Herrenchiemsee Palace Diary

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I traveled to Herrenchiemsee on a full-day excursion offered by Gray Line in Munich, the city where I was staying. I had been so impressed with Neuschwanstein and Linderhof Palace that I longed to see more Bavarian castles. Herrenchiemsee’s location on an island made it sound remote and romantic.
First, we took two boats to the Island of Fraueninsel, also called Frauenchiemsee or Ladies’ Island, a tranquil environment of 38.8 acres with 300 inhabitants and no crowds. The church with the distinctive onion-shaped tower was constructed in the 11th or 12th century during Romanesque times. The archway around the door dated back to that era. Romanesque frescoes inside the church hailed from 1130. The interior also included Gothic and Baroque characteristics. During the 14th century the flat wooden ceilings of the three naves were changed into star-shaped and net rib vaulting. A new high altar was added during the Gothic period as well.

Even though fires broke out in the convent during 1491 and 1572, the damage was mostly confined to the exterior of the building. Two Renaissance altars were built in the 17th century. The Gothic altars were transformed into Baroque creations during the 17th century as well.

Church interior on Ladies' Island

Church interior on Ladies’ Island

The church has three naves, nine bays and 11 altars. There is a gallery with heavy Romanesque groin vaults. The round arched arcades are situated on rectangular pillars. The half columns have no capitals or plinths as well. The aisles of the main nave boast star-shaped rib vaults. The sacristy features Late Gothic vaulting and is two stories high. The altar stones are Late Gothic, but the altars’ upper structures are all Baroque in style. The high altar is High Baroque, created in 1694. In the middle of the 19th century the original altar was taken away, and a painting of The Risen Christ Appearing to His Mother replaced it. The upper part shows the crowning of the Virgin Mary. Saint Benedict, Saint John the Baptist and Saint George are a few of the holy characters who make appearances on the high altarpiece.

An altar in the church on Fraueninsel

An altar in the church on Fraueninsel

We did not go inside the monastery, but I knew it had been founded by Bavarian Duke Tassillo III in the 8th century, making it the oldest monastery in Bavaria. In 830 about 45 nuns lived in a convent on the premises. Perhaps the monastery’s most famous abbess was Irmingard, a great-granddaughter of Charlemagne, living in the 9th century. A reliquary of the abbess’ remains is located in the church. Her life is still celebrated on the island. The convent holds the distinction of being the oldest still existing convent in Germany. As of 2007, about 30 sisters resided in the monastery.

A picturesque cottage on Ladies' Island

A picturesque cottage on Ladies’ Island

We also saw the picturesque cottages on the island and the fishmongers’ stands. The island was so serene. It made me feel at peace with myself and with the world. I felt as though I could accept the joys plus the hardships life had thrown my way. I had a strong feeling of self-acceptance. If only I could take strolls around this island every day, my life would be so much more balanced and much less stressful!

A statue adorning a fountain in the garden

A statue adorning a fountain in the garden

Then we took another boat to the New Palace and Old Palace of Herrenchiemsee. Tourists, notably absent from the Ladies’ Island, had flocked to the New Palace. Created for “mad” King Ludwig II, Herrenchiemsee’s New Palace is a copy of Versailles, though it does differ in some respects.

A statue decorating a fountain in the garden

A statue decorating a fountain in the garden

King Ludwig II created his own fantasy world because he was dismayed that he could not be an absolute monarch. Ludwig II could not accept his royal post in a constitutional monarchy. He idolized French King Louis XIV, who led France for 72 years as the most powerful decision-maker in that realm. Soon after Ludwig became king, the government experienced a financial crisis, and Ludwig II withdrew from society, hiding in his own special, imaginative realm.

A fountain at Herrenchiemsee Palace

A fountain at Herrenchiemsee Palace

Very few of the interior furnishings of Versailles were original; they had been destroyed during the revolutions of 1789 and 1848. Therefore, Ludwig II could not make replicas of the authentic interiors of Versailles. He traveled to Versailles on two occasions. Construction began on his new rendition of Versailles in May of 1878. (King Ludwig II would die under mysterious circumstances on June 13, 1886.)
First, I visited the ornate garden. The fountains with stunning statuary impressed me as did the parterre with ponds. I saw marble statues of animals, of gods Diana and Venus and of Fata and Fortuna. Curiously enough, the garden was not an exact replica of that in Versailles. In fact, the statues of Fata and Fortuna had been greatly influenced by the gardens at the Spanish royal palace of San Ildefonso, Segovia.

