Let me start by saying Bavaria (Bayern) is absolutely beautiful. Between the snowcapped mountains are colorful fields with quaint villages, murals painted on the exteriors of buildings, round-steeple churches, and the blue and white checked flag of Bayern flying proudly. To top it off, we had escaped foggy weather for beautiful sunshine and highs in the 70’s!
It was a long day of driving after having stopped in Dreisen so we got to our Hotel in Schwangau (translates to land of the swan) around 7 pm. Our GPS was telling us to drive up a road marked for bicycles only that lots of people were walking on. We decided to walk up the road to see what the deal was. The road led up the mountain to Scholss Neuschwanstein and along the way, the only other building, was our hotel. After hiking up and checking in, Fil walked back down and brought the car and our stuff up. We were literally right next to the castle and it was amazing!
This castle was a bit odd. It was built in the 1860’s by King Ludwig II, but the exterior was modeled very romantic/fairy tale-esque and the interior was modeled after Medieval folk lore. It was odd. Looking at the outside I kept saying to Fil, “I think we are in Disneyland” because the castle was so clean. Because it was so young there was hardly any weathering on the building which was a strange contrast to the older looking style of the construction. It was fitting that I felt the Disney presence since this castle was the inspiration for the castle in Disneyworld, Florida.
The castle was not finished because Ludwig died (and ran out of money), but the structure as it is today was built in less than 20 years and opened for tourism 6 weeks after Ludwig’s death. He had only lived in it for about 100 days.
We, along with about 1.4 million others each year toured the 14 completed rooms in the castle and our breath was taken away. I told Fil a few times during the tour that it was just like Burg Eltz but WAY more elaborate. All the walls and ceilings were either covered in decorative wood panels or painted with murals and decorative painting and as a result the castle felt very dark. For such a light exterior it was a very surprising constrast. Aside from the throne room, I was mostly impressed with the King’s bedroom. This room was filled with dark woods that were painstakingly carved. Look at the canopy on the bed below:
The final room on the official tour was the singers hall. It really was beautiful, but such a shame that there were never any performances there. The room, and much of the castle was designed with the influence of the German composer Wagner, whom the king supported. If I remember correctly, the guide said this was the largest room in the castle.
On your way out of the castle you walked through the kitchen. I kid you not, the stove/ovens took up an island the size of my current kitchen and there was no counter, it was all stove top! Overall the tour was really amazing, but if you end up in Schwangau do make sure to tour both castles.
The second castle, Königschloss Hohenschwangau (the kings castle high on swan land) is the castle Ludwig II grew up in. He loved the area so much that he built his own castle just a stone’s throw away. Well not literally but you can see the second castle from the first and you can easily walk between the two within an hour. You walk down the mountain from one, into the village and then up the next mountain to the next.
Fil and I both agreed that Hohenschwangau was far more interesting. While it wasn’t as elaborate as Neuschwanstein, it was actually lived in and felt more like a home and less of a showpiece. The castle was originally constructed in medieval times by the Kignts of Schwangau and repaired/reconstructed by King Ludwig II’s father King Maximillian II as the family’s summer and hunting getaway.
The tour started in the billiards room, and the table was MUCH larger than the tables we are used to today. Also, all the balls were white and had numbers etched on them—no solids and striped colored balls. From there we toured the dining room and apartments of the king and queen. Yes, the apartments were separate, but they were attached via secret door in the wall that connected the two with a spiral staircase. Both were stunning, but felt livable. The Queen’s apartment was decorated in a Turkish style with bright colors and brass pieces, and the Kings room had a forest theme. The Kings room had a really advanced feature in the ceiling as well. The mural painting of the forest led to a blue sky with stars—stars that were lit from inside the ceiling with candles so he could sleep under starlight that would fade into the night just like real stars. Slightly cooler than the glow-in-the-dark stars I had on my ceiling as a kid ;).
This castle felt much brighter and was decorated beautifully, but in a much more understated way. Some of the walls had murals depicting German and familiar history, but not every wall was covered like in Neuschwanstein. The furniture was also worn and you could imagine people sitting at the writing desks and dressing tables.
In this castle there were also family items and precious objects on display. While crowns and jewels are on display in state museums the castle showcased a handful of incredible silver artwork. There were two displays of Bavarian family crests that were gifts to the King and a magnificent table centerpiece featuring swans. One of the wedding gifts with the family crests is estimated to have taken 3000+ man hours to create and alongside each crest was the name of the family members.
Another feature of the castle were the small gardens surrounding the one side with views of Swan Lake and Neuschwanstein castle. Between the fountains and the views I cannot think of anything more beautiful. Fil was drooling over the lake—you can guess why.
It was a jam packed day of castle tours and walking, but it was really interesting and I am so glad we went. There is so much more to do in the area that we would have liked to do, including hiking trails and a lift up the mountain to a restaurant with a view but we wanted to get to Salzburg. Maybe we will go back sometime for the things we missed.
As you might expect, we have a lot more photos! We can never take photos inside the castles, but we have a lot more of our overnight stay in Schwangau. Check them out on our Flickr album for this trip.
P.S. Brock started crawling on the eve of his 9th month!