On our first day in Stuttgart we decided to go to Füssen to see Mad King Ludwig’s Castle, Neuschwanstein. Also located in Füssen is Hohenschwangau, the castle where King Ludwig lived while growing up. King Ludwig Friedrich Wilhelm II, aka Mad King Ludwig, lived from 1845 – 1886. King Ludwig was born in Munich at Nymphenburg Palace to King Maximilian II of Bavaria and his wife Princess Marie of Prussia.
King Ludwig loved to build castles and he used his personal fortune to build them. His most famous castle is Neuschwanstein which means New Swan Stone Palace in German. Neuschwanstein is a masterpiece and is the inspiration for many things including Cinderella’s Castle in Disneyland!
Füssen and Neuschwanstein
(August 1, 2009)
Füssen is about 2.5 hours from Stuttgart without traffic. However since it was the first weekend in August, which is vacation month for most Germans, the traffic was a bit backed up for our drive. Once we arrived we were pleasantly surprised to see how few tourists where at the castles. All the guide books I read about the tours is that if you don’t reserve tickets in advance or get to Füssen in early morning you will probably miss a guided tour.
Luckily, or due to the recession, many tours were available! Even though we arrived at 12:30 we got tickets for the guided tour (in English) at 2:10! We relaxed a bit before the tour and got a traditional German lunch of curry wurst, for Jim, pork schnitzel, for me, and yummy weiss beer for us both.
We opted to take the bus which drops you off about a few feet away from Mary’s Bridge, or Merienbrücke. The bridge is a wonderful vantage point for taking pictures of Neuschwanstein. Unfortunately while we were visiting the castle was undergoing renovations so our pictures are lovely but the castle is covered in scaffolding!
Note: It is important that you take into account the time to hike up the hill to Neuschwanstein to make your tour time. It is a short distance up the mountain but takes about 30 minutes to scale the road from the ticket office. If you miss your scheduled tour you will not be able to join the next tour!
The Tour of Neuschwanstein
The tour of Neuschwanstein takes about an hour. It is an amazing castle, especially when you understand that it was built in the late 1800’s, a couple hundred years after most European castles. The basic history of Neuchwanstein is that built from 1869-1886 to celebrate Richard Wagner’s operas. Mad King Ludwig was a major supporter of Wagner and was in love with his operas (or maybe with Wagner). The castle even has a stage for which Wagner’s operas may be performed.
After 17 years of building the castle was almost complete when on June 12, 1886 the King was declared insane by the State. On June 13th he was found dead after drowning in a local lake with his doctor. His death is still regarded as mysterious after all these years.
If you have only seen the castles from the Disney movies this will not disapoint. It was an amazing experience, unfortunately you are not able to take pictures inside the castle so you’ll just have to take my word about how breathtaking the inside is! Here are some pictures from the inside looking out onto the lake below, Alpsee.