The Latona Fountain in the garden of Herrenchiemsee

The Latona Fountain in the garden of Herrenchiemsee

The Latona Fountain is based on the fountain at Versailles, though. Latona, who had given birth to Apollo and Diana, stood proudly in the center of the fountain. Below her were the farmers she had turned into frogs plus tortoises and toads. After giving birth to Apollo and Diana, Latona wandered around the land. She came upon a pond and was very thirsty. However, the farmers would not let her drink from the pond. So, she changed them into frogs. I loved the sculptures of the frogs and tortoises. The figures of the animals seemed so playful rather than merely majestic. They brought a smile to my face.

The New Palace from the garden

The New Palace from the garden

Then came the tour of the New Palace. The guide explained that there is nothing Bavarian in the palace. Everything was inspired by Louis XIV or Louis XV. We walked up a grandiose staircase that was a replica of the one at Versailles, the version that was destroyed in France during 1752. Stucco marble and statues, paintings, a crystal chandelier and a marble fountain showing Diana with two nymphs all added to the grandeur. However, there was an intriguing 19th century element – a glass roof that somehow complemented the classical characteristics. I was surprised that the skylight did not look out-of-place or mar the elegance of the staircase.

The parterre in the garden

The parterre in the garden

In the Bodyguard Room I saw copies of halberds from Versailles. The ceiling fresco boasted a mythological theme, showing the triumph of Mars as the god peers at a burning city while gripping a white-and-red flag. Stucco marble paneling gave the room a sort of charm. Notably, no guards had ever been stationed in the Bodyguard Room.
In the First Antechamber the white and gold paneling was stunning. The ceiling painting glorified Bacchus and Ceres, who was the goddess of agriculture and fertility, among other things. I was fascinated by the Cornet Cabinet made with the Boullete technique, which was a French way of sculpting. The cabinet was inlaid with dark brown tortoiseshell and showed off gilt bronze figures. The professional and eloquent guide opened the cabinet. I expected to see some ornate jewels inside. However, it was empty because King Ludwig II had never said what he wanted to store there.

The parterre in the garden

A beautiful fountain in the garden

The Second Antechamber included large bureaus, and the chandeliers seemed to enlarge the size of the room in a mirroring effect. Overall, there were 50 chandeliers in the palace, made of Bohemian lead crystal and gilded bronze. A bronze statue showed King Louis XIV on horseback. I was enamored by the detail of the horse’s mane and the riding boots. The draperies astounded with green silk and golden embroidery.
The State Bed Chamber was not a copy of the one at Versailles. It was, in fact, much more lavish than its French counterpart. The space featured a gold leaf gilded bed. Red velvet carpet with designs of suns covered the steps leading up to the bed. How I would like to sleep there! The red velvet textiles were made utilizing needlework and gold embroidering and boasted scenes of Venus and Cupid. However, King Ludwig II never slept there. He intended it to be only a copy of Versailles, not his personal bedroom.

The lavish State  Bedroom at Herrenchiemsee

The lavish State Bedroom at Herrenchiemsee

A life-size portrait of Louis XIV graced the Council Chamber or Conference Hall, carved in gold and white paneling. The Bourbon lily design was displayed on the carpet and curtains. The largest clock in the palace was in the room, too. There was at least one clock in every room in the palace. This particular clock, made with inlaid rosewood designs and gild bronze fittings, had been constructed for King Louis XIV. The ceiling painting portrayed the gods at Olympus. I took note of the white horses rearing up as though they were frightened of something.

