Built on a 92-m (300-ft) hill, Neuschwanstein, the royal palace in the Bavarian Alps of Germany, is the most famous of the three royal palaces built for Louis II of Bavaria, sometimes referred to as ‘Mad King Ludwig’.
Named after the Swan Knight of Wagner’s opera Lohengrin, the castle was exquisitely designed by Christian Jank. Located near the Hohenschwangau, where Ludwig was brought up in south-western Bavaria near the Austrian border, the enormous and whimsical castle is so spectacular that it inspired Walt Disney to use it as a model for Cinderella’s castle, used on the Disney logo.
Ludwig was removed from power before the completion of the castle, which was opened to the public after his mysterious death in 1886. An embodiment of nineteenth-century Romanticism, the castle is reached by a meandering road that leads from the valley to the front gate. The castle is a mixture of medieval detail, such as narrow spiral staircases and a plethora of turrets and towers, and advanced engineering features such as forced air heating, running water on all floors and toilets with an automatic flush.
After 17 years’ work, only 14 of the 360 rooms were finished before Ludwig’s death, but these alone are worth the trip.
The Throne Room was designed in elaborate Byzantine style as the Grail-Hall of Parsifal. Inspired by the Aya Sophia in Istanbul , the two-storey throne room has a series of pillars made of imitation porphyry and lapis lazuli.
Ludwig’s obsession with the legends on which Wagner based his operas continues in the other rooms on this floor: Tannhauser in the study, grotto and conservatory, Lohengrin in the salon and study, the Nibehingenlied in the dining room and lower hall and the Meistersinger von Nurnberg in the dressing room. The bedroom, which is neo-Gothic in style, features paintings of scenes from Tristan and Isolde. The Singers Hall on the fourth floor, above the grotto, is also decorated with episodes from Parsifal.
But Neuschwanstein is about more than one man’s obsession with his medieval ancestors, it is a beautiful, visionary place, which sits perfectly within the stunning landscape of the Bavarian Alps.