THE SLEEPING BEAUTY CASTLE
Germany is the land of fairy tales told by The Brothers Grimm. Germany is also home to the most magical castle on the planet, Neuschwanstein Castle, the name of which translates as «The New Swan Cliff». It was built in the second half of the nineteenth century by Ludwig II of Bavaria, or as they called him, «The Fairy-Tale King». Since 1886 more than 61 million people have visited Neuschwanstein Castle. More than 1.3 million people visit annually, with as many as 6000 per day in the summer.
Neuschwanstein Castle lies on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Füssen in southwest Bavaria. The palace has appeared prominently in several movies and was the inspiration for Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle.
It was also source of inspiration for Tchaikovsky's ballet «The Swan Lake». The king who built it, Ludwig the II, saw himself as the main character in Richard Wagner´s opera «Lohengrin», the noble white swan-knight, a fairy-tale hero of the ancient legends. And with the help of architects he created his own «Swan Castle».
Below the castle is the Alpsee lake, also called the Swan Lake, that gave Tchaikovsky inspiration for his ballet. I used to dance ballet and had to give it a go again since I was visiting the real swan lake!
The mysterious murder of the Swan King
He was gay, wildly eccentric and built fairytale castles that today rate as Germany's leading tourist attractions.
Ludwig ll is also called the Swan King and the Fairy Tale King. Ludwig spent all the royal revenues on building castles, he borrowed extensively, and defied all attempts by his ministers to restrain him. Ludwig II of Bavaria was declared insane, deposed and three days later his corpse was found floating in a lake south of Munich.
Many think that Ludwig was murdered by his enemies while attempting to escape. One account suggests that the king was shot.
You can read more about the new evidence that the king was shot here:
These mysterious events have contributed to the intriguing image of the castle. Just two months after the King's death, the unfinished Neuschwanstein was open to visitors. Now you can do a guided tour that lasts about 35 minutes in the castle. You should book in advance, since it is very popular. You are not allowed to take photos inside, but if you walk to Marienbrücke (Marie´s Bridge) where the photo below is taken, you get a breathtaking view of Ludwig IIs fairytale castle.
Here is some practical information if you want to be a part of the German fairytale for a day:
HOW TO GET THERE:
The best is to fly to Munich. I went on a friday afternoon from Oslo and got there in the evening. There are trains leaving every hour from the main train station in Munich to Füssen. The train cost 22 Euro when i was there in March 2015 and takes about two hours. From Füssen there are free busses waiting at the train station that will take you to the area below the castle. You must pick up your reserved ticket at the ticket office, before you walk up a hill for 30-40 minutes to the castle. You can also go on one of the horse carriages if you don´t want to walk.
The train leaves every hour back to Munich. You will probably spend a whole day here, walking around the castle and near the Swan Lake.
I highly recommend to reserve tickets. There are a lot of people who want to see this castle, so you want to book in advance. Do it more than a week in advance if you have the chance on this webpage. It´s easy, and when you get there you can just pick them up at the ticket office. Book here:
WHERE TO STAY:
I stayed at a cheap hostel near the train station, so I could go there when I woke up. It was a very simple and not a very nice hostel, but I´m sure you can find better places in the area if you can spend more money. I spent 80 Euros for two nights at a place called Pension Lugano, a five minute walk from the train station.
WHEN TO GO:
I was there in March, and it was a beautiful spring day. Summer can be very crowded with 6000 people visiting every day. I would recommend going there during spring or autumn. In the winter Marienbrücke (Marie´s Bridge) is closed - and this is the best place to take a photo of the castle. I still went on my own responsibility with a lot of other tourists, but there was lots of ice and a very slippery track to get there.
You can see Neuschwanstein Castle in one day, but I recommend a weekend since you need to go to Munich. If you have some spare time like I had before i left, I recommend that you see the royal palace and enjoy a hot chocolate at one of the chocolateries, made from the melted chocolate of your choice. It was the perfect ending to my trip! Mmmm!
Mirror inside the royal palace in the center of Munich.