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Germany: Munich and King Ludwig II
April 2011

Neuschwanstein

King Ludwig's fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein was the primary reason for this trip, but we discovered so much more both in Munich and the surrounding area, not least the treasures and tapestries of the Residenz, and the amazing opera grotto at Linderhof.

Schloss Hohenschwangau and Schloss Neuschwanstein

Neuschwanstein
Schloss Hohenschwangau
Neuschwanstein

Driving from Basel it made sense to visit Neuschawanstein before checking in at our hotel in Munich. We'd reserved tickets beforehand to be sure we got in. The tickets are for a particular entry time and all the tours are with a guide, and no photographs allowed, unfortunately, except for one of the view from a window in Hohenschwangau.

Hohenschwangau
Hohenschwangau between Alpsee and Schwansee
Hohenschwangau
View from Hohenschwangau
Hohenschwangau
Hohenschwangau fountain - curiously the birds are geese, rather than swans.

There are actually two castles at this location, south west of Munich: Hohenschwangau is within easy walking distance of the ticket hall - Neuschwanstein a somewhat longer walk uphill - many people take the horse-drawn carriages.

Schloss Hohenschwangau was built by Maximilian II of Bavaria, Ludwig's father, and it is where Ludwig spent much of his childhood. When his father died in 1864 Ludwig became king at the age of 18. Though briefly engaged to the younger sister of his cousin Empress Elizabeth of Austria (Sisi - Ludwig was her favourite) he never married.

Neuschwanstein
Neuschwanstein in its wonderful mountain setting

Scloss Hohenschwangau is in a wonderful location above the Schwansee (Swan Lake) and the larger Alpsee in the mountains very close to the border with Austria.  It feels quite a homely place, for a castle. In Ludwig's bedroom the ceiling had stars which could be lit with oil lamps in the room above, and a moon which went through the phases, waxing and waning.

Ludwig liked the area so much that when he decided to build his own fantasy castle he chose a spot close by but even higher in the mountains.

Neuschwanstein
A wonderful St George on a courtyard wall
Neuschwanstein

Ludwig was an extremely romantic character. His castle reflects his longing for the medieval time of chivalrous knights when a king's rule was absolute.

Neuschwanstein
scrapbook
Souvenirs of Munich including postcards of interiors at Schloss Neuschwanstein
Neuschwanstein
The knight above the south-west front of the castle

Inside the castle the medieval theme is continued in a series of richly ornate rooms. Wall paintings depict scenes from northern myths such as Tristan and Isolde in the King's bedroom. This is probably the most gothic room in the castle with an intricately carved wooden bed. The wash basin here has a lovely swan water fountain. Everywhere there are swans - Ludwig's heraldic animal as a Knight of Schwangau. The most curious room has to be the grotto: an artifical rock cave.

Neuschwanstein
Romanesque among the Gothic

The Throne hall is fabulous, partly in the style of a Byzantine church with a domed roof painted in blue and gold stars and an intricate mosaic floor of the earth and its plants and animals. The Singers Hall, walls painted with scenes from the saga of Parzifal and the Holy Grail and with enormous ornate chandeliers, is another homage to medieval times, influenced by Wartburg Castle, where it is said a legendary poetry contest  took place in the thirteen century - the theme of  Wagner's opera Tannhäuser. Ludwig was a huge admirer of Wagner and became his patron. The themes of his operas exactly matched the king's love of medieval myths and legends.

Neuschwanstein
The Marienbrücke across the Pöllat Gorge

Ludwig spent a fortune on his building schemes - he built the castles of Linderhof and Herrenschiemsee as well as Neuschwanstein, as well as numerous other projects. He ran up an enormous debt but continued with his grandiose plans. Unwilling to perform any state function his government sought a way to remove him. The method was to declare him insane and replace him with his uncle, Luitpold. On rather dubious grounds - he was never actually examined for instance - Ludwig was declared incapable of ruling and deposed in June 1886. He was taken to Castle Berg on the Starnbergsee and four days later, on the thirteenth of June, he and his psychiatrist were found drowned in the lake. A very mysterious end for this enigmatic monarch.

