Driving through the Bavarian countryside close to the Austrian border is a trip into picture postcard land. The beauty of the green undulating country side and its lovely forests, which could get spooky in winter with mist drifting through it, is almost unreal.
The road climbs up to what are the lower foothills of the Alps till you get to the village of Hohenschwangau. That’s when you get a really good view of Neuschwanstein Castle. Perched on the steep rugged hill above the village and rising above the surrounding trees, it is the castle you have seen in every illustrated fairy tale book. On one side are the rocky escarpments of the Tyrol Mountains and on the other are the Alpsee and Schwansee lakes.
All the elements are there. The startling white walls; slate grey, sloping roofs; high pointy turrets and innumerable windows, not to mention, the tall tower in one corner and you know you are in Disneyworld. Through this castle the tales of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm come alive.
Building started in September 1869 and though Ludwig II, moved in 1884, it had not really been completed then or now. A three-nave church and “knights’ bath” were never built. In fact, when he died Ludwig had spent only 172 days in the castle. Inspired by the Romanesque Revival style, the design borrows heavily from German legends, the classic castles of medieval knights and Ludwig’s own romanticised vision.
Inside, the decorations, paintings and furnishings pay homage to the grand operatic themes of Richard Wagner, the composer, and the epic German Lohengrin sagas. They are opulent, intricate and very elaborate with the figures all heroic in dimension and action.
As a visitor, be warned as there are plenty of steps to navigate. Tours to the castle are all guided and you cannot wander around on your own or at your own pace. There are several don’ts with no cameras being allowed one of them. The tour takes about half an hour.
The northern and western sides of Neuschwanstein castle are undergoing restoration work and are not expected to be completed before the end of 2012.