Saturday, September 3, 2011

Neuschwanstein and Linderhof Castles of a King

Our ten hour tour today took us to the two castles of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Our bus left around 8:15 a.m. for the 1 and 1/2 hour drive to our first castle. With a knowledgeable and friendly tour guide, we learned a lot about this area and the castles that were built. The thing we have been enjoying about these tours is the new acquaintances we have met along the way. A gentleman from India took pictures of us together. A couple from Scotland sat across from us and we had a chance to converse with them as well. I guess you could call our tour a friend making tour and we have enjoyed it. I do believe the largest group of English speaking tourists here are Australians though. We have met some on every outing.
On the bus, the guide told us about King Ludwig who was born in 1845 and died in 1886 under mysterious circumstances. He very much favored the French Kings Louis XIV and Louis XV and when we looked around Linderhof Castle we could see a mini version of Versailles. Once again, the castle was decorated with gold leaf ornamentation in the Rococo tradition popular at the time. Every ceiling was decorated with gold leaf and pictures painted by local artists. High bed canopies were decorated by special stitching and around and above each bed was the gold filigree work. Most of the castle still contained the original furnishings which have been well preserved. The throne room was magnificent in its beauty. While the king had wonderful builders and planners who worked for him, he led a lonely life. He never married nor did he have children to follow him on the throne. He would entertain people in his castle but most often dined alone and spent a solitary life.
Once our tour was complete, we purchased some postcard pictures of the interior as we were not allowed to take pictures in the castle. On the road again, we traveled a short distance to the town of Oberammergau where every ten years the town holds a passion play. It is a small beautiful village of 5,000 souls. Pretty shops lined the streets and flower boxes hung on many window sills. We were there long enough to shop and relax for a time before moving on
to Neuschwanstein.
Back on the bus, we traveled for 20 minutes more to reach this castle set on a mountainside. It is the real Cinderella Castle from which Walt Disney must have gotten his inspiration. We rode a winding trail to a village area and then took another smaller bus up the mountain to the castle. Even then, we had to walk a way before reaching the courtyard. We were, once again, blessed with blue, sunny skies over us. High above the castle we could see hang gliders over the top of the mountain along with a glider. Quite a sight!
Once inside, we then entered the castle and climbed a total of 221 steps up (all together) to see the three levels that were completed. The second floor was not finished as the king died before this castle was done. It took ten painters 4 years to complete all the paintings on the wall. In this residence though, the king went with a Byzantine theme and the walls were done in many beautiful colors. The floor tiles were done in mosaic size and style.
Since he loved the composer Richard Wagoner, he dedicated the castle to him. Many of the scenes painted on the walls were from his operas. It was unbelievable!
The kings bedroom had a canopy over the bed that took fourteen wood carvers four years to finish. The canopy cover resembled a cathedral and other woodwork done in the room also reflected this theme. Off of his master bedroom, he had his own private chapel. He never lived long enough to have a larger chapel completed. On the third floor, we also saw the kings throne room. It was magnificent with gold filigree and portraits of Christ and the sainted kings who had preceded Ludwig. Christ was portrayed above the throne as King of Kings. The chandeliers in all the rooms were amazing and weighed thousands of pounds. The fourth floor had the largest room which was the proposed performance room for Wagoner's operas. No performances were ever held as the king died before he could arrange this.
Since it took 221 steps to reach the fourth floor, we also had to walk down the same amount on the spiral staircase. Then we had a 20 minute downhill walk which challenged our ankles, knees and feet. There wasn't a soul who returned to the bus who wasn't thoroughly exhausted.
On the return trip to Munich, we again had the chance to look at the green beautiful Bavarian country side filled with corn fields,cows and beautiful homes. It had been a wonderful day for us, and we finished it off by visiting the famous Augustiner Biergarten. It is a huge meeting place for people and their food came highly recommended. We shared our table with four young German men who were celebrating the impending marriage of one of them. Only one of the men spoke English, but he was most gracious and friendly as they all were.
We have tried our German phrases when we have needed too and everyone was patient with us in trying to pronounce the words. I can honestly say we have really enjoyed our stay in Munich.
Tomorrow, we travel by train to Zurich, Switzerland our last stop. We will have a chance to sleep in tomorrow (the last two mornings we got up at 5 a.m. in order to make our tours...I am not a morning person) as our train leaves later. While in Zurich, we are to see the Alps and take a city tour before flying home.
I will give you an update as we continue our travels. Also look for pictures on Facebook. As I mentioned, we were not allowed to take pictures inside each castle, but we have many of the exterior. May you be blessed!

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