The Conference Room

The Conference Hall

The Hall of Mirrors was impressive as well. The Hall of Peace and the Hall of War were copies from Versailles. They were overwhelming. Some 2,200 candles were in the rooms. It had taken 30 to 40 servants to light them. The space also featured 35 chandeliers. The ceiling frescoes were stunning, copies of frescoes from Versailles showing battles with the French in the Spanish Netherlands, which resulted in a peace treaty during 1678. Both the Hall of Peace and Hall of War were decorated in stucco marble of various hues, and each hall boasted the busts of four Roman emperors. The halls there measured in total 98 meters in length. They were six meters longer than the ones in Versailles.

The Hall of Mirrors

The Hall of Mirrors

Next we saw the private apartments built in the style of King Louis XV, but not totally faithful to the rooms at Versailles. The Second Rococo style of the rooms had been influenced by 18th century French and German palaces. King Ludwig II actually lived there from September 7 to September 16, 1885.

The Bedroom was decorated in blue, King Ludwig’s favorite color. I recalled that the elegant bedroom in Neuschwanstein was also decorated in this color. The bed was two meters and 40 centimeters long with a width of one meter and 80 centimeters. (Ludwig II stood one meter and 93 centimeters tall.) Statues of Venus and Adonis also featured prominently in the room. The ceiling painting dealt with mythological figures. When candles had been lit in this space, the blue globe light resembled moonlight. What an atmosphere that must have been! The space featured two secret doors as well.

A bedroom in the palace

A bedroom in the palace

The King’s Study was dedicated to Louis XV. I was enamored by the 1884 roll-top desk that was a replica of a desk that Louis XV had owned. How I would love to compose pieces on that! It was the most valuable piece of furniture in the palace, inlaid with 16 kinds of wood. Two astronomical clocks decorated the room. A half-ton chandelier was on display, too. Green velvet curtains showed off gold embroidery.

The captivating Meissen chandelier

The captivating Meissen chandelier

The King’s Dining Room featured the most expensive chandelier and floral décor. The 18-armed Meissen chandelier was breathtaking. It showed off flower buds in various colors and tiny birds. The chandelier had been assembled in the room from small pieces. It was one of the most original chandeliers I had ever seen. Below it were white flowers in a vase made of porcelain.

King Ludwig II of Bavaria

King Ludwig II of Bavaria

The table was called a “Tischlein-deck-dich.” It could be lowered when servants needed to set it and then could be hoisted back up, so Ludwig II could dine alone without servants interrupting him. It reminded me of a similar sort of table at Linderhof Palace. White and gold paneling added to the room’s opulence. A porcelain cabinet in the corner of the room also proved intriguing. This space had taken its look from a room in the Hotel de Soubise in Paris.
Overall, King Ludwig II had planned for there to be 70 rooms in the palace, but only 50 rooms had been completed. The king’s private entrance was unfinished, too. I could hardly imagine the grandeur that would have pervaded if King Ludwig II had been able to build all 70 spaces.

Hadrian's Villa near Rome

Hadrian’s Villa near Rome

During the tour I thought back to my visit to Hadrian’s Villa in what is today Tivoli near Rome. Emperor Hadrian’s immense villa had imitated places and locations around the empire that he had liked the most. For example, there was a copy of the Nile at its estuary, two Greek valleys, several Athenian sites. In total, there had been 30 buildings, including temples, palaces, a theatre and libraries. I thought about how the architecture reflected his inner turmoil and how Herrrenchiemsee, Neuschwanstein and Linderhof Palace reflected Ludwig II’s troubles.

Hadrian's Villa

Hadrian’s Villa

Next I visited the Ludwig II Museum in the palace. In this museum I saw some intriguing artifacts. I was impressed with the long, blood red with silver trim wedding robes made for King Ludwig II and Sophie, Duchess of Bavaria. I could imagine them clad in those lavish robes if they had actually got married. Ludwig’s death mask was on display, too.
In the portrait of Ludwig as Grand Master of the Order of Knights of Saint George, the “mad” king looked devilish, angry even. Perhaps he had just been reminded that he would never have absolute rule in his kingdom. In the picture he was clutching a scabbard with one white-gloved hand.

