The palaces, castles and fortresses of Europe are always interesting to Jordan because there are so few in South Africa. We have been lucky enough to have visited two of the most spectacular monuments in Bayern (Bavaria), Germany: Nymphenburg Palace and Neuschwanstein Castle. Both are magnificent and deserve some of your time.
Construction on the ‘summer Palace’ started in 1664. Changes to the design and the building of extensions continued throughout the years and the Castle was finally completed in 1777. The public was able to enter Nymphenburg Palace in 1779. King Ludwig II was born in the Palace in 1845.
The Palace interior is truly exquisite. Flash photography is prohibited to preserve the paintings and decor inside. The absolutely stunning entrance hall, a room full of light, intricate ceiling paintings and a huge chandelier, set the tone for the Palace – magnificence. Each room was as interesting as the one before, with one imagining times long since passed. Throughout the palace, there are information boards with German and English text explaining the rooms or particular pieces within it. A porcelain museum can also be visited as part of the Palace.
The grounds and gardens of the old and beautiful Baroque Palace are extensive and wondrous. One can spend hours in the rose gardens, tree gardens, by the lakes and in the herbariums. While strolling through gardens it is easy to forget that you are surrounded by a sprawling city. It’s an oasis of calmness. Somewhere that allows you to reconnect with nature.
Cost: 6 Euros (2017 – Nymphenburg Palace only)
Living in the public eye became overwhelming for King Ludwig II, so he initiated the building of this magnificent Castle on the hill. In 1868, clearing of the mountaintop began and in 1869 the laying of castle foundations started. Construction continued through to 1892. Sadly, King Ludwig II was never able to see his dream castle in reality because he died in 1886, and some weeks later the Castle was opened for public viewing. The work of Wagner inspired the decor inside the Castle with swans being a dominant feature throughout (a Christian symbol of purity and a heraldic animal to the Counts of the area).
This castle is said to be the inspiration to Walt Disney in the creation of the Disney Castle. Jordan is a Disney fanatic, so I surprised her with a trip to her Disney Castle (needless to say, my family had never heard it referred to by that name before they met Jordan). She has asked to go every time we have been to Germany. Every time I told her no. In the airport, walking to the baggage claim area, there was a poster of Schloss Neuschwanstein. She turned to me and stated matter-of-factly, “I will see this castle before I die, even if it means going without you.” That day we went! I took my Queen to the Disney Castle. When she saw the castle sitting on the mountain she may have shed a tear or two. And waiting in line to join the tour of the inside of the castle, she had the enthusiasm of a five-year-old; while still trying to act like a 25-year-old.
To get to the castle one can walk up through the forest or buy a seat on the horse and carriages that carry tourists up and down all day. We chose to walk through “the enchanted forest”. There are restaurants and curio shops along the way. At the foot of the castle, there is a viewing deck where you can see the towns and lakes to one side, and a waterfall and mountain face on the other.
We paid for a tour of the inside of the Castle. Each person receives a hearing device (looking like an old cell phone) so that the tour guide does not have to speak loudly for all in the group to hear. The tours run like clockwork – as we left a room, a new group entered it; we were closely following the group before us.
The throne room was spectacular with a mosaic of the world on the floor, an extravagant crown chandelier, and beautiful ceiling paintings. The King saw himself as the link between the heavens (God) and the earth (all animals and lands). There was running water throughout the castle and the rooms were well heated in the winter months, which are impressive features for a Castle this old. The design of the King’s bed was like a Gothic Cathedral. There is a man-cave where the King could retreat to. Our favourite area was the terrace opposite the man-cave because there were two chairs and a small table in the sun, with the incredible view of the mountains.
Be sure to see the suspension bridge where you can get the iconic picture of the castle on the hill. There is normally a line of people waiting but we found it well worth the wait. Don’t be shy taking your turn for a photograph!
Cost: 13 Euros (2017 – Neuschwanstein Castle only). A three-castle-ticket includes entrance to the smaller castles at the foot of the hill.
Tell us some of your experiences when visiting these two Bavarian castles. We loved both and we hope you can visit them soon!