In the southern most part of Germany, nearly to the Austrian border lies the quaint little village of Hohenschwangau in the Bavarian Alps. While most villages one encounters in this region are quaint, what makes this one stand out is that it has two castles. One of Germany’s landmarks – Schloss Neuschwanstein towers over the other – Schloss Hohenschwangau.
King Ludwig II of Bavaria spent a large part of his childhood at the family’s summer castle known today as Hohenschwangau, built by his father King Maximilian I. A few years after his father passed away, Ludwig began construction on the castle he saw as representative of a romantic interpretation of the middle ages. Neuschwanstein was modeled after the Wartburg in Eisenach and originally planned as neo-Gothic in style but was primarily built Romanesque style in the end.
Although the castle was never completed due to Ludwig’s untimely suspicious death, 15 of the 200 planned rooms were complete. The king had never intended on making the castle accessible to the public, but his uncle Luitpold, Prince Regent of Bavaria opened its doors for paying public tour just six weeks after Ludwig’s death in 1886. Since then, more than 60 million visitors have toured Neuschwanstein. The peak season in the summer can see 6000 visitors in one day.
Many of the rooms have a border depicting various operas written by Richard Wagner, a close friend of King Ludwig. Those that were completed are ornately decorated. An even larger keep was planned to be built for the middle of the upper courtyard, but never finished. One can only imagine how much more majestic this castle would have been had it been completed.
From Hohenschwangau, you can walk up the winding road through the trees to the Gatehouse of the Castle. It is quite an uphill walk which takes most people 30 minutes. You can also take a small bus or horse drawn carriage for a few Euros.
The view from the castle is unbelievable on all sides, no matter what time of year. Of course the tour is much nicer in the off season because of the crowds. Be sure to purchase your ticket in Hohenschwangau before making the climb to the castle. Neuschwanstein served as the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.