A colorful tiled stove at Neuschwanstein Castle

A colorful tiled stove at Neuschwanstein Castle

I also spotted a tiled stove in playful, cheery colors. The stove was decorated in a mixture of green with yellow as well as gray with red and had been originally placed at Neuschwanstein, where I had set eyes on a similar tiled stove. I saw other ornate Meissen vases and sculpture as well. The models of stage sets exhibited Ludwig II’s passion for Richard Wagner’s music. In fact, there were many artifacts from Neuschwanstein and Linderhof Palace. One room boasted the original furniture from a bedroom at Linderhof. The original boat from Ludwig II’s winter garden that had been situated on the roof of the Residence Palace in Munich was on display, too.

A young King Ludwig II of Bavaria

A young King Ludwig II of Bavaria

Lastly, I visited the Old Palace – the Augustinian Monastery that was founded around 1125. The current monastery buildings dated from the Baroque period, though. The complex consisted of four wings with an almost rectangular courtyard and rose garden. Perhaps it was best known as the setting for the drafting of Germany’s new constitution in 1948, paving the way for Germany’s identity as a republic. Now there is a history museum dealing with the constitution on the premises, but all the placards were in German, so I did not understand it.

The Baroque hall in the Old Palace

The Baroque hall in the Old Palace

My favorite room was covered in Baroque frescoes, an array of dynamic figures in bright colors. Another space was Ludwig II’s Study with intriguing furnishings. While it did not compare to the New Palace in grandeur, the Old Palace had a welcome sense of simplicity and a variety of objects and furnishings on display, not adhering to one, specific theme.
I took a break and sat outside on that beautiful, sunny day and drank some water. There was no doubt about it. Herrenchiemsee was one of my favorite palaces (or castles, as it is often called) though I liked the romantic, 19th century Gothic style of Neuschwanstein even better. Herrenchiemsee definitely ranked up there with Czech castles and chateaus. I was overwhelmed by the beauty and elegance of the palace. I was very satisfied with the tour guide that led our group through numerous rooms. The articulate guide had spoken perfect English and had described each room with contagious enthusiasm. In fact, all the guides that had showed me Bavarian castles and palaces had been excellent, giving vivid descriptions and pointing out intriguing details.

My favorite Bavarian castle - Neuschwanstein

My favorite Bavarian castle – Neuschwanstein

The garden was outstanding, too, with fountains and sculptural decoration that enthralled me. The parterre was stunning as well. I could sit on a bench in this garden all day and read a good book, often gazing around me at the remarkable, calming scenery. I loved those tortoises and frog figures on the Latona Fountain most of all.
The magic of Herrenchiemsee would stay in my mind forever. Versailles had been so crowded when I visited some years ago on one unusually warm February day. It had not been possible to soak up the atmosphere with a throng of tourists elbowing me for positions to take the best photo. During the tour of Herrenchiemsee, I was able to appreciate the elegance of the rooms without fighting my way through crowds as there was only a fixed number of people allowed on each tour.

King Ludwig II of Bavaria

King Ludwig II of Bavaria

The mysterious circumstances of Ludwig II’s death came to my mind as we waited for a boat to take us back to the bus. On trial on June 8, 1886, the king was declared mentally ill and legally incompetent to rule. The statements for his defense were not taken into consideration. His death was mysterious. It seemed to jump out of a Sherlock Holmes whodunit. Five days after hearing the verdict, Ludwig took a walk with his doctor. He did not have any of his guards accompany them. What happened next? Nobody knows. Later both bodies were found in the water. The mystery may never be solved as the Wittelsbach clan will not allow Ludwig II’s corpse to be exhumed.

 

The New Palace from the Latona Fountain

The New Palace from the Latona Fountain

Tracy A. Burns is a writer, proofreader and editor in Prague.

Palace Linderhof and Neuschwanstein Castle Diary

Neuschwanstein Castle and its fairy tale appearance

Neuschwanstein Castle and its fairy tale appearance

During my stay in Munich in April of 2014, I could not pass up the opportunity to fulfill one of my lifelong dreams – to visit Neuschwanstein Castle, a fortification I had been first drawn to as a Disney-crazed child. Back then, while watching Sleeping Beauty and other fairy tales, I never imagined I would someday see it with my own eyes. After I moved to Czechoslovakia in 1991, I quickly became a castle addict, and Neuschwanstein always ranked high on my list of the places I wanted to visit.
I also had desired to see Linderhof Palace for many years. When I was nine years old, on vacation with my parents near Munich, my Mom and Dad went on a trip to Linderhof Palace while I opted to stay with our family friends and play with my ever-growing collection of smurfs. As an adult I would long to see the opulent Bavarian palace.
I took Gray Line Munich Tours on a one-day excursion to both locations. While waiting in line for the bus to arrive, I met two Americans, the retired couple of Gary and Brenda. I was always thankful to meet kind people during my travels.

