Sunday in Munich

September 23, 2015 - 4:37 am 1 Comment

I booked a 10.5 hour tour that would take me on a day trip from Munich to Linderhof and Neuschwanstein, two of the three castles built by Ludwig the second of Bavaria (Fairytale King), not to be confused with the Mad Prince who was his brother Otto. To set the context, after ascending the throne at the age of 18 under a constitutional monarchy structure, he blew through the entire family fortune accumulated after many centuries from building these three elaborate castles. With no concern for cost and an eye for expensive details, often styled after Wagnerian operas, you can imagine how grand these are!

In 1886 at the age of 41, he was dethroned by a council under the claim of insanity with the support of his extended family. Given low finances, he borrowed from Prussia, the country’s sworn enemy, and indiscriminately took credit to support his frippery. Despite this, he was still a fairly popular king since he hired a lot of construction labor which was a more stable livelihood compared to farming, and evidently in Germany, kings could not draw funds from the tax base but rather had to spend their own resources – hence, a private form of economic stimulus. Post his relocation, he was found drowned with his doctor in a shallow lake despite being a strong swimmer…clearly a clear conspiracy theory link to murder. Anyway, a fascinating life story of a seemingly delusional, grandiloquent person. He wanted to destroy his three castles upon his death (Ludwig was notoriously reclusive which seems horrifically ironic considering the grandiose receiving rooms and great halls), but his family opened up the castles for tourism instead, which made back their entire fortune and some.

I awoke early and made my way to the central bus station to find the tour operator. Rather than recount all the details, I’ll list some of my reflections:

  • Linderhof: Crazy rococo style – the tour guide equated this castle to a “condo”. I thought she was joking but indeed, the actual castle was modest in size although extremely grotesquely styled. Imagine gilded 24 carat styling in classic baroque decorative panelings everywhere, elaborate chandeliers, ivory carvings, paintings/mirrors crammed on the walls, expensive textiles and furnishings – a compact, even more intense Versailles stuffed into a small space. Ludwig greatly admired Louis XIV for being an absolute king (in contrast to his constrained power), so this homage in the form of a castle recreated the opulence and self-import in every detail. It almost felt as if the air from the room was being drained away given the intensity of the gilded embellishments. In contrast, the outside garden was very beautiful and pleasant – Ludwig II built a full facade just to hide the pump for the certain fountain! Linderhof was a definite “experience”

  • Oberammergau – In between the two castles, the tour group made a pit stop in a traditional village where I got to try a delicious schneeballen (baked cookie ball coated in chocolate and orange liqueur), browsed traditional handicraft stores that sold hand-made cuckoo clocks and local crafts, and explored the Passion Theater (the town had pledged to put on a passion play every 10 years if spared from the black plague, which they subsequently have carried out other than one hiatus during WW2)

  • Neuschwanstein – this is the famous castle that was Disney’s inspiration for the Cinderella castle. Sitting on top of a cliff, it’s really a breath-taking sight. I had to walk >30 minutes up a steep hill just to get to the tour gate. Ludwig II built this castle as a homage to the absolute monarchs of the Medieval times (but with all modern conveniences of the time and his fanciful eye for embellishment along the general theme), so the style was drastically different than Linderhof but with substantially more open space and consequently, grandeur. This castle is really impressive – perhaps the most elaborate I have ever seen even after visiting quite a few when I lived in the UK and traveled throughout Europe

  • One of the most pleasant aspects of the tour was the drive through the mountains and valleys – the scenery is bucolic and just breath-takingly refreshful with the quaint wooden houses with the beautiful frescos, green farming plots, and gorgeous natural scenery. I’m so glad to have taken the bus tour since it would have been near impossible to get to these castles – it took two hours to get to Neuschwanstein upon some seemingly remote mountain roads!

Upon arriving back in Munich, I had dinner at this local German gastropub. The food was truly fantastic despite being very heavy! I ate Wienerschnitzel (fried breaded veal pounded flat), spaetzle, oxtail ragout, traditional flat bread with sour cream + onion, and then chocolate cake. Yes, maybe I over-did it but I’m so eager to try everything! The food here is very heavy though – I had to drag myself back to the hotel. What a great weekend!


One Response to “Sunday in Munich”

  1. yoda Says:

    I consider myself a German most of time, especially when I read my German friends – I have so many of them! For now, I read Spengler everyday on a elliptical machine. One man’s reckless aberration – it happened that he was the king left a generation, in a historical sense, some landmarks now part of the landscape of so-called classic Germany (the Germany of Goethe and Schiller). Spengler will proclaim that Ludwig fulfilled his historical mission (unknown to the person himself), the destiny of history that hovers above us. Hey, this kind of thinking itself exhibits a piece of German metaphysics, ha! Deutsche, Deutsche, uber alles.

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