The classic shot of the castle is from Marienbrücke high above the Pöllat Gorge - Ludwig used to come up here in the evenings to look at his wonderful creation - in winter by sleigh.

Neuschwanstein
Neuschwanstein from the Marienbrücke

Munich

Munich
Just inside Karlstor with
Oberpollinger Department Store on the right
Munich
One of the ships on the roof of the
Oberpollinger Department Store
Munich
Frauenkirche

There's been a settlement here since the ninth century when a village developed close to a Benedictine monastery - hence the name of the city, Mönch being German for monk. In the thirteenth century Munich became the ducal residence of the Wittelsbachs. Munich was the capital of Bavaria from the early sixteenth century reaching its zenith in the nineteenth century when it was declared a Kingdom ruled by kings of the House of Wittelsbach after an 1806 alliance with Napoleon - Ludwig II was the fourth King of Bavaria.

Karlstor
Karlstor

 

We wandered quite a bit around Munich to get a flavour of the city. Karlstor was the western entrance to the medieval city in the early fourteenth century. Neuhauserstrasse inside the gate is pedestrianised for its length through what used to be the ancient city  centre. Passing the Jesuit St Michael's Church and with glimpses of Frauenkirche just off the street to the north, it leads directly to Marienplatz .

St Michael's Church Munich
Late Renaissance St Michael's Church
on Neuhauserstrasse east of Karlstor
Munich
New Town Hall

The twin onion-dome towers of the fifteenth century Frauenkirche dominate the skyline. Very unusually it is made of brick in a quite austere Gothic style. It was restored after damage caused by air raids in the Second World War.

Munich
The Tower of the Old Town Hall

On the north side of the vast Marienplatz, where public events are held, is the nineteenth century neo-Gothic New Town Hall.  The beautiful Glockenspiel in its tower has two levels of figures depicting a tournament in honour of the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lorraine above and below a Dance of the Coopers.

Munich
The New Town Hall Glockenspiel
Munich
Fantastic dragon on the corner of the New Town Hall
Alter Hof
Alter Hof

Just east of Marienplatz is the Old Town Hall, dating from the end of the fourteenth century -  rebuilt after damage during the Second World War.

munich hofbrauhaus
Hofbrauhaus am Platzl

The Alter Hof, just north east of Marienplatz, was the home of the Wittelbachs in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. It's a very peaceful spot and the buildings are beautiful - though once again reconstructed after Second World War damage.

Feldherrnhalle
The Feldherrnhalle - a huge Italianate loggia symbolising the honours of the Bavarian army. On the right is the Baroque Theatinerkirche.

Nearby is the sixteenth century Hofbrauhaus am Platzl which is very popular with tourists - a typical German beer hall, founded as the brewery to the Alter Hof, it has an oompah band and dirndl-dressed witresses. It was oppressively hot when we popped in to take a look but nevertheless doing good business. The Hofbrauhaus was one of the beer halls used by the Nazi Party to hold meetings and proclaim policies (Hitler had moved to Munich at the age of 24), though not the site of the famous Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. This ended with a stand-off between Hitler's followers and armed police in front of the Feldherrnhalle in Odeonsplatz. Shots were fired resulting in fatalities on both side. Hitler escaped, though injured, and was arrested two days later. It was during the following year in prison that he wrote Mein Kampf (My Struggle).

English crown
The Crown of Empress Kunigunde
English crown
The English Crown

The Palace of the Wittelsbachs in Munich (Munich Residenz website), their residence after the Alter Hof, contains endless sumptuous state rooms with enormous beautiful tapestries. We made a huge tour of the palace and museum, including the treasury which holds an exquisite English crown, made around 1370 it is the oldest English crown in existence, gold encrusted with emeralds, rubies, sapphires and pearls. It came to the Wittelsbachs as part of the dowry of Blanche, the eldest daughter of King Henry IV of England, when she married Louis, son of King Rupert, in 1401.