The facade of Linderhof Palace

The facade of Linderhof Palace

However, they were not the only nice people I met. A 17-year old American high school senior named Caleb sat next to me. When I told him I lived in Prague, he apologized that he had never heard of that place. It was clear to me that Caleb was intelligent. I wondered how much emphasis the American school system – Utah, in this instance – put on teaching students about events in Central and Eastern Europe – not much, it seemed. That was a big mistake, in my opinion.
On a whirlwind one-week trip to Europe with his parents and four siblings, Caleb was set on becoming a pediatrician. It was rare that I met teenagers who were motivated and focused. I recalled teaching some classes of teenagers English in Prague. Some read magazines in the back of the classroom or slept with their heads on the table during the entire class. Others just sat there, not doing any work, just hoping knowledge would come to them without having to make any effort. It made me so happy to meet a teenager like Caleb. Of course, I had taught some motivated teenagers, but not many.

The facade of Linderhof Palace

The facade of Linderhof Palace

Our guide, Lucy, provided us with background information about Bavarian King Ludwig II, who had the palace and the castle built. King Ludwig II created his own fantasy world because he was dismayed that he could not be an absolute monarch. He really did not have great power in the government, which was administered in Berlin. Ludwig II could not accept his royal post in a constitutional monarchy. He idolized French King Louis XIV, who led France for 72 years as the most powerful decision-maker in that realm. The Bavarian king also adored Richard Wagner’s operas, and art dealing with themes from the German composer’s works dominated Neuschwanstein. Soon after Ludwig became king, the government experienced a financial crisis, and Ludwig II withdrew from society, hiding in his own special, imaginative and theatrical realm.
On trial on June 8, 1886, the king was declared mentally ill and legally incompetent to rule. The statements for his defense were not taken into consideration. His death was mysterious. It seemed to jump out of a Sherlock Holmes whodunit. Five days after hearing the verdict, Ludwig took a walk with his doctor. He did not have any of his guards accompany them. What happened next? Nobody knows. Later both bodies were found in the water. The mystery may never be solved as the Wittelsbach clan will not allow Ludwig II’s corpse to be exhumed.
The only palace of Ludwig II that was completed during his reign, Linderhof Palace was designed according to small French summer palaces. Ludwig spent eight years there. The moment I saw Linderhof, I was gaping at its Baroque façade. Yet even the beautiful exterior did not prepare me for what I saw inside. To say the Second Rococo style interior was ornate was a drastic understatement. I was dizzy, overwhelmed by the lavishness of the palace.

The park at Linderhof Palace

The park at Linderhof Palace

We walked up a majestic marble staircase flanked by two lions sporting the Bavarian coat-of-arms. First came the Music Room, adorned with a richly decorated gold-with-white harmonium, officially termed an Aeolodicon pianino. It resembled an upright piano. I tried to imagine watching Ludwig play Wagner’s compositions on it. He must have been so passionately moved by the music as if in a trance. Actually, Ludwig had presented the harmonium to Richard Wagner as a gift, but the composer had rejected it.
The Music Room was sometimes also referred to as the Western Tapestry Room, though there were no tapestries in the space. The Rococo wall hangings only looked like tapestries. I noticed a life-size figure of a peacock; Ludwig had adored peacocks. The stucco ceiling adorned with gilded gold leaf also captured my attention.
In the Silver Waiting Room there was an impressive picture of Versailles. I knew that Ludwig had been captivated by that French chateau. I thought back to my trip to Versailles, that warm February afternoon about six years ago. I had been on cloud nine. The Small Throne Room was opulent, too with a Bavarian coat-of-arms embroidered above the throne. I liked the second waiting room because it was decorated in purple silk that gave the space a certain vitality.

