Schwangau, Bavaria, Germany pt IIJune 10, 2016 in Germany ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C
Today we saw castles. If you want the summary, that's it. But it was a full day for us!
We were proud of ourselves for waking up super early (before 9) to head up to the castles (have breakfast). Apparently it wasn't quite early enough... the line was out the door to get tickets for a specific time slot for each castle, because nobody is allowed in on an unguided tour. They were definitely pumping people through. We snagged up our time slots with time to walk to and between each castle. After breakfast, of course.
On the way to the first castle, we walked along Alpsee. We're sure everyone can figure out that it is an alpine lake, but it is crystal clear and the mountains all around really make it a destination all its own. But now to the castle. The first was Schloß Hohenschwangau, which is more fun to write because of the "ß". It was first mentioned under its original name, Schloß Schwanstein, in 1397 when it was owned by the Knights of Schwangau (swan district, real tough). The knights were forced to sell the castle to the Wittelsbach dukes of Bavaria, but lived there during the some 80 year duration. About 15 years after becoming owners again, they had to sell the land, and the castle went to a rich guy. The rich guy had an Italian architect work on the castle for the last 15 or so of his life. When he died, his kids sold it back to the Wittelbachs. Then the Austrians plundered it; then Germany basically took it and said the King of Bavaria, Maximilian I owned it. But then he sold it. Years later, his grandson was taking a walk and fell in love with the castle ruins and the surrounding area, so bought it. He had the place fixed up, had murals of the history of Schwangau, and medieval love stories painted in every room, and brought it to its current state in 1837. Under Maximilian II's ownership, the name of the castle had been changed to Hohenschwangau. "High Swan district", because of its placement atop a mountain in the region. Composer Richard Wagner would frequent the castle and even wrote operas based on paintings in the castle.
Maximilian II, now king, had 2 sons, Otto (who doesn't matter for this story, sorry bro) and Ludwig. For some reason, Danielle had an intense interest in Ludwig from first hearing about him. But that works, because he's a main character in this story too. Long after the medieval times had passed, he and his brother grew up in a medieval castle with fantasy paintings on the walls, and even their uncle had a castle rebuilt to its original gothic styling. His whole life became a fantasy about the middle ages, which leads us to the second, more famous castle.
On a mountain above Hohenschwangau was a 12th century fortress, originally named Schwangau. It went through the same changing of hands as the castle, but it fell into disrepair earlier, and was never fixed. Until crown prince Ludwig II wanted his own castle. He was obsessed with the middle ages and wanted to live like royalty of the time. When he was reaching adulthood, royalty had become very modern, with paperwork and limited power. So he took the original name of his father's castle, Schwanstein, to make his Neuschwanstein.
It is a ridiculous castle, in more ways that one. First, it was built in a Romanesque style in the mid to late 1800s, when there was no real purpose for a castle. Also, it is the most iconic castle, probably in the world. When a boy is raised on fantasy and has an endless supply of money, it gets ridiculous. Walt Disney even based his Sleeping Beauty Castle on Neuschwanstein. It is really beyond words when you walk up to it, but when you get into it, it is sort of a sad place. Despite the outside looking as magical as it does, it is still missing elements in the original plan, marked by paving stones. Only a small portion of the inside was completed, but those few sections are fantastic. Paying homage to the Swans the area is named after, to Wagner, to the Knights of Schwangau, and to mythology and legends... He would visit castles all over the country to get ideas, then make them larger and more grand than the original.
Unfortunately, Ludwig's story is a sad one. Shortly after becoming king, he was declared insane, arrested, and was murdered a few days later. His fantasy project was never to be completed.
After being put in a state of awe, and also a subtle sadness, we walked to the second lake in the region, Schwansee. There was a grassy area where locals were laying out and playing lawn games. We layed out for a little bit, but biting flies have an affinity for Danielle, so we had to move on without taking the dip we planned on. From there it was a very long, very steep, very much hiking through the forest walk to the nearby Füssen to get food. We made it back, had dinner, and will fall asleep exhausted.