The crown of the Empress Kunigunde, wife of the Emperor Henry II of Bavaria, is even earlier, having been made in the early tenth century, and though of much simpler design is also very beautiful.

St George
St George
Detail from the St George Statuette

Probably the most celebrated piece is the magnificent late sixteenth century Statuette of St George of gold, enamel and silver-gilt with details picked out in diamonds, rubies, emeralds, opals, agate, chalcedony, rock crystal  and other precious stones and pearls. It was made to house a relic of St George sent in 1586 to Duke Wilhelm V of Bavaria by his brother the Archbishop Ernst of Cologne. The face of the knight is carved from boxwood and said to resemble Wilhelm.

Rosary Prayer Nut
Rosary Bead

However, not everything here is made from precious metals and gems. For instance an exquisitely carved Flemish boxwood rosary bead from around 1500, which opens to reveal intricately detailed scenes. The  one shown here has images of Christ on the road to Calvary and the crucifixion.

Rosary Prayer Nut
Detail from the Rosary Bead
Empress Marie Louise's travelling set
Empress Marie Louise's Travelling Set

A magnificent early nineteenth century travelling set  was made for Marie Louise of France when she became the second wife of the French ruler Napoleon,  a gift from the city of Paris. It is remarkable not just for the workmanship and materials - silver-gilt, gold, mother-of-pearl, tortoiseshell, ivory and ebony - but for the range of items. It contained over 120 pieces including a dinner service for two, extensive set of toiletry items, writing and sewing implements, seals, opera glasses, a screwdriver, drill, metre ruler and even dentist's instruments.

Empress Marie Louise's travelling set
Munich Residenz
A statue at the entrance to the Residenz state rooms - I have absolutely no idea what's going on here!
Munich Residenz
Grottenhof
Munich Residenz
Perseus Slaying Medusa
I rather like the way the water runs from the severed neck and head!

Between the treasury and the state rooms one skirts the Grottenhof - an open courtyard with a statue of Perseus slaying Medusa. This statue is a copy - the original can be seen indoors.

Munich Residenz
The shell-encrusted grotto at the east end of Grottenhof gives it its name.
Munich Residenz
The Antiquarium
Munich Residenz
The Antiquarium

Past the grotto is the entrance to the most impressive room in the palace, the 66 metre long Antiquarium, so-called because it was built by Duke Albrecht V to house his collection of antique sculptures. It took three years to create the room, completed in 1571, but over the next twenty years it was transformed by Albrecht's successors into an even more lavish banquet hall, with painted walls and ceilings, an elevated dais at one end, and a fireplace. The paintings include, above the windows, views of towns, markets and palaces in Bavaria. It's hard to imagine that the palace was all but destroyed in the Second Wolrd War.

Munich Residenz
The Antiquarium

Near the entrance to the Antiquarium is a display of decorated blue and yellow pottery: wine bottles, candlestick holders but mostly plates and dishes - including a fine depiction of Hannibal and his elephants crossing a river. It's quite obvious the artist had never seen an elephant from their relative size and appearance but they're very endearing, as are most "primitive" images of exotic beasts.

Munich Residenz

Collections of blue and white oriental porcelain including Ming dynasty and Imari ware, lead into the state rooms. The tapestries in these rooms are magnificent.

Munich Residenz
A marvellous 16th century tapestry with another fine image of an elephant
Munich Residenz
Munich Residenz
This tapestry of a battle scene evokes an intense degree of action
Munich Residenz

Munich Residenz
Beautiful detail from one of the series of tapestries in the Tierzimmer

 

Munich Residenz
Trierzimmer
Munich Residenz

In the Trierzimmer the early seventeenth century tapestries depict the seasons of the year, which makes a nice change from battles and famous people!