A spectacular fountain at Linderhof Palace

A spectacular fountain at Linderhof Palace

Ludwig’s favorite color, blue, dominated the King’s Bedroom. The bed and canopy were covered in blue velvet. The combination of dark blue with gold embroidery strongly appealed to me. The bed was huge – eight feet long. Ludwig had been 6 foot 4 inches tall. The half-ton chandelier could hold 108 candles. The frames of the Meissen mirrors were decorated with figures of birds, angels and flowers, for instance. Apollo greeted visitors from the ceiling painting.
Since Ludwig was a recluse, the Dining Room was set for only one person. It made me think about how many times I ate lunch alone and how I actually enjoyed being by myself in a restaurant, not hurrying through the meal, sipping tea while reading a book or studying a foreign language. Everybody in the Czech Republic thinks it is so strange to see a woman seated alone. I wondered if Ludwig enjoyed eating alone, too.
However, I read that often there were four or five places at his table because Ludwig often had imaginary guests, among them King Louis XIV of France. (No, I have never had imaginary guests while at lunch) The dining room table could be lowered to the ground floor, similar to a dumb waiter. Large Meissen vases also adorned the space. I recalled the collection of Meissen that had impressed me so much in Dresden’s Museum of Porcelain the previous year. I noticed a pineapple at the top of the Meissen chandelier. It was a delicate touch.
The East Tapestry Room did not consist of any tapestries, either. Just like the West Tapestry Room, it flaunted wall paintings rendered on coarse canvas that resembled tapestries. The wall paintings took on themes from Ovid’s book The Metamorphoses. Apollo and Aurora made appearances in the space, too.
The Hall of Mirrors was breathtaking. This was where Ludwig II used to settle down with a book about France. Or he would peruse poems written by Friedrich Schiller or Alexander Pope. The Bavarian king even let his pet chamois loose in the room for a while but put a stop to it when the exotic pet broke a mirror.

The remarkable fountain at Linderhof Palace

The remarkable fountain at Linderhof Palace

The ornate golden mirrors gave the impression that I was looking down an endless corridor, as if I were looking into a seemingly never-ending hallway I had to walk through to get to the next stage in my life. It was beautiful and terrifying at the same time. I tried to imagine the room at night during Ludwig’s reign. It must have looked so dramatic and eerie with so many candles burning. As if that wasn’t enough to gawk at, there were also 94 vases decorating the walls. (There used to be 97, but three were stolen.) Nymphenberg style porcelain rounded out the room. The most valuable object in the palace was the white chandelier carved with Indian ivory – a truly exquisite piece.
Soon the tour ended, but we still had time to take a look at the gardens, though not to examine them closely. The 19th century garden was a mishmash of Renaissance and Baroque styles, featuring three terraces, cascades, and wooden pavilions, for instance. There was a grotto, a Moorish pavilion and a chapel on the premises, among other places. We saw the gold-plated bronze fountain featuring the goddess Flora, who was accompanied by cherubs. A fountain spewed water 30 meters into the air. I would have loved to have seen the grotto, but there was not time.

A stunning fountain at Linderhof Palace

A stunning fountain at Linderhof Palace

Next we were off to the castle I had dreamed about for decades. We had to walk up a steep hill to get there, and it reminded me of the approach to Karlštejn Castle near Prague. On the way I admired captivating views of the countryside. Hohenschwangau Castle, where Ludwig’s parents had lived, was visible, too. I wondered if Ludwig enjoyed living so near to his mother or if sometimes it was too close for comfort.
Neuschwanstein Castle, was built from 1869 to 1892 in Romanesque Revival style and is still unfinished. The interiors were completed by 1886. Ludwig paid for the castle’s construction with his private funds, and he borrowed some money for his fantasy home. The 19th century was a popular time for castle building or rebuilding, and the historicism style which copied older styles was trendy. Ludwig II moved into this fairy tale abode in 1884, but he only actually lived there 172 days.

