking the idea that the most delicious things should be left for “later”, with them, perhaps, I will begin my stories about Germany. So, the castles of Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein are magnificent creations of architecture, created according to the plan of the Bavarian kings with the usual, one might say, everyday purpose – to live in them.
The area where the two castles are located is located at the very foot of the Alps. It is interesting that the sheer cliffs start quite abruptly and unexpectedly, as if the Alps were specially brought to this plain and placed there. In addition to the mountains, nature has endowed these places with numerous lakes, which are (mainly in summer) a popular holiday destination for Germans.
The first castle is the Hohenschwangau (literally: “High Swan Land”) has a long and ornate history.
Since the XIII century, an ancient castle “Schwanstein”, belonging to the knights of the local family of Schwangau, has stood on this site. After two hundred years, the family of knights ceased to exist, and the castle, which changed hands several times, finally turned into ruins after the war with Napoleon.
The modern history of the building begins in 1832, when the future next Bavarian king Maximilian II, seeing the romantic ruins and the surrounding lakes, was fascinated by the beauty of the place and decided to purchase the remains of the castle, restore it and make it his summer residence in the Alps.
Five years later, the local picturesque landscape was decorated with a stone-walled castle-palace with decorative defensive towers, several pointed turrets and balconies. Unlike the grim gray fortresses of the past, it was painted a cheerful yellow, standing out as a bright spot against the surrounding greenery.
The symbol of the castle again became a swan. The swan was previously on the coat of arms of the Counts of Schwangau. To this day, Hohenschwangau Castle has survived in its original form and with original furnishings.
Today, the castle is still owned by members of the Royal House of Bavaria – the Wittelsbach family. Since 1913, it has the status of a museum and is open to the public.
King Maximilian II had an excellent European education and became one of the most brilliant European monarchs, turning Munich into one of the most beautiful European cities. He contributed to the development of science and art in his native Bavaria. Hohenschwangau became the official summer and hunting residence of Maximilian II.
After the death of Maximilian, his son Ludwig II ascended the throne at the age of 18, who went down in history as the “fairy king” thanks to the castles he built. Outwardly, he was very handsome, slender and tall. The whole of Bavaria greeted the young king with delight. But for Ludwig, who grew up surrounded by chivalrous legends and swans, it was not the kingdom that came first, but Wagner’s music. The romantic and impressionable king dreamed of building castles in the Alps that would embody the character of the music of his favorite composer.
Ludwig built the castles of Neuschwanstein, Linderhof and Heerenkimsee, although in general he planned to create about a dozen similar structures. Unlike his father, Ludwig did not manage to leave a noticeable mark in the history of Bavaria, but in architecture he definitely succeeded. Conceived in the king’s childhood fantasies and implemented for 17 years, the project is Neuschwanstein Castle (literally: “The New Swan Cliff”) it has become one of the most magnificent castles in the world.
Like the Hohenschwangau, Neuschwanstein stands on the site of ancient fortresses. However, Ludwig’s plan was so large that there was not enough space on the rock, and the necessary space was obtained only as a result of blasting, which slightly reduced the height of the rock, but expanded the construction site.
Over the past few years, the castle has been undergoing a gradual reconstruction, so, unfortunately, there is almost no opportunity to capture it in its entirety in its natural form.
You can try to feel the full scale and beauty of the Neuschwanstein building on the numerous postcards, photos and paintings sold in huge quantities around the object.
Judging by these artistic materials, the best and most accessible general view of the castle is from the Marienbrücke Bridge, located a few hundred meters from the castle.
In winter, the bridge is officially closed, as the path to it runs along the edge of the gorge and is quite dangerous for walking on ice and snow. Especially desperate tourists still penetrate this path, bypassing all the designated prohibitions and established fences. Neuschwanstein was built based on the constantly changing dreams of Ludwig, so the resulting structure is difficult to attribute to any one style. The main gate, for example, stands out very much from the image of the entire castle, including the color.
Due to the fact that the yard was the second half of the XIX century, the builders have already begun to come to the aid of equipment. A huge amount of building material was lifted from the west side of the building in trolleys using a steam-powered crane. They were delivered and installed in the right place using a special system of lifting blocks. To build something like this in a rather remote place without equipment was simply impossible.
The main part of the construction of Neuschwanstein was completed in 1884 and in the same year Ludwig moved to his new creation.
But Ludwig lived in the new castle for only two years. Unfortunately, the king’s beautiful occupation had the worst effect on the life of the previously rich Bavaria and, in fact, ruined him. The country was constantly drawn into European squabbles, but the young king had neither diplomatic talents nor business acumen. There was not enough money in the treasury and the debts grew rapidly. However, Ludwig did not care – he took out loans and continued to ruin the treasury. From a handsome prince, who was enthusiastically welcomed by all of Bavaria, he turned into a reserved and sad king, a romantic and spender, a builder of fantastic castles. The government, greatly concerned, demanded a medical report from the doctors on the king’s health. Of course, no one dared to examine him personally. But the well-known and respected psychiatrist Dr. Goodden made his conclusion on the basis of witness testimony. Ludwig was declared insane, and on June 11, 1886, he was captured and taken to Berg Castle on Lake Starnberg. A day later, he went for a walk, accompanied by Dr. Goodden. They did not return from their walk. Their bodies were found at the bottom of the lake. The circumstances of the death of the “fairy king” have not yet been clarified.
What about Neuschwanstein Castle? After the death of the king, all construction work was suspended. Despite this, the castle now looks impressive, and after all, according to the plan, the third floor and the knight’s room were also to be built, as well as the main tower with the church, 90 meters high, which was to rise above all the buildings.
But it seems that time still put everything in its place. Ludwig’s mania for building castles, which almost ruined Bavaria in the XIX century, turned into the appearance of real masterpieces of architecture on German soil. There is a legend from which it follows that the impressions of Ludwig’s castles and the nearby lakes (one of them, by the way, is called Schwansee – “Swan Lake”) strongly influenced Tchaikovsky when writing the music for the famous ballet. Now Ludwig’s castles (especially Neuschwanstein) are among the most famous and visited tourist attractions in Bavaria, and according to experts, the income from visitors has long covered all construction costs.