Munich Residenz
Munich Residenz
Munich Residenz
The Kaisersaal hung with 17th century Dutch tapestries
Munich Residenz Munich Residenz
Munich Residenz Munich Residenz
Munich Residenz
Reiche Kapelle and wall detail
Munich Residenz
Munich Residenz
Miniaturenkabinett
Munich Residenz
Porzellankabinett
Munich Residenz
Ahnengalerie
Munich Residenz
Cuvilliés-Theater







Englischer Garten

The Reiche Kapelle was dedicated in 1607 and was where Duke Maximilian 1st kept his precious collection of relics of saints. A deep blue and gold ceiling has a central coloured glass lantern and the walls are covered with a material called "scagliola": coloured stucco panels, polished to look like marble.

Munich Residenz
The State Bedroom

The state bedroom is more a display area than a comfortable room to sleep in - this followed the French court fashion of the time of Elector Karl Albrecht of Bavaria. Adjoining it is an elaborate red and gold Cabinet of Miniatures. Along with much of the palace it was all but destroyed by bombs in the Second World War and has been painstakingly recreated.

Nearby is the white and gold   Porcelain Cabinet, once the home of the treasures of the Wittelsbachs it now houses a collection of fine porcelain arranged on the gilded decorative rococo framework covering the walls.

Munich Residenz

The Ancestral Gallery is a long, eighteenth century white and gold rococo room designed to display protraits of the extended Wittelsbach family and to emphasise their importance - not least by strategic marriage! These connections enabled Karl Albrecht to claim successfully his right to the Imperial throne in 1742.

Munich Residenz
Cuvilliés-Theater
Augustiner
Zum Augustiner

Near the Residenz is the entrance to the Cuvillies Theatre - not the original building which was also destroyed in the Second World War. Many of the interior carvings and fittings had - like the precious objects in the Residenz - been removed to safety, and these were renovated and installed in this new building.

Though I'm not at all keen on rococo, the sumptuous red and gold and ornate decoration - including figures "supporting" the tiers - combine to create a luxurious theatrical location.

We had some pretty decent food in Munich: at Ayingers excellent beef, bacon and green beans and a traditional pork, bacon and sausage dish - though I managed not to avoid spätzli which I dislike. At Zum Augustiner (one of several owned by the Augustiner Brauerei) lamb and suckling pig with excellent desserts of apfel strudel and a superb crême brulée eisdessert with cherries. And of course an excellent range of beers.


Englischer Garten

The Englischer Garten is an eighteenth century park in the informal English style. It runs from the centre to the north east of the city, quite large, and very popular with the city-dwellers. We took the U-bahn a few stops to the north and entered the park near Kleinhesselcher See then walked back south through the park toward the city centre. Lots of people had the same idea - it was a scorching April day on Easter weekend. Near the southern end there is a Chinese pagoda with a very welcome beer garden - heaving with customers!

Englischer Garten

Schloss Linderhof

Linderhof
Linderhof
The Neptune Fountain
Linderhof
The Moroccan House


Linderhof
Linderhof
Linderhof
Linderhof

Ludwig II built this jewel of a small palace in south west Bavaria, inspired by Versailles, and here tried to live a fantasy life, cutting himself off as much as possible so as to maintain an illusion of living in the past. For instance his dining table was laid on the floor below and was raised up through the floor of his room so that he could avoid seeing servants!

Linderhof
The Moorish Kiosk
Linderhof
Linderhof
The Moroccan House

The interior is stuffed with gold leaf rococo decoration. Outside are beautiful fountains - the one in front of the palace is turned on every half hour, a Moorish Kiosk and a Moroccan House, the interior gaudily decorated with multi-coloured patterened walls, windows and brilliant peacocks.

Linderhof
Linderhof

But the most wonderful of Ludwig's creations is buried in the mountainside: a most amazing Venus Grotto where the king had opera staged, sitting high up above a small lake. There is an illuminated waterfall to one side and variable coloured lighting over the whole scene. With Tannhauser playing in the background it is here that one gets the best sensation of the character of this most mysterious of monarchs.

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