Looking at the upper level from the courtyard

Looking at the upper level from the courtyard

Ludwig’s creation looks like a castle should look, I thought to myself, passing through the gate sporting the Bavarian coat-of-arms. Towers, turrets, balconies, pinnacles, gables, sculptures, frescoes – the exterior seemed to resemble a stage set. In fact, the plan for the castle was made by a stage designer – Christian Jank, though Eduard Riedel served as the architect. I loved the simple geometric Romanesque forms and the Gothic style that made me feel as if I had stepped back into the Middle Ages. I almost expected to see knights jousting in the courtyard or King Ludwig II reading a declaration from a balcony. Ludwig, indeed, had transformed the theatrical world into a reality of marble, brick, limestone and sandstone, for instance. The castle courtyard was even based on a stage set from Lohengrin, a medieval fairy tale opera by Wagner. I loved the rugged cliffside location that was so romantic.

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The main courtyard consisted of two levels. The Rectangular Tower in the upper courtyard soared 45 meters into the sky. The Knights’ House encompassed three storeys while the massive Palas was five storeys high. After admiring the exterior for about a half hour, it was time for the tour to start. I was so enamored with the exterior and could not wait to see what the inside beheld.
The Throne Room had no real throne, but it did hold many other artistic delights. The space was designed in the style of a Byzantine Church. A rendition of the sun dominated the cupola. Beneath it were figures symbolizing pre-Christian cultures, such as those of Rome and Greece. On one wall there was a large painting of Jesus Christ with six European holy kings below him. I spotted the Czech patron saint, Wenceslas, among them. On another wall Saint George was slaying the dragon. The 12 Apostles also made appearances. The room was decorated with red silk and gold embroidery. The gilt bronze chandelier weighed 2,000 pounds and was four meters high. Made of Bohemian colored glass, it held 96 candles. Even the floor was a masterpiece, decorated with motifs of animals and plants.

The main gate at Neuschwanstein Castle

The main gate at Neuschwanstein Castle

What impressed me the most in the King’s Bedroom was the Neo-Gothic bed’s richly carved wood canopy of pinnacles that resembled Gothic church spires. A Madonna and Child painting adorned the headboard. The sink was shaped like a swan, a design inspired by Lohengrin, the Swan Knight in Wagner’s opera. Ludwig had fantasized about becoming this knight of the Holy Grail. The furnishings in the room featured blue silk embroidered with designs of lions and swans.
The wall paintings depicted scenes from Wagner’s operas. They were so colorful and vibrant. In the King’s Bedroom scenes from Tristan and Isolde decorated the walls. I recalled learning in college that the score of this romantic opera by Wagner steered Western music in a new direction, away from tonal harmony. The castle’s guide told us that it was in this very room that Ludwig was informed that he had been declared mentally ill and could no longer rule.

Massive Neuschwanstein Castle

Massive Neuschwanstein Castle

The Dressing Room featured an illusionistic ceiling painting of a garden scene. The curtains were made of violet silk, richly ornamented, embroidered with gold. The king’s jewelry box was impressive, too. The murals depicted scenes from the lives and verses of Walther von der Vogelweide, the most prominent Middle High German lyric poet who lived from 1170 to 1230 and Hans Sachs, a 16th century poet, singer and playwright.
The Living Room was all about Lohengrin. Wall paintings inspired by the opera dominated the walls. A swan figure featured prominently in the room. Even the door handles were shaped as swans, an exquisite detail, I mused. A vase was swan-shaped, too.
There was an artificial cave grotto, too. It resembled a stage set for one of Wagner’s operas. When Ludwig ruled, it had been equipped with electric lighting and even had a waterfall. The guide told us that, though the castle had a medieval appearance, it incorporated modern technology of that time period. There were two telephone lines, one to the post office and another to Ludwig’s mother. The toilets had automatically flushed, and the stove had modern features. There was running hot water, too.

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In the Study the wall paintings were based on the Tannhauser opera in which Knight Tannhauser had been obsessed with Venus, caught under her spell. Then he wants to marry Elizabeth, but he cannot tell her about his evil deed. In a singing contest he praises Venus, and the others are disgusted with him. Tannhauser takes off for Rome to ask the Pope for forgiveness. The ending is not very uplifting. Both Tannhauser and Elizabeth die.
Soon we came to the most important room, the Singers’ Hall. I gazed in awe at the 96 pine wood panels with paintings of the zodiac. Scenes from the legend of Parsifal, a knight who searches for the Holy Grail, adorned the walls. I also admired the coffered ceiling. Interestingly, the space was not furnished during the king’s lifetime.

