Ludwig II was crowned King of Bavaria in 1864 at the age of 18 when his father died unexpectedly following a short illness. Two years after his ascension to the throne Prussia conquered Bavaria and Bavaria became part of the new German Empire. This had a deep impact on the young King who withdrew from state affairs and became uninterested in politics. He became an introvert who was more interested in art, music and architecture and commissioned the building of lavish castles and ran up massive debts. The most famous of the castles is Neuschwanstein Castle. It was built on an outcrop of a rock on a hill above the village of Hohenschwangau. The building work started in 1868 and in 1884 the King moved into the castle before the work was completed. The King was only able to live in the palace for 172 days. At the time of his death at the age of 40, the castle work was still not completed.
Now coming back to the history of King Ludwig II- As the King plunged the country into debt, the government plotted to depose him. Dr Gudden, a prominent psychiatrist along with his colleagues declared him mentally unfit and he was dethroned in 1886. Three days later the King and Gudden were found dead in Lake Starnberg in mysterious circumstances.
The castle is featured in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ in one of the aerial scenes seen from the car and is also the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s castle. It is difficult to travel to the castle by public transport. You either need to hire a car or join an organised coach trip. There is quite a lot to do and to cover the sights, it is best to get there early. The tickets to the castle can be bought in advance over the Internet, although there are added charges and I think you cannot buy the combination tickets this way.
The drive from Schilersee to Schwangau took about two hours. By the time we reached Schwangau, it was past midday. We found a parking space next to the tourist information centre. The walk to the ticket office is about 2 kilometres from the information centre. You can also park the car nearer the ticket office. We opted to walk as the route is pretty picturesque. There was a long queue at the ticket office. On reading the leaflet, we realised that there is about 300 steps in the castle and another 200 in the other nearby castle which is the childhood residence of the King (Schloss Hohenschwangau). Also the next English audio tour was not going to start till four. I asked the young girl at the information counter and she gave me the impression that we would be better off just walking around the castle rather than waste time standing in the queue as it was already coming up to 1330 by this time.
There are three ways you can go up the mountain to the castle. One is to walk, next is to take the bus and the third was by a horse-drawn chaise. We chose the horse carriage. Once at the top, you still need to climb the rest of the hill to reach the entrance. We walked around for a bit taking photos and then had a lovely meal at the nearby restaurant and then walked down the mountain which took less than twenty minutes.
The best view of the castle is from the Marienbrucke bridge which spans the Pollat gorge. If you are not frightened of heights, I suppose this is the way to do it.