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I was flabbergasted at the unique and lively interior. It was as if I were walking through a dream. I could not believe that these fairyland furnishings were for real. It was like something out of a Disney film filled with knights, kings, bards and maidens in distress. Then we went down many stairs, stopping on the way to take photos of some of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen.
Finally, we reached the kitchen, so large for making meals for one person. It had groined vaulting, and the stove occupied the central area. There was a roasting oven, a small spit and a fish tank, for instance.
Below it we came upon one of the most beautiful decorated tiled stoves I had set my eyes on – it was made of colored glazed tiles from 1880, designed by Julius Hofmann. The exquisite object resembled a tower and was crowned with a lantern dome.

A magnificent tiled stove at Neuschwanstein Castle

A magnificent tiled stove at Neuschwanstein Castle

It was hard to leave the castle of my dreams and say goodbye to all those turrets, towers and gables. I was happy that I had realized one of my dreams, and I had just visited two of the most fascinating places I had ever seen. On the bus I was seated next to friendly people with Brenda and Gary to one side and Caleb on the other. I knew I would always remember this beautiful, sunny day. I felt as if nothing could go wrong.

Something did, though, but not to us. At about 6 pm our bus had to stop on a road in the Bavarian countryside because there was an accident ahead. Traffic was at a standstill in both directions. I saw a motorcyclist on the ground, his leg oddly twisted. He was trying to move his head up, so he was conscious. The driver of another stopped vehicle was seated Indian-style next to him. Someone from another car hurried to the injured man and covered him with a blanket.

The spectacular view of the countryside from Neuschwanstein Castle

The spectacular view of the countryside from Neuschwanstein Castle

Pieces of his motorcycle littered the road. It had been smashed to smithereens. The car he had hit head-on was in a field where a farmer rode on his tractor as if nothing had happened. It took 10 minutes for the ambulance to arrive. The police also came onto the scene. Caleb had finished his first aid training a year earlier and explained how the bystanders and then the ambulance workers were treating the motorcyclist.

Me on the upper level at Neuschwanstein Castle

Me on the upper level at Neuschwanstein Castle

Then I felt guilty for enjoying my day and realized once again how life can change at any moment. Just think how that moment of impact with the car changed that motorcyclist’s life. Who knew if he would walk again? What if he died on the way to the hospital? What if he went into a coma and never woke up? And here I was, having fulfilled a life-long dream, still overwhelmed by the breathtaking sights and remarkable tours of the palace and castle. And I was surrounded by nice people I had been lucky to meet.

The countryside surrounding Neuschwanstein Castle

The countryside surrounding Neuschwanstein Castle

Our guide Lucy approached each person, apologizing, saying there was nothing she could do and asking if people had any urgent connections to make in Munich. She stayed calm and knew how to handle unexpected situations – that was clear. I had been so impressed with her during this trip. That was something else to be thankful for – I had had a great guide who introduced me to these amazing places.
It turned out that we only had to wait about an hour before resuming our trip back to Munich.

When we got there, we said goodbye and I saw Caleb’s father gathering his family in front of the bus. I mentioned to him that he had such a wonderful son, so intelligent and so intrigued with the world, determined and willing to learn. I told him how I had come across teenagers who were lazy, rude and lacked any sort of motivation or interest in gaining knowledge. I had tears in my eyes as I spoke to him. I was that moved by meeting a teenager who I am sure would make the most of the bright future ahead of him.
I was so exhausted that, while walking back to my pension, I tripped in the middle of a street. The cars were stopped, but I fell on my knees and the joints of three fingers. My knees were sore, and my joints were bleeding. Still, I was able to walk without any pain, I had not fallen on my face and my glasses were not broken. I felt very lucky and very thankful.

The view from Neuschwanstein Castle

The view from Neuschwanstein Castle

Tracy A. Burns is a writer, proofreader